Tales Of A Serial Singleton: The Catfish
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I imagine by now most of us are aware of Catfish, the 2010 documentary (and subsequent, recent MTV series) which followed U.S. filmmaker Nev Schulman as he attempted to track down the person he had fallen in love with online. Horribly predictably, the beautiful young girl he assumed he was talking to turned out to be a middle-aged wife and mother facing serious psychological issues. It was all very troubling.
Nev, like thousands of others, including myself had been “Catfish’d”: a term Urban Dictionary defines as: ‘[a catfish is] someone who pretends to be someone they’re not using Facebook or other social media to create false identities, particularly to pursue deceptive online romances.’ Pretty grim stuff, right?
And, like I said, I myself have been duped into a ‘deceptive online romance’. It was back when social networks were reasonably fresh. MySpace was in its pomp and we all went about making ‘connections’ with people far too flippantly. I was in my final year of University and one day, utilising the library’s robust internet connection, logged into my account an found a notification that someone had requested my friendship. We had no mutual friends. Based exclusively on her picture (I know, I know…), I accepted her request.
Carley was a model. Long dark hair, beautiful face and what appeared to be an incredible body. Older than me, she was self-made wealthy with her pictures proudly showing off a Range Rover, Porsche and a very nice house.
I sent her a message in which I asked why she’d added me, but duly thanked her all the same. She responded swiftly and the conversation progressed quickly. We talked about our likes and dislikes — music, food, films, places to holiday, the works. After a few weeks of constant back-and-forth, and I mean all day, every day, we eventually exchanged numbers.
We spoke on the phone that very night, from 10pm-4am, without pause. Constant chatter. This continued each evening, with a constant stream of text messages tiding us over. It was a tiring endeavour and one that quickly begun disrupting my university and social life. However, the prospect of a beautiful woman showing such interest in me was exciting and unbelievable in equal measure, so I shelved my concerns and ploughed giddily along.
Soon, she confessed serious feelings towards me. I felt the same. Conversation became sexual and as things became heated we finally began to discuss physically meeting up. Plans were made for the following week.
Utterly predictably, the meeting did not happen. A couple of days before our scheduled date, she rang me crying and adamant she could no longer come. I was hugely disappointed but understood her reasoning — her brother had discovered our fledgling ‘relationship’ and pressured her into cancelling our date as he was concerned for her safety. I understood. I would be wary if my sister was set to march off and meet some internet dude she claimed to have feelings for but had never met.
The next day, I received another friend request. It was her brother. A message followed, explaining how his sister was clearly very in to me but he was concerned about my intentions and, more importantly, that I was who I was claiming to be. I tried to appease his brotherly concerns and felt appeased myself.
Weeks passed, feelings developed and contact was maintained. Then, out of the blue, I received a text telling me she was driving almost 200 miles to visit some family who lived near my university. Could she spend the night at mine? Of course. I told her that I was unfortunately working my bar job that evening but she could absolutely come and hang out there when she arrived. I went to work buzzing, only to receive an irate text message towards the end of my shift. Apparently, she’d arrived but saw me flirting with several girls and drove all the way home. I couldn’t believe it.
Somehow, we patched things up over the phone over the next few days and I offered to come to her. I provided several dates across the next few months for me to visit. She claimed to have foreign photo shoots booked across every single one. My irritation was becoming clear so she began to up the ante. I was offered the use of one of her cars, she’d take me on holiday a bit later on in the year, she’d pay off my student loan. Sensational, ridiculous offers that were enough to keep me at arm’s length for another few months.
During this time, I asked my friend’s advice. Finally (and tentatively), I revealed the secret online affair. I showed them the text conversations, the pictures and described the near-miss meetings. Almost immediately, one asked if her name happened to be Carley. A friend of his, he explained, had been experiencing someone extraordinarily similar but had given up when he became clear she was losing interest and found someone else. Christ, that was me. Naturally perturbed, I called Carley after fresh answers and demanded me meet up or finish things. Reluctantly, she agreed.
After half an hour of waiting in a bar near my university a week after offering my ultimatum I was ready to walk out and cut all ties. She called, again distressed after another row with her brother (who I had maintained semi-regular contact with on MySpace) and saying she was running very late.
Fast-forward a few hours and I’m approached by a girl. Significantly younger, shorter and heavier than Carly, she introduced herself as the cousin who lived locally. The stress of the situation, she explained, had broken Carley and she was at home in tears. Despite my exasperation and offer to visit Carley at home, I was refused.
Something felt very wrong about this encounter. There were far too many similarities between Carley’s voice and her cousin’s. They used the same turns of phrases, had exactly the same tone and intonations. I felt sick as the truth finally began to dawn. My messages to Carley suddenly went unanswered. Her brother also went quiet. I asked the mutual friend who had been previously entangled if he had discovered any fresh information. He had. A mutual friend formed some sort of connection with the ‘cousin’. She admitted ‘Carley’ was her invention. As was the brother and the other mythical family characters she’d introduced to keep other online conquests’ suspicions at bay. All these accounts had been deactivated. The girl of my dreams had been deleted, just like that.
Head to Page 2 for the lessons Tyler learned and his tips to avoid being Catfish’d…