It is not about cash: we asked catfish why they deceive people online

It is not about cash: we asked catfish why they deceive people online


Senior Lecturer in Psychology, The University of Queensland

Disclosure statement

Eric Vanman can not work for, consult, very own stocks in or get money from any business or organization that will reap the benefits of this informative article, and contains disclosed no appropriate affiliations beyond their educational visit.


University of Queensland provides money as being a known user for the discussion AU.

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When you have involved with internet tradition after all in modern times, you have got most likely encounter the definition of “catfish”, first coined in the 2010 documentary of the identical title.

A catfish is somebody who makes use of information that is false develop a persona online that will not express their real identification. This commonly involves utilizing taken or edited pictures, frequently obtained from an unwitting 3rd party.

Catfish will utilize this information to create a far more appealing form of by themselves, then participate in continued private interactions with someone else (or individuals) who’re unacquainted with the deception.

Falling victim to catfish

Into the 2010 documentary, Nev Schulman learns that a female with who he’s developed a relationship that is online nine months is clearly fake. Another married girl (whom initially reported to be her mother) has utilized images from a model’s account to produce the complicated, phoney relationship.

There has been a few high-profile instances of catfishing reported in the news ever since then.

Singer Casey Donovan, in her own 2014 memoir, had written of a six-year relationship that ended up being fake – inside her instance, the catfish also lied about her sex.

Last year, NBA celebrity Chris Andersen became embroiled in a catfishing scandal that finished in jail time for the catfish.

Then there’s the popular MTV truth docuseries, hosted by catfish target Nev Schulman himself. Its presently with its 7th period of “taking online romances in to the genuine world”.

A problem that is complicated

Since 2016, the Australian Competition and customer Commission (ACCC) has gathered and published data on relationship and love frauds.

Its web site provides detail by detail statistics of reported love fraudulence in Australia, yet there was information that is little about social catfishing – deception within the lack of monetary fraud. There are additionally questions regarding the legality of impersonating a person who will not occur.

Until these problems are fixed, there’s absolutely no avenue that is clear pursue for victims of social catfish. Victims may remain unacquainted with the deception for months or years – another reason catfishing usually goes unreported – making it even harder to quantify.

The personality characteristics of catfish scammers

As smartphones and linked products become a lot more pervasive, the likelihood of dropping victim to deception are increasing along side our display time.

Exactly what type of individual becomes a social catfish?

We’ve started research that is psychological investigate this concern. Into the previous 12 months we have actually recruited 27 folks from around the globe who self-identified as catfish for online interviews.

The interviews concentrated primarily to their motivations and emotions about their catfishing behavior. A few of our key findings included:

  • Loneliness had been mentioned by 41% associated with the participants due to the fact good reason behind their catfishing. One respondent said:

I recently desired to be much more popular and then make buddies which could speak with me personally, some the main day.

Other people advertised that a childhood that is lonely ongoing battles with social connection had been adding facets.

  • Dissatisfaction with regards to appearance had been additionally a typical theme, represented in around one-third of reactions:

I had plenty of self-esteem issues … We actually give consideration to myself ugly and ugly … the sole method We have actually had relationships is on the internet and by having a false identification.

Another respondent stated:

If We attempt to deliver my genuine, unedited images to anyone who appears good, they stop answering me personally. It’s a type of escapism, or a means of testing what life is like if perhaps you were the person that is same more actually appealing.

  • Some reported making use of false identities or personas to explore their sex or sex identification. For instance:

I happened to be catfishing ladies on it… I pretend to be a man as I would prefer to be in the male role of a heterosexual relationship than a female in a homosexual relationship because I am attracted to women but have never acted.

  • Significantly more than two-thirds of reactions talked about a want to escape:

It may appear magical, having the ability to escape your insecurities … But in the end, it just worsens them.

  • Many reported emotions of self-loathing and guilt around their misleading behavior:

It’s hard to avoid the addiction. Truth hit, and I also felt such as a shitty individual.

Significantly more than one-third of individuals expressed a need to confess with their victims, plus some had proceeded relations together with them even with coming clean.

Notably interestingly, around one fourth of participants stated they started catfishing away from practicality, or as a result of some circumstance that is outside. One said:

Being too young for a web site or game implied I needed to lie about my age to individuals, leading to developing a persona that is complete.