By Brandon Jamil
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In the land of Instagram and instant gratification coupled with online stardom; we can easily feel lost in the shuffle. For most of us, we find our lane on social media, and evolve it. Others remain distant from social media, because they can’t deal with the social pressures of feeling adequate—which is based on the amount of followers and activity one is able to generate.
But, we typically don’t automatically think about the person that struggles with poor self-esteem, who also has an unhealthy ego i.e. I’m not good enough, no one loves, me, etc. Which can result in someone taking drastic measures to feel included, a since of belonging, loved, cared for, attention, etc. The drastic action is commonly referred to as cat-fishing.
The idea of cat-fishing is to create a false online persona. The online persona allows the insecure person to exercise and exaggerate parts of their own personality (through their false character) that they can’t elicit in their real life. These individuals understand all to well how rejection feels, so they play on the basic human emotions of feeling needed and belonging. Example: the beyond sexy man that contacts you and makes you feel open and excited to meet with him, but eventually the scam comes out once it’s time to meet up, because the person never existed in the first place.
I’ve also heard about serial cat-fishers, the ones who emotionally manipulate multiple people at the same time, and these people end up contacting the MTV show CATFISH. Yes, some of us have been there and it isn’t pretty. In the past, I’ve had friends who believed they were involved in a romantic relationship with someone, but my friend never met this person, never had video chatted with this person, and was never on the cat-fishers social media. On the outside looking in, I suggested that my friend give the person an ultimatum. You either meet me now or never! I don’t want to hear any excuses. At the very least I need to see your face. Needless to say, the catfisher disappeared like a thief in the night, and my friend was left feeling broken down and emotionally used.
Having the experience of being catfished myself, I understand the rage, anger, shame, and hurt that comes up from such betrayal. These individuals are trained and skilled at making us open up emotionally. One moment we feel that we’ve met the love of our life, and then the next minute you’re discovering that our love interest was all a lie.
After discovering a dishonest person, it’s important to truly allow ourself to get pissed off. We need to deeply feel the feelings that are hiding beneath the surface, the feelings that if we don’t express; will turn into shame and misery. It’s embarrassing to admit that we fell for someone that didn’t exist. It sucks because we naturally miss the long conversations, texts, and empty promises. It’s okay to think about those promises, and discuss them with our friends. Our friends have a way of snapping us back into reality.
Next, we need to be honest about why we chose to ignore all of the red flags. Recall every single moment you asked for a picture, when you asked the person to video chat with you, and meet up. After the first several attempts, we should have just walked away from it, but we didn’t. We didn’t want to see the truth—that something wasn’t adding up. Then admit that the attention the person was giving you was more important than the truth. Recalling and taking responsibility for allowing ourselves to be victims (in this situation) will allow us to NOT make the same mistakes twice.
Finally, we need to implement our boundaries. While it’s okay to flirt online, we must determine and identify the type of person we’re dealing with. If someone contacts us and their hot and cold, in and out then we know this person isn’t going to enter into our life in any meaningful way. If someone contacts you and they don’t have a picture, won’t provide a picture then we must close the door. We have compassion for anyone who lives in the closet, but the reality is that isn’t what is serving us long term. When someone contacts us and they present a possible date, we need confirm the date, time, and location.
Before we meet them we need to verify their identity by video message, video chatting, etc. Also, I would recommend subscribing to paid dating apps and websites that verifies the identity of each user by social media, telephone number, and face scan. Users that don’t have verified accounts won’t have a blue check mark or the verification icon on their profile.
In a past article, I wrote about how toxic online dating can be for gay men. I believe that dating apps are becoming a thing a of the past for those of us that truly desire genuine connections. While online dating can be exciting and bring a sense of freshness, nothing replaces in person encounters. In real life we have the ability to spot a fake before they attempt to reek havoc on our lives. And the only catfish that is being serviced to us is the one that is deep fried and ready to eat.