Catfishing is when a person creates a fake online identity of themselves usually for a romantic association. The person pretends to be someone they are not. They use fake names and photographs of attractive people to hook a prospect into an online romantic relationship.
Online impersonations are of many types. It can be an adult pretending to be a teenager, it can be seen as harmless fun by teenagers who may target a person and befriend them online to later make fun of them or ridicule them (cyberbullying). It can also be a former lover who hasn’t gotten over a person or one who wants to take revenge by hurting them back. Here are nine ways this is done:
They choose a profile picture according to their lovers’ taste – They know the type of people their ex finds attractive and chose a profile photo accordingly to lure their ex.
Their profile pictures never seem to change – They don’t change their profile picture or post other pictures with family and with friends. If in doubt, perform a goggle reverse search based on their photos to see if a matching profile with a different name shows up on the net.
They like to move at a fast pace – They get deeper in the relationship quickly. An ex who is desperate to have you back in their life would like to re-experience the deep loving relationship they once shared with you. This desperation is likely to drive them to quickly deepen their friendship with you and they are likely to start intimate conversations with you early on in the relationship.
They seem too good to be true – It feels like you have found your perfect match. Your ex knows a lot about you and it becomes easier for them to present themselves as the man/woman of your dreams!
They talk mainly about things of your interest – They are good at building rapport and talk “your language”. They will be cautious to avoid saying things which are likely to upset you. They say things which would draw you closer to them.
Their language patterns seem familiar – Each person has a distinct way of speaking and writing. If you pay close attention to the words they are using and their style of communication with you, then you may be able to see the similarity between the imposter and your ex.
They don’t have many online friends – The purpose of them creating this online presence is for them to have you back in their life. It is likely to be a recently created profile and so they are not likely to have many friends. Also no one would know this fake identity and they will not follow each other on social platforms.
They avoid facetime or meet in real life – They will make excuses and be reluctant to meet you in person. They will not even speak with you over the phone. They will keep all their interactions with you strictly virtual. You ex is likely to go to any extent not to be caught by you and to reveal their true identity to you.
They are guarded with their personal history – Their story is not likely to make complete sense. Their background is going to be vague. If you probe them about their past or ask to many questions about their family, they are likely to divert the conversation quickly to other topic
The way forward…
Things to do if you have been catfished:
Cut all contact Immediately – It may be one of the most difficult things to do for certain people, but it must be done. Stop all forms of contact and block them on all social media accounts.
Stop blaming yourself – It is not your fault that you have been catfished. Thousands of people each year get catfished globally. People who catfish can be extremely crafty and manipulative. It can fool the best of us.
Stop feeling life a victim – Get up and dust yourself off! If you get yourself in a victim mode then you are likely to feel sorry for yourself and expect people to be gentle towards you.
Accept what happened – This can be challenging and difficult to do. Accepting the fact that this happened to you is extremely important for your mental health.
See things as they are – See things as they are not as you would like them to be. Identify fact over fiction.
Become socially active with supportive friends – It is important for people not to go into a shell after a traumatic event. Increase your social activity. You have nothing to feel ashamed of. Don’t keep discussing about the experience with your friends, talk about other things.
Take precautions – Ensure you become more vigilant in your future interactions with people. However, don’t stop socializing and connecting with people. A single bad experience doesn’t guarantee that all future interactions are going to be bad.
This too shall pass! – Just have faith that whatever you are feeling right now is going to get better overtime and that you are going to overcome these feelings.
Contact a Mental Health Professional – Mental health professionals are trained to help people deal with emotional challenges and in overcoming trauma. Please get in touch with a professional who can work with you and help you overcome your feelings. You will be surprised with the positive impact a few counselling sessions can have on your life.
(The author is a psychotherapist and founder of Mind factory)