This article originally appeared on VICE Canada.
This article isn't about how to steal someone's photos and make some poor soul from across the country fall in love with you and send you money. It's about how it is becoming socially conscionable to bend the truth in your favor.
I don't advocate catfishing in its traditional definition. Fully lying about your identity, or posing as someone who doesn't actually exist, is wrong. But what about the more nuanced forms of catfishing that people employ to help them get what they want? It's a delicate balance of discerning how much you're willing to misrepresent yourself for the sake of another person. These aren't new tactics. Of course, like most things, technology has amplified and accelerated them, but their backbones have existed as long as relationships have.
Everyone does it. We're all guilty of it to some degree. Well, maybe that's not true. I can only speak for myself…I don't know how you fill your day (other than commenting "RIP journalism" on my articles). Well the joke's on you: I don't consider myself a journalist, but I'm definitely not above calling myself one if I want to sleep with a cute guy. Do your friends ever accuse you of acting differently around someone you're crushing on? If so, you may be a casual catfish, too.
What is casual catfishing? It can be as subtle as putting up a Tinder photo that's really good, like borderline-doesn't-look-like-you good. It can be Facetuning your pimples away to perfect skin. I don't use Facetune, but who doesn't like to use flattering photos of themselves? It's something I grapple with. Recently, someone messaged me on Grindr and said "your photo doesn't look like you" and I was shocked! So, deflated and exposed, I switched it to a more casual snapshot of myself, rather than a stunning and flawless studio-lit headshot. Apparently no one wants to fuck the real me.
So this got me thinking how often I am a casual catfish, and how it impacts my relationships with people. Some would probably consider it an innocent attempt to conjure up more conversation with a new romantic endeavor. Some might call it starting a relationship off on a series of unnecessary lies that will definitely blow up in my face. Regardless, I do it.
Beyond manipulating yourself physically, casual catfishing has a lot to do with lying about your interests. How often do you act interested in something you couldn't give a shit about just to keep a conversation going? I've had jobs where I have had to listen to coworkers talk about their stupid hobbies, and I didn't even want to fuck those people. Obviously I'll do it for someone I'm into. I have my limits. I'm not about to tangle myself in a web of lies I can't get out of. But I'll say I go hiking. Or that I make sure I read at least three books a month for my mental well-being. It's specifically catered to each person. Luckily, I have too poor of a memory to upkeep a full-on scandal with any believability, so I try to lie as simply as I can.
Here are some recent alternative facts I've told in order to curry favor from boys I like:
"I love spicy food!"
(My throat was on fire and I was NOT enjoying myself)
"I've totally considered having kids one day"
(No fucking way! The world is almost over!)
"Yeah, I saw C é line Dion once in Vegas"
(I've never been to Vegas, or seen Céline Dion there―I regret that one, but he really liked Céline Dion)
Just like in nature, there are different species of catfish that come in different sizes. The size of the above catfish examples are on the small and inoffensive side of the spectrum, like these:
The other side of the spectrum is the actual false identity, gigantic 600-pound whopper catfish. From the opposite perspective, I've experienced both. Twice I've gone to meet with people online who weren't who they were in the photos. It always makes for an awkward encounter, and both times I felt a strange sense of misplaced guilt, like I was somehow complicit in their actions, or that it was somehow my fault for being duped. I honestly don't know what their endgame is. Maybe they feel if they put in that amount of effort they deserve to be rewarded.
However, when I encounter someone trying to impress me by pretending to care about my stupid interests, I'm flattered. Maybe that's why I don't feel bad when I do it to others, because it's reciprocal among my peers. Maybe I'm just trying to justify being a callous and selfish liar. All of the people who hate on me for writing this probably wouldn't want to date me anyway, and nothing could decimate my dating life more than the exodus I experienced after writing my article about ghosting.
Writing about my flaws and processing them is therapeutic to me, and I really appreciate the feedback I get when my work resonates with them. Just kidding, I was catfishing you, I don't actually give a shit. (Just kidding, I do).