Wouldn't you like to have a catfish too?

Recently a story has come out in the male/male romance world about an author who was supposed to be a bisexual single dad who, if the reports are to be believed, turned out to be a catfishing woman. I admit I don’t know the whole story yet but from what I do know it’s gotten pretty ugly. In addition to the allegations about catfishing there have been reports of people doxing others in support of this catfish, and now against those who supported those who supported the catfish. I mean, ugh! The whole thing is out of control.

When people watch the series Catfish one of the questions they always seem to ask is “how the people in question could be so dumb?” After all, it’s obvious the person was lying, etc. Yes, it is, in retrospect. It’s hard to see the truth when you’re in the middle of it. I know. My friends and I were catfished over ten years ago (although the term was not used back then).  We allowed this person into our lives and our personal thoughts and feelings, even though we had never met her.  Me more so than my friends, to be honest. I thought this person was really a friend but, in the end, she was just trying to use me/us to get to a different friend, for her own purposes. To this day I don’t know who the catfish was. I have my suspicions, but I don’t know.

Looking back, it’s clear where the lies and deceptions were. In my case this person told stories that I shouldn’t have believed and made up reasons that were ridiculous not to show up to places she was supposed to go. Her stories held water only until you realized they were being strained through a sieve. Once we started looking online it didn’t take long for the tissue thin lies to fall apart.

It’s pretty painful to realize I was duped. We were lucky. This catfish, whoever the person actually was, wasn’t after money or identity theft or anything like that. They have their own reasons for doing what they did, reasons I will never know. At the end, when her lies had been exposed, she offered to tell me the truth but only if I would agree to certain terms, which I couldn’t agree to. Sometimes I wish I had said okay, just so that I would know, but I suppose it doesn’t really matter.  We humans want answers, want closure, but that’s not always possible.

Like I said, we were lucky. The only damage done was to know I was an idiot, and that to trust someone I’d never met was ridiculous. It was only time, trust and friendship that I lost, not money, identity or reputation. That’s where my small story diverts from the above one. I had never heard of this author before the story broke, but I spent a great deal of time on Twitter and Facebook reading the details after I heard about it. They are horrific. In addition to the lies about gender and identity, which I would like to think those of us in romance land could forgive, there was also doxing of others online in defense of “him” as well as some pretty terrible allegations about idea theft and accepting money for bills that may not exist. All in all, a sordid affair and one that seems to only get worse the more we learn.

There’s a saying that goes if you put a frog in boiling water it will jump right out. But if you put it in a pot of water and gradually heat the water up, it will stay in the pot and cook. Whether that’s true or not the parable is accurate. If my catfish had come roaring onto the scene with all her tales we would have dismissed her as ridiculous. But she didn’t do that. She got to know us, told us about herself and her friends and gradually introduced us to her romance with a man who at the time was not a very well-known working actor (complete with pictures-this was eventually her undoing). She took us there one step at a time, just as I would imagine things went with this author. Once you’re deep in boiling water it’s hard to jump out.

What I find most appalling about this one is that not only were people hurt, but that a group of people participated in the hurting. The stories about stealing ideas, about a mob trashing others online, about people being threatened, etc., give me chills. You want to believe the catfish because they’re your friend, they trust you, and so the others are the enemy. Until one day they’re not. It’s a good lesson to remember that even if you feel as though you should attack another person online, think before you do damage to their reputation or their livelihood. Things may not always be as they seem. The words that are out there, once out there, can never be taken back. The Internet always remembers. It costs nothing to be kind.


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