Given how long I’ve spent in the online dating arena, both doing it and writing about it, it was inevitable that I’d eventually snag my very own catfish. A “Catfish” is someone online who is portraying themselves falsely, pretending to be someone they’re not, sometimes for childish reasons and sometimes for nefarious reasons.
I’d seen the documentary and TV series that popularized the term and of course Catfishing is a serious topic on the Dr. Phil show, but in all this time I had yet to encounter one of this breed myself….til last week. Here is what happened and how I sniffed out this rotten fish and dealt with him.
I saw “Cuddle536” (YES…his real online name) on Match.com. His profile was clear and well-written in solid English sentences. He had one, very nice profile photo of him holding a cat. Plus, he lived in a very small town nearby to me. I wrote to him…and he wrote back with:
I would like to get to know you. First, I would like to see if we can be friends. I suspect you are very selective in who you are looking for. I know I am looking for someone very special who is attractive, fit, beautiful inside and out, and family oriented.
Then…It Got Interesting
Still well-written and coherent, he went on to say that he didn’t check his account often and would I use his real email. I have a private email account that I use ONLY for online dating and is not connected to any of my personal info so I felt comfortable using that and agreed to this. Which is where the fun began. He wrote:
I believe strongly in love and her values,I am originally German-Swiss,I have two dogs and two cats as well…you can tell i love animals and animals lovers are true lover…is that true ?
Commas instead of periods?? Weird sentence structure and that “true lover” thing set off a tiny alarm. Someone who wants to be friends first doesn’t send a leading comment like that. I went to recheck his profile and realized he’d hidden it….another clue. Now I was curious. I wrote and asked him a few questions about things I vaguely remembered from his profile. Three days later I got:
How are you and hope that you are doing Great. I haven’t heard back from you and thought to check in and say hey and perhaps to ask if i did or said something wrong,i was really enjoying the getting to know each other process.
Hmmm, I knew the email went through as I didn’t get a delivery problem message. I didn’t think it went into his spam folder as my previous messages were received. Now I’m fairly certain this clown is not who he’s portraying himself as. Curious, I resend my original note. This time he writes back.
Yes you did reply to my email and i responded as well but i think maybe either you did not get my response or i know but glad i am writing to you now. He ended the email with: Enjoy the rest of your day and know you have a man who is very curious about you and with the best of intentions towards you as well.
Now I’m certain that I’ve snagged myself a Catfish. Why? Aside from the steadily decaying grammar and punctuation, no one who is sincere and has the “best intentions” will need to specifically point this out in an email. So now I’m really curious as to how he’d react to an email that is off the “script” he’s obviously trying to guide me into (Plus…I’m sensing an impending blog post on this exchange…LOL). I write and ask some specific questions:
I think you said you live in Alpine? How long have you lived there? Like it? Does your daughter go to college? Do you have a large family? Small? Are they in the area? And tell me about your job/career. What do you do? Do you like it?
Surprisingly he writes back:
Getting to know more about each other is all about asking and getting answers yes! I have being living in Alpine for 5 months now…and yes i do like/love it. My daughter does not live with me,she lives and school in England,i agreed to that because all i want is for her to be happy,its being very difficult since after the passing away of her mother. I am the only child of my parent whom are both late now,i do have relatives but very small and we hardly keep in touch only occasionally.
Holy cow! I was laughing out loud as I read that. The poor orphan boy…how convenient!! At this point I was DONE with this A-hole…but couldn’t resist one parting shot, I emailed:
Hope you’re enjoying Alpine, I have friends who live there and they enjoy it too. It’s a very, VERY small town so if you haven’t met them yet, I’m sure you will soon.
Now Michael, I have to ask you a strange question. Did someone write your match.com profile for you? I ask because the style of writing, grammar, tone, and punctuation is TOTALLY different in your emails. Besides being a designer, I’m also a writer so I notice these things.
I didn’t expect an answer to that one and of course, never got one. I’m sure he knew he was busted!
When You’ve Snagged A Catfish
So, what did I do? Nothing. Yep, nothing. I didn’t email back because THAT’S what you do when you realize you’re in contact with someone who’s not who they say they are. Through the LifeBytes project we’ve gotten many stories from men and women who’ve had years long relationships with people online only to find, when they finally meet them, that they are not who they portrayed themselves to be. I never really understood how that could happen and quite honestly, I still don’t.
This is why I think the “catfish” get away with what they do…too many singles let their hearts and imaginations rule instead of their heads. Here’s the unvarnished truth: You can’t fall in love with someone when you only know them online. You can be infatuated with the IDEA of that person, you can be enamored of what they write and how they write it. You can be a victim of your own imagination, picturing how you THINK they are in real life. But you CANNOT actually be in love with someone you’ve never met face to face.
Here’s hoping we all catch only Starfish from now on!