Confessions Of A Recovering Catfish – Part One

As a teenager I was chubby, shy and extremely quiet. Girls were a foreign species to me and my exploits on the sporting field left a lot to be desired. As a result, I was singled out for my fair share of bullying by both fellow students and, I’m sad to say, teachers whose supposed job was to protect me. Those years left their mark on me. I carry them still.

I retreated into a make believe world where the bullies could not reach me. I hid in books and wreaked revenge on my tormentors in the world of role playing where I could be anyone I wanted. What chance had my psychotic physics teacher against a 12th level berserker armed with the Warhammer of Doom? It was what I needed at that time of my life in order to survive.

And that’s how it continued. Oh, I dropped the dice throwing and axe wielding along the way but I still existed in a world of make believe. Alcohol took centre stage. I discovered my drug, my refuge from social awkwardness where I could be everybody’s friend and the life and soul of the party. People liked this new me, even though I didn’t particularly think much of him.

The downside was the following morning when the inevitable hangover would lumber over the horizon and I would wallow in my self inflicted bed of self pity and recriminations. Never again, I would swear. Until the next time that was when it would be all aboard the Ego Express again. I lived the lie and loved the lie. I could be whoever I wanted to be. It cost me about £40 a night but was a small price to pay.

Then along came social media. If Dungeons & Dragons was my first tentative joint and alcohol the first acid trip, then Twitter and Instagram became my crack cocaine and heroin. I became hopelessly hooked to the extent where I effectively lived online. At its height, or depth depending on how you wished to look at it, I had over 8000 followers! My witty, wry 160 character vignettes were the talk of the town.

I also dabbled in the darker domain of direct messaging. I could tell people whatever I pleased. It’s not that I outright lied but I certainly massaged the truth to paint myself in the best possible light. I realised I had a gift with words online that I could never hope to replicate back in the real world. There was no filter, no comeback. I could be as outrageous or inappropriate as I wanted. It was here that I first became aware of the term ‘catfish’.

Catfish – ‘someone who creates a false online identity. These are commonly found on social media and online dating sites. Often the sole purpose of a catfish is to create and exist in a fantasy reality.’

I encountered people who posted fake profile pictures, people who lied about their age, their job, their relationship status. Anything seemed to go. I was initially appalled but unable to resist the lure of online life. I kept coming back for more. It began to impact upon the people who truly mattered – my wife and children. Yet I allowed myself to be dragged in too deep. And before I realised, it was too late.

Fionnuala often says that my intelligence is only matched by my gullibility and naivety. I am a terrible judge of character and online was no exception. I fell in with some very ‘strange’ people and before I knew it was behaving in a manner which appalled me when I later journaled about it in the cold light of day. It was if I checked in my morals and values whenever I logged in online. I was becoming a catfish myself.

To be continued….

What are your views on catfish?

Have you encountered a catfish online?

Have you ever painted a false picture of yourself on social media?

45 thoughts on “Confessions Of A Recovering Catfish – Part One

Add yours

  1. Years ago, I met a man in AA & married him. He was a trucker & as I found out, had a woman in every town he drove to. We were separated but not yet divorced and living apart, when I created a new identity … this was back in the days of AOL Chat Rooms. I knew where he hung out & I snagged him easily. I had a whole story made up & he fell for the whole thing. By the end of the conversation, he was planning to meet “me” at some truck stop in Erie, PA.

    What really got me about this whole conversation is how he denigrated the real “me” to the fake “me” & went on & on about how he could “hardly wait” to be divorced. To my face, he always acted like it was an unfortunate accident … the kids, etc. But he was just a dog.

    I have never heard of the term “catfish” but I like the term. Thanks for giving me a new one!

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  2. How refreshingly honest. I wasn’t familiar with the term “catfish” until I read this. I don’t think I’ve encountered any but then WordPress is the only social media I’ve ever tried and people have been so kind to me. When I write of catfish it’s because I’ve been feeding them bits of bread at the lake. 🙃. I do understand though how written words can sometimes come more easily than spoken ones. I remind myself to be cautious with them as they have as much if not more impact than face to face words as they can be read over and again… either bringing great comfort or inflicting great sadness. Take care, suzanne😊

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  3. I think it is very prevalent. It is very easy to be less than totally forthcoming online. It is natural to want to paint ourselves in the most perfect of light. Of course, it is much easier to just be ourselves, and if we are really interested in someone, to let them see the real us. In the long run, we know who truly likes us. I would love to be the 6′ 5″ well muscled super-spy, who gets all of the ladies. But that will have to stay in one of my fiction stories. Thanks for sharing. Look forward to the next installment.

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  4. People need to realize the way we are treated as children never leaves us . Both good and bad. This is a great read.

    I have never been in a catfish situation. I guess you would call Catfish social media. The only social media I’m associated with is Instagram. And I’ve only had my account for a year.

    For some reason the idea of social media always gave me anxiety and I didn’t feel comfortable having images of mean only Internet.

    My Instagram account is very positive and uplifting and it gives the idea that I’m always happy and I have a good life a which I do but I make sure when I post my pictures and my uplifting pins, I always write a message letting people know what is actually happening with me so they don’t get the idea that I have this good perfect life. Because there is no such thing.

    We always want people to think we are doing better than we really are.

    Great post my friend

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  5. I know of people who use only their pen names for any social media and for their books, for privacy reasons. Some feel they can be more honest with their words with a pen name. Or they don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings or invade their privacy by writing about them. But that’s a little different than catfishing, I would hope.

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  6. In a way, there are times when even when we see certain people face to face, we are catfish. There are just those people we want to appear as doing amazingly well with our head held up high when in reality, we’re struggling. We have a reputation to uphold, a façade to keep up, whatever it is, a catfish isn’t only behind a screen.

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  7. Assuming you are now writing as the REAL you 😉 , I applaud your honesty! I hope and pray that this post will be a wake-up all for people who are where you were.
    The term “Catfish” is an interesting one, especially since for a fish, being “on line” does not end well!
    OK, I’m gonna get off line now … :/

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  8. I’ve heard about the dangers of catfishing, and was extremely careful when I attempted online dating (looking up people to make sure they were who they claimed to be). I don’t date anymore, but I am still cautious. I assume that most people I encounter on blogs, social media, etc., are fake until proven genuine. 😉 I try to teach my kids that, too. I don’t hide behind online facades (with the exception of one silly, irrelevant story-writing blog, and one blog I stopped writing years ago), but I also try not to use my last name on public sites, like this, as I don’t want my public self to have any unintended repercussions on my professional life.

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  9. Every time I write in the voice of one who has solved the mysteries of life, I am guilty of presenting a false “me.” Thank God for people like you who regularly show us that opening up and being vulnerable are always the best remedies for our ego addictions.

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  10. Being bullied is one of the most destructive forms of cruelty to a persons life. I loathe bullies. As for catfish …. a very easy trap to fall into and I’ve known a few, but what I am pleased about is that I know the real Stephen and not the old one …

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      1. I’m now at the campsite in Moliets-et-Maa where we shall all be for the next two weeks. Sorry, I haven’t looked at my emails, but will do so now. Hurray! Can’t wait to read … Thank you very much.

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  11. It sounds as though we are fortunate to have married solidly realistic people. My husband often shakes his head at my naivete as well…I assume the best of people and am disappointed and shocked when they prove to be all too human.

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  12. I think it’s something everyone has done at some point in their lives to one degree or another. Be it on or offline. It is a difference of degree and not of kind. Anyone who tells you otherwise is not being honest yet with him/herself. By that I mean, everyone has been guilty of either putting on pretenses, acting disingenuously, or flagrantly lying about who they were to another because they had lost themselves. People are often growing along spiritual lines. It is a process not an event. Let he who is without sin cast the first stone. 2 thumbs up, way up!

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  13. Oh the darkness that the internet can invite out of us. Something that starts off or appears to be harmless can be so much deeper and darker than that. The temptations are definitely there and it is important we are aware. When I was young I certainly didn’t realize the power thr internet had and I’m so glad God convicted me before it got out of hand. Thank you for being so open I hope this speaks to others!

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  14. I have been catfished in my younger years and had a “relationship” with someone who turned out to be a woman (I’m interested in men). lol.

    The internet and social media can definitely be addicting. I can feel its pull and try to keep myself grounded the best I can.

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  15. Catfish has been a big TV show for years over here in America. I dated a couple of people years ago (before marrying my second husband) that I met online that were actually the guys in the pics and on the phone..but I think that’s before people realized they had such opportunity to lie. I will say that if I ever see you on YouTube, and you don’t have the accent imagined- that might be a dealbreaker.

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