MTV’s new reality show has become an overnight sensation that has taken people by storm and by people, I mean me. I’ve never been a fan of reality television but despite causing me all kinds of anxiety, Catfish has quickly become a guilty pleasure. It’s like a really bad car crash – I don’t want to stare but I just can’t look away! The show comes from a documentary filmed in 2007 about a guy named Nev Schulman who met a girl online, fell in love with her and eventually found out that the girl, Megan, was actually a middle aged woman named Angela. Needless to say, Mr. Schulman was heartbroken. On the upside, though, we get Catfish: The TV Show. According to the Internet, the term “catfish” refers to someone who pretends to be someone they’re not by using Facebook or other social media to create false identities, particularly to pursue deceptive romances.
We like to think of social media as this awesome thing that makes life so much easier. I mean, just look at these people meeting each other from thousands of miles away and making serious life-long connections from the comfort of their own home. It really is amazing. Until you’ve been “dating” your cyber love for 10 years and you’ve never met them. But no worries, here comes Nev in his super tight jeans and sunglasses, ready to save the day. It’s a great concept in theory. Investigating why an intimate and long-term online friend refuses to meet face to face – and then arranging a meeting.
Initially, the best part of the show was trying to guess whether our protagonist was being duped or not but after 5 episodes – it really seems like no one is who they say they are. As the weeks go by I become a little bit more bothered by what this show really means. If we think about what we consider acceptable as a society, it’s no wonder people feel that they have to create a fake persona someplace in order to be accepted. This behavior is obviously wrong and people have to be held accountable for their actions but in watching this show and hearing the reasoning behind why people are doing this, I kinda get it.
There has been a huge response from the show’s audience all over the web, mainly criticizing those who felt the need to pretend to be someone they weren’t…which I find to be rather contradictory in a sense. The backlash of society at these people for being what is considered “different” simply because they don’t fit a certain mold is the exact reason for the behavior exhibited by these “catfish” in the first place. The majority of these people were made fun of in school, felt out of place and unaccepted by society as a whole. Many of them have gone through some traumatic experience that caused them to lash out by creating a fake persona they felt comfortable with, even if it was just part time. We push a body image that in a word can be described as unhealthy, and this is what we refer to as beautiful. We tell little girls that they are lovely the way they are and then we show them pictures of women with large breasts, no waists and inverted stomachs who look like nothing like the women these children actually know in real life. Young men are expected to gain rock hard abs, have perfect hair and attract the most beautiful of women. Is there any way we can confuse ourselves any more than we already have?
We all seek acceptance. Some don’t need it as much as others, while some need it way more. Whatever the case, we need to stop judging people for being different. We may want to put a title on the things we find unacceptable, but in reality, when we criticize others in any way other than constructively, we are judging them simply for being. It doesn’t matter what or who they are being and if they aren’t hurting anyone or causing a problem, it shouldn’t matter. If you don’t like them, don’t be like them. It’s as easy as that. Maybe if we eased up on the judgement, there would be a few less “catfish” out there scamming people based on their own personal insecurities. If we can change the perspective of the future generations and help them understand that being yourself is what’s truly beautiful, maybe they won’t feel the need to be deceitful in an attempt to receive love from someone they’ve never even FaceTimed before, let alone met face to face. Is this what we’ve become? A collective group of insecure people who are willing to lie about who we are and accept an invalid love from strangers because we feel like we’re not good enough to receive that love from the people we know by being who we are? What a way to live.
Today, I encourage you to smile at a stranger. Give someone a genuine compliment. Tell someone you love them, just because. I think that if we all performed random acts of kindness more frequently, the catfish of the world would be more willing to think not just about the hurt that has caused them to want to be someone else but maybe they’ll consider the person they’ll potentially hurt by pretending to be that someone else. Those random hugs and smiles and ‘I love you’s just may be what someone needs to feel okay with just being themselves. Because, let’s face it – being yourself is way cooler than being a catfish any day.
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