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Such the Spot - What I learned from watching MTV's 'Catfish'

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Darcie Maranich

 

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I’m about to confess something that might lead you to question my scruples. I realize that doing so might not seem like the best course of action but in this case it can’t be avoided. Here goes: I’ve watched MTV’s show, Catfish. But wait; don’t immediately write me off as a wiggly-brained ninny. I watched the show after reading an article in which a therapist suggested that it might be a good program for teenagers to watch. According to the article, the show’s content appeals to teens but also can be an effective way to open their eyes to the dangers of dispensing personal information online. As the mother to three teen girls, I thought it reasonable to at least screen the show and find out for myself whether it would be a worthwhile (and appropriate) program for my kids. So I watched. That was my first mistake.

Have you seen the show? It’s okay to admit it; we’re all friends here. Because here’s the thing: unless you’ve seen the show with your own two eyes, well, let’s just say it’s hard to believe that this sort of thing actually happens to human beings whose brains are perfectly capable of carrying out the functions necessary to sustain life.

If you haven’t seen the show, the premise is this: two random guys go around “helping” strangers meet his or her online love interest. Most often, the person who writes in asking for help has tried several times to have a face-to-face with the online love interest, but has been stood up, put off, or straight-up denied time and time again. Yet he or she will continue to nurture this online relationship, sometimes going so far as to profess undying love and unending dedication. I know it sounds insane. There’s no way around that.

On the episode I watched, a young man had been exchanging Facebook messages and texts with his “dream girl” for eighteen months. They logged hours talking on the phone, but not once in those eighteen months had they so much as laid eyes on one another in real-time—only via Facebook photos. Eventually the guy gets tired of waiting and he threatens to end the relationship but the girl convinces him to stay when she tells him that the reason she can’t meet up with him is because she has colon cancer.

As luck would have it.

In any case, the guy writes to Catfish and asks for help in convincing the girl of his dreams to finally meet up with him. Catfish comes to the rescue and—in the end—it is revealed that the poor, cancer-stricken girl is really not cancer-stricken at all. Nor is she the redheaded beauty she is portrayed to be in her profile photos, but rather a heavyset brunette who clearly has a loose affiliation with the truth. Tears are shed. Harsh words are exchanged. By the time the camera crew is packed and ready to wrap filming, all that is left of the online relationship is a pile of rubble littered with a trail of discarded text messages.

Surely, you didn’t see that coming.

Who are these people and where do they come from? I’m not one to give much credence to online dating websites, but that isn’t to say that relationships that start online are guaranteed to fail. I’m sure that there do exist plenty of statistics to prove otherwise. But come on. Eighteen months? If you are eighteen months deep in a relationship and still you haven’t once put your eyes on the living, breathing object of your affection, one of three things is the case:

1. That person is married.

2. That person is in prison.

3. That person has breached copyright law by stealing an image of someone far more attractive and has spent so long hiding behind that fictitious handsome hunk or hot babe that he or she likely suffers from personality disorder and would most benefit from some time spent in a rubber room slurping pureed foods from a spoon.

Back to my original point, though. I screened the show to judge for myself whether or not it would benefit my teen daughters to see what might be lurking on the other side of the glowing computer screen. Having watched the show, I would like to believe that my loving guidance and years of nurturing have cultivated young women whose judgment and discernment would render them ineligible to appear on Catfish. As for the show’s past guests, I’m sure that we Arizonans could make a fortune selling them our ocean front property. Anybody know a good realtor?

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Darcie Maranich

 

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