General Question

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

Why do individuals catfish?

Asked by Hawaii_Jake (30606points) 1 week ago

I had heard this term a couple of times before today, but I never paid any interest, and I never bothered to find out exactly what it was.

Here is the Urban Dictionary definition. Basically, it means lying.

Today, I learned that I was taken in by a catfisher. It surprised me mainly because the practice of catfishing has got to be one of the stupidest things I’ve ever heard of.

Why would anyone go to the trouble to invent a persona and then continue it over the course of years? It’s infantile.

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61 Answers

Patty_Melt's avatar

(Shrug) entertainment, like a video game with live people.
Were you harmed by it, or hurt feelings only?

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

@Patty_Melt Are you asking me if I was harmed by it? Is it wrong to care that I was lied to over the course of years by someone I traded personal information with who then used that personal information against me on this site? Yes, he harmed me.

It doesn’t matter if he hurt people’s feelings. Lying is a form of violence. It is harm.

”(Shrug)” I realize that in Trump’s America, the truth is not as important as the lies told by our president or other fake news providers, but I care.

Patty_Melt's avatar

I meant no insult. You don’t need to get mad at me. I only answered your question.
My question to you was not intended to belittle the hurt you experienced. I just wanted to know if you were harmed other than hurt feelings.

Love_my_doggie's avatar

@Hawaii_Jake I can only guess that catfishers are similar to trolls – they’re bored and have too much time on their hands; they enjoy manipulating other individuals to enjoy the reactions; they’re so unsatisfied with the realities of their lives, they reinvent themselves through faceless, anonymous media.

Why are some catfishers so successful? Because their victims want to believe and will ignore even the most blatant “red flags.”

LornaLove's avatar

I guess there are many reasons why people do this. It’s a despicable thing to do. Some have no lives of their own so fabricate one. Others want revenge in some way, either to hurt a stranger because they’ve been hurt or perhaps they know the person and are trying to pay them back somehow.

In the old days, the internet was a little different, although I am sure there were deceitful people then too, most were who they said they were. It’s a general rule in my head when I am on social media that I could think I am talking to a man of 50 for e.g. when in reality I am talking to a girl of 20, it is that bad.
It is very hurtful, some even take money from people not just their hearts and sometimes their souls. I watched one catfish program where he guy just laughed and said it was his entertainment. Horrible it is, but I think we will rely less and less on the internet for friends and partners in the future, which might be a good thing.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

@Patty_Melt Thanks for the clarification. I’m baffled and touchy.

marinelife's avatar

I feel that the reasons are as varied as the people who engage in it. I too have been hurt by this. If I want to read fiction then I want it labelled as such.

I would not choose to waste my time engaging with someone spinning yarns.

Zissou's avatar

LL, A girl (sic) of 20 who poses as a man of 50 is probably less dangerous than the reverse! But either way, ick.

imrainmaker's avatar

I don’t know for fun / having lots of time on their hands / some people are really wicked who like to see others suffer.

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Demosthenes's avatar

I knew someone who catfished on this teen site (back when I was younger and posted on it). In reality, he was chubby, pale, wore glasses, didn’t have many friends, had never been in a relationship. On the site, he used a photo of a teen model and said it was him (no one seemed to be able to find it on Google), he was attractive, thin, he had all these stories about things he did with his friends, and posted regular updates about his relationship drama (it was inconsistencies in the relationship stories that made people suspect he was a faker, and then when he was confronted, he revealed it all). He never actually attempted to “seduce” anyone (to my knowledge), it seemed to be just for him to live out a fantasy online of being someone “better” than he saw himself as.

So on one hand I didn’t like that he had lied and used a different person’s photo, but at the same time, I understood why he did what he did, and I felt bad for him. And he was an entertaining story-teller, honestly, but even he couldn’t keep track of all the details he told.

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Mimishu1995's avatar

A couple of questions for all of you:

1. Why do you care so much that someone catfished you?
2. Were any of you ever get harmed or manipulated by the catfisher, like being conned out of your money or emotional support?
3. Why do you need the world to know that person is a catfisher too?
4. Why is it important to know that the catfisher was mentally unstable? Did his mental problem cause any serious trouble?
5. In the end, does any of us benefit anything from proving that person is a catfisher?

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Zaku's avatar

There are many reasons why people may/might/do do this. For examples:

* Hired by a nasty corporation or (foreign or not) government “intelligence” (or information-warfare) agency or political party to shape public perception and/or influence elections, research studies, and/or government departments (for example, generating millions of fake comments to the FCC pretending to be actual human beings who don’t like Net Neutrality).

* Other types of scammers out to get something. Con artists, industrial scammers, hackers, crazy ex-lovers, stalkers, crazy parents, etc.

* In multi-player online games, some people catfish as a strategy, to spy on other factions and/or sabotage them.

* To avoid social stigmas (or just avoid being tracked and recorded as themselves) and participate in online venues without stating (or stating falsely) their age, gender, nationality, ethnicity, location etc.

* People experimenting / playing with taking on a persona other than their own, for curiosity or fun or fantasy or to take out frustrations.

* A more serious version of the previous, many people in modern culture have various flavors of issues with their given role in society, and may try to live a bit of an imaginary existence online as someone else, e.g. for escapism purposes (and/or comforting partial self-delusion). e.g. often people are depressed about their perception of themselves in our society, and prefer to escape in various ways, whether through TV binging, workaholism, alcoholism, drugs, drama, computer games, or various Internet distractions (to include catfishing).

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SavoirFaire's avatar

[Mod Says] This question is in General. All responses must be helpful and on-topic. The topic is not other jellies. Thanks!

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seawulf575's avatar

Face it, the internet is the world’s largest masquerade ball. You can log on and be whomever you want to be. If you want to be a surly cowboy, you can do that. If you are a guy and want to see what it’s like to be a girl, you can do that. The computer screen offers a great screen on the rest of the internet world.
As for lying being a form of harm, you can be partially right. Sometimes, though, it isn’t. “Does this outfit make my butt look big?” Saying yes might be hurtful, saying no, even if it does, might spare some feelings. But in the end, lying tends to tell more about the liar than the person that was lied to.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I’d say it’s because some are terribly unhappy with their lives and want to create an alternate life, one that they could share with people, one that others could enjoy, one that they can take happiness in pretending too.
Some feel the life they actually have isn’t worth sharing. It’s boring, it’s depressing, and no one wants to hear about all that. No one would be particularly interested in them.
Maybe it’s not always such an unhealthy thing. If it makes them happy, and other people enjoy it too, I don’t see the harm in the fantasy.

canidmajor's avatar

I’ll address your questions, @Mimishu1995.

1.I care because I offer up my true self (with a detail or two fudged for maintaining anonymity) and I trust others to do the same (with the same exceptions). When I find out that that trust has been betrayed I worry that the person may have nefarious reasons for doing so.

2.I have helped internet friends out financially from time to time, I imagine others have also. A few years ago I almost donated to a false “charity” set up by a very clever catfisher, who had spent a year developing a fake persona on a private FB page, and gradually brought in the story of a child lost to CF, and a small charity set up for research. One of our members smelled a rat and exposed him.

3. To warn others not to put their trust, caring, information, money into that person’s hands.(I kinda think that would be obvious)

4. Can’t address that, we probably would not know that a clever catfish is mentally unstable, I doubt many are.

5. Yes, I think all of us benefit by being warned that someone is lying outright and is not who they seem to be.

As to “why” (the original premise of the Q), why indeed? to take advantage of another’s trusting nature. To perhaps gain something tangible from a sympathetic audience.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Or, there are some who would not do it for some sort of financial or physical or tangible gain. They just do it because they want to make believe. They want to entertain.

It’s possible their real lives would bring a great deal of sympathy from their audience and they don’t want sympathy. Lot’s of people don’t want sympathy.

canidmajor's avatar

Still taking advantage of others’ trusting natures in one way or another, @Dutchess_III, no matter how “pure” their motives (and does anyone really know their motives? If they’d already lied that much, who could tell?) may “seem” to be.

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Dutchess_III's avatar

Some people want to have their trusting natures taken advantage of. That’s the reason we have religions, UFO stories, Big foot stories, conspiracy theories in general. They want to believe. No matter how much their common sense, logic, tells them that it isn’t true, they want the shuck all of that and believe anyway.

canidmajor's avatar

Huh? again. What does that have to do with the Q?

Dutchess_III's avatar

It was a response to your comment “Still taking advantage of others’ trusting natures in one way or another… ” Some people WANT to be taken advantage of.

canidmajor's avatar

So what? Do you see catfishing as an act of benevolence towards those that “want to be taken advantage of”?

Dutchess_III's avatar

Depends on what they (the ones who want to believe) want to get out of it. If it adds life and color and wonder to their world then it’s a good thing. It’s kind of like reading a really good book. It adds something to your life.

chyna's avatar

@dutchess_III. But I choose to read a really good book expecting that it is for entertainment only, and, if labeled fictional, then I know it is fiction.
I don’t interact with people expecting that what they tell me is fiction.

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Dutchess_III's avatar

I can understand that @chyna. Different strokes for different folks, I suppose. If it’s harmless it really wouldn’t bother me at all. If they are harmless, but entertaining, creative and intelligent, and they add something to my life, I’d rather have them as they presented themselves than to have never had them at all.

linguaphile's avatar

Some people need the adulation that their life does not provide and create an online fantasy to feel real. To be seen or known.

It’s extremely painful to live a meaningless life, invisible to everyone in your world. Most people deal with it with depression, going to “sleep,” and sinking into resignation, accepting loneliness as their reality. Other people, clearly, respond by creating alternate personas that fulfill the need for visibility.

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