Online dating is like the Pandora’s box of modern relationships in that you’re opening your life to all kinds of unwanted attention from toxic dudes, crazies, and complete sleazeballs. One minefield I thought I was too savvy to land on was falling victim to a catfish. Turns out, I was wrong.
It’s never been easier to be a convincing catfish.
This wasn’t my first rodeo when it came to people giving me a fake identity online. Last time, the perpetrator’s overuse of professional model shots almost immediately tipped me off (even though we lived in LA and this was pretty standard for Tinder profiles there). With a smorgasbord of public Instagram profiles containing a never-ending stream of amateur candid shots and selfies, it’s never been easier to swipe someone else’s photos and parade them as your own without raising alarm bells. (Of course, it’s a lot easier to get caught this way too.)
It sucked more than I thought it would and made me even more cynical.
The first time it happened, I was pretty creeped out largely due to the fact the catfisher had been pressing for me to send nudes (which I obviously didn’t do). Still, since I was wise to the ruse, I soon forgot all about it. This time around, I realized I was way more invested. We’d spent weeks getting to know each other, swapping banter and gearing up for what I thought would be a pretty great meeting. I was also coming out of a super frustrating almost relationship, so it’s fair to say discovering my hopeful distraction was all a big sham sent my cynicism through the roof.
I could’ve easily ended up in a dangerous situation.
After talking for weeks, I was feeling pretty comfortable with this guy and had we made plans to meet, it would’ve been only too easy to throw caution to the wind when making arrangements on the when and where. He’d even mentioned making me dinner. I now shudder to think of showing up to his house alone only to find some shady imposter waiting for me.
Catfishers won’t necessarily ask you for anything, which makes their motivation difficult to understand.
People typically think of catfish as old slimy men posing as hot young guys in the hope of receiving dirty pics or scam artists charming middle-aged women into giving them money. This person didn’t ask me for anything; it appeared he genuinely just wanted to chat. Either I was being majorly groomed for some creepy plan down the line or he was some lonely dude desperate for conversation.
It was too easy to waste my time on something that wasn’t even real.
I’m aware of how much time gets sucked into the social media vortex or is wasted watching goat videos online, but this saga really put it into perspective. I spent hours chatting with this guy and lost sleep because we were up late messaging. I even found myself distracted from my job while waiting for his next text. I really didn’t bat an eyelid before investing many precious days being in contact with a total scammer. It was an eye-opener in terms of realizing how much of my life could exist on a purely virtual level.
If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
A really cute guy with his own place, a steady job, and manners of a well-cultured gent? That should have been my first warning, to be honest. I’ve had enough of my share of jerks to know a unicorn like this is probably not to be found among the crotch shots and filthy pick-up lines on Tinder. I guess the Disney aficionado in me wanted to buy into the fantasy.
It underlined the importance of always confirming your text buddy’s identity.
When even my bestie—whose social media investigator skills are unrivaled, I should mention—couldn’t find him on Facebook, I was a little suspicious. However, we did find a private Instagram account that matched his Snapchat name, so the search was off. It was only when he became less enthusiastic when it came to making real plans to meet that I smelled a rat. It was then I discovered the reverse image search function on Google, which later lead me to the real Instagram account to which the photos belonged.
My idea of dating is usually better than the reality.
I’ve always known that I’m guilty of building up a guy or relationship in my head (I blame one too many Katherine Heigl films), but this was on a whole new level. I didn’t even need to meet this stranger to construct a whole persona complete with cute scenarios in my head—and it all came back to bite me in the ass. It’s the first time I’ve really had to acknowledge how much my virtual reality has taken over my actual one.
I’m done with online dating.
Ironically enough, I exchanged numbers with this guy only moments before I decided to delete my Tinder profile. Discovering he was some shady poser only cemented my decision to restrict all interactions with potential date-worthy dudes to in-person only. Not only have I finally realized it’s impossible to get an accurate impression of a person virtually, but you can be fooled by one who doesn’t exist at all. Never again.
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