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New Words: What’s Catfishing?

A fake online identity in social media created or used for the purposes of building a romantic relationship with another user.

Etymology

The word catfishing is also used to describe a lazy person who does nothing and lies low. In addition, blues lovers can remember how Arthur Crudup in My Mom Don’t Allow Me used the word catfish: “Now if I had my catfish swimming in the sea I’d have all you women now fishing after me”.

However, after the release of the Catfish documentary in 2010, the term began to be used in a new sense. The film tells a story of a young photographer Nev Schulman, who is friends with an eight-year-old artist Abby and falls in love with her older sister, Megan, on her Facebook profile. When he arrives at Abby and Megan’s, it turns out that Megan does not exist, and her page belongs to Angela, Abby’s mother.

To look seductive online, she uses a photo of a professional model and invents the rest. Angela’s husband Vince compares her to catfish, which is used to transport cod. Without the catfish, the cod stops moving and dies, but with the catfish it is always active and fresh. People like Angela look like catfish: “They keep you fresh all the time.”

How to use the word

Although catfishers can use other people’s photos, names and life facts, they should not be confused with ordinary identity thieves. Thieves always act in order to receive financial gain. Identity theft is a common online crime that is well documented in criminal codes of different countries. Catfishing is always a desire to be liked, loved and wanted, even if it’s just online. This can also cause serious damage to the catfishing object, but the damage is harder to calculate.

Why

Photo: Getty Images

Angela from the Catfish movie has four children: two girls and twin boys. Both boys are seriously ill and require constant care. Her husband Vince is the only one who can work. Once she studied ballet and wanted to become a ballet dancer, but after marriage and the birth of children she had to abandon her career. She loves to draw and every day after 8 p.m. sits at the computer to compose someone else’s life. She has a lot of fake accounts with photos of strangers who laugh, go on trips, go to bars, hug their loved ones and have a completely different lifestyle than that of Angela. Even Nev, who is frustrated by the discovery, understands her and they remain friends, at least on Facebook.

Probably, there are catfish of another type, who have no excuses like sick children and hard life. They may act out of revenge, curiosity, or just boredom. But in any case, catfishing is always an attempt to grab someone’s attention and feel attractive.

Natalia Konradova

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