*If you haven’t seen the movie Catfish” and wish to do so, I suggest not reading this post till after you view it. This post will contain spoilers about the movie.”
I watched the movie “Catfish” last night. I never caught it in theatres. Wasn’t even sure if it ever made it out my way. The movie was made documentary style. It followed a man from New York named Nev, a photographer, who receives a message via Facebook from Abby, asking permission to use one of his photographs as a painting. Nev forms a relationship with Abby’s family. Mainly, his attraction towards Abby’s half-sister, Megan. Nev and his friends discover some facts about the supposedly, talented child prodigy and her family. The movie was fantastic. It plays the new style of film making, following in the footsteps of, The Blair Witch Project” and “Paranormal Activity”. You’re unsure if the movie is real or fake. If I was to guess, the movie is pure fiction. It makes you wonder about the people we know online and if they really are who they saw they are.
Nev and his brothers discover that some songs Megan sent them were not her singing, although she claimed they were. Even the gallery Abby had her painting displayed at, was nothing but a, four-year old, empty JC Penney. How many lies did Megan tell them? How many of the 1500 texts they exchanged were lies? Headstrong on getting an answer and to pull the truth out of her, Nev and the others take a trip to her home state to confront her about everything. When there, the discover Abby is no painter, just your average child. Angela, the mother was not the woman he saw in paintings. Even her husband, Vince was not the same man they sound in the photos. Everything was coming unraveled. The lies were coming out. The shocker that Nev was already sure about was true. There was no Megan. Angela, the mother was her. She was more than just Megan. She was a dozen of friends on Megan’s friend’s list. Playing them all. A charade on a very large scale. You can only think that somewhere down the road, she would goof up and all the lies, the personalities, everything would come to an end. Her game would be over.
I am who I say I am online. There isn’t anything to hide about my life. I have no need to glorify my life. My life might not be that exciting but it is what it is. I find no need to fib about anything online. While not online, I only created a fake person before. Only short-lived but this faux identity did some harm. I am sure I have mentioned this before. Since this post is about the realism of online life, it’s fits in nicely.
One night, a couple of friends and I decided to create a friend. We sat at my dining table and created all we could think of to give this fake person, three dimensions. The friend we created was named Denny Caprice. Denny worked at the hospital as a nurses aide. He had a younger sister, Maddy. I believe her name was Maddy. It’s been a long time. We even through a party once for him. To be sure no one would show up, we planned the party on a night when all our close friends were out at the movies. With his back story in place, we added in some excitement. We toyed with another employee and said that Denny was upset with him. This other employee was accused on messing around with Denny’s sister. Funny how the kid was persistent on denying what Denny was accusing him of, when we know full well that nothing was going on. I mean, she wasn’t real. He told us how his parents and him searched the phone book, looking for Denny’s number. They wanted to get to the bottom of it and stop him before he could hurt their son.
As Denny evolved, so did the belief that he’s honestly real. We were even pulled aside one day by a manager about Denny and his threats against the co-worker. We were told to give the message to Denny to stay out of the store. He wasn’t welcome inside anymore. After a while, we slowed down on him and his fictional life. It took some time but we finally got people to believe us that he wasn’t real. Hard to explain to people that he wasn’t when they were sure as hell that he was real. One person even claimed he talked to Denny. Creating a fake person is dangerous. Who knows what could have happened if we kept at it. How much shit would we have gotten ourselves into if we escalated it even further?
I’ve mentioned before about playing an online game, “The Sims Online“. While a game, it can really be described as a giant, virtual chat room. Playing the game for about 5 years, you tend to form friendships with the other players. The game ended but some of the people I met through the game are still friends. I still talk to them. Having only met a few people from the online world, I can say they were the people they said they were. At least, the photos they shared of themselves were real. It is still up in the air about the lives they led. Being friends, it is hard to ever try and not believe what they say. If they say they are 25, I wouldn’t think twice about it and would take it without any question. I will have no reason to believe they weren’t 25. There has been a number of times when the person I thought I was talking to wasn’t the person they said they were. It only goes to show you that you can never trust anything or anyone online. I don’t want to say that everyone we meet online is a liar. I am sure there are many people who are truthful. But to be burned a few times, makes you question people.
I was friends with a dude from Minnesota. Drew and I chatted often. He was supposed to finally meet his boyfriend after months and months of excuses of why they couldn’t’ meet up. When he arrived, he was who he said he was. It was nice to know that the person I talked to for months was the person I was just meeting for the first time. Later that night, we took a trip to meet up with his friend. We met him at an empty parking lot. The person that we were meeting was not the person we were expecting. After a good, fifteen minutes or so, Drew came back to the car and explained that that wasn’t his friend. It was his friend’s dad. Okay, I guess I could believe that. But something wasn’t settling right. There was more to it. Turns out the person he met that night wasn’t the dad. It was the person Drew talked to, fell in love with, and wanted to meet. I haven’t spoken to either in a very long time. Brian, the person Drew met up with, posted a fake photo. Not only a fake photo but lied about his age. He was much older than what he claimed to be.
Not only me, but an entire forum was lied to about a woman who claimed to have a disease. She wasn’t sick. She didn’t even have kids like she said she did. She wasn’t even a she. He was just a little guy with too much time on his hands. Most of the people online I have talked to, lied about their ages or the photos. A few times, they fabricated stories about their life, claiming to be far more interesting than they were. What they did was wrong. It might be nice to toss in a few white lies here and there, but down the road, you’re gonna get caught. The internet is a big place and everything is saved. All you need to do is a little investigating and the stories about you will come out. For example, another person claimed to be a female. For years no one knew. We just took it as it was. If a person online says they are male or female, you believe them. You really don’t question it anymore. I wasn’t the one who discovered it but with a little snooping around, the person we all knew as “Elga” wasn’t the sexy woman we came to love but it was a twenty-something guy where a little role-playing got out of control.
These are just a few stories I can share about the world online. It is fun to play someone else. It’s nice to escape the chaos of our lives and retreat into a world where we feel safe. But what makes it an issue is when the world you’re living in starts to effect other people. We cross the line between realism and fantasy. It is hard to shake it off. You’ve been burned once and getting close to another person online will be harder than before. The trust you once had, the feeling that the internet is a safe and trusting place is tainted. You’ll question everyone and everything they claim to be true.
I hate to question the friends I have gained over the years online. I want to believe these people are the people they say they are. If they are lying, why? What purpose does lying have. If they aren’t ever going to meet someone online in real life, what secrets do they have to hide from others? What is so secretive that they have to create a fake persona. If you’re lying, stop. You will eventually get caught and will eventually have to face the music and tell people why you did what you did. The online world is a scary place. We hear stories about pedophiles posing as young teens to lure children in. One mother even pretended to be young boy that eventually made a girl commit suicide. There is a dark side to being someone else online. I am not saying that when you’re online talking to people elsewhere, you have to tell them everything about yourself. That isn’t the case. You don’t have to tell them your life story. Just tell them the truth. Don’t go around with fake photos, or lying about your age. It is best to just treat these people and be honest with them like you’re meeting them face to face. In closing, be honest about who you are. Who knows, maybe you aren’t the only one lying in the online relationship.