Have you ever been “catfished” by someone who wasn’t quite what he or she claimed online? Certainly, there are stories about people who post photos of themselves taken years earlier, often when their waists were thinner and their hair thicker, or who created bios that made them sound smarter, more powerful or wealthier than they actually were. But there also have been occasions when someone is taken in by online lovers for weeks or months. Nev Schulman, the star and creator of the MTV show “Catfish” that follows Internet dating hoaxes, knows all about it.
His story became the basis of a documentary and, later, the television show. Schulman was psyched out by an Internet pretender, commonly known as a “catfish,” who created a fake life. In the documentary, Schulman fell for “Megan,” whom he believed was a beautiful woman in her 20s from Michigan. When he finally met her, “Megan” turned out to be a middle-aged mother of two.
Schulman reached out via Twitter to Manti Te’o, the Notre Dame linebacker, who claims that he had been the victim of an elaborate Internet hoax, which included a storyline that his girlfriend died of leukemia the same day Te’o lost his grandmother. As it turned out, the girlfriend didn’t exist. While Schulman and others try to figure out how to untangle the twists and plot turns in Te’o’s complicated story, including whether the football star was truly a victim or a part of the scam, BlackAmericaWeb.com asked people who had fallen for someone they met online how it worked out.
A D.C. woman, let’s call her Amira, said she met her fiancé on BlackPeopleMeet.com. Amira said she made minimal effort. She doesn’t remember even posting a photo, but she looked at other profiles and one day saw the photo of a man wearing a green t-shirt that read “Philadelphia,” a city in which Amira once lived. They agreed to meet at a small café in Georgetown.
“I was going through this, ‘Do I really want to do this?’ ‘What if he’s a sicko?’ So I’m going there and I’m like, ‘God, if this is the guy just make it so and if he’s not, please steer me away.’ “From the moment I saw him it was like, oh, wow!” Amira said. They chatted and made a date for the next night, and then the night after that, and the night after that. “Literally, we met every day after that and we’ve basically been together every day since.” The most interesting part, Amira said, was she met her fiancé “on his last day of registration on the site.”
Art Thompson’s story also had a happy ending – nine years later. “I met this lady on Love@Aol back in 2000. We hit it off in our initial online messages to each other, so we decided to meet in person. It seemed very promising because we both were well educated and we both had careers that we enjoyed. I set up a date for us to go miniature golfing on a Saturday, followed by having lunch,” Thompson said. He picked her up and on the way to golfing, he stops at his home to pick up baseball gear so he could go to the batting cage first for a little practice in preparation for a Sunday baseball game for a competitive league Thompson was in.
At the batting cage, however, he got into a heated exchange with the attendant and Thompson gave him an earful. “Meanwhile, my on-line date is witnessing this. I don’t remember the rest of what occurred during our date. This was back in 2000. But suffice to say, she did not return any of my phone calls following that one date and our budding relationship was nipped in the bud.”
In 2009, Thompson joined a bid whist club that met monthly and he soon developed a crush on the founding member who “is such a very sweet woman.” Over time they became Facebook friends and exchanged cell numbers. A couple of years later, he discovers she was the woman from the bad date nine years earlier. “She added that when I went off on the attendant that she immediately concluded that I was not the man for her and in her words, ‘I ran for the hills,’” Thompson said. “Anyway, we laughed about it and the great thing about it is that she had an opportunity through our bid whist club, for over two years, to discover that me going off on that guy was an aberration. We are great friends and hopefully, it will soon turn into more.” They were lucky.
Online Dating Magazine offers some tips to ensure the likelihood a romantic Internet connection is successful, including:
• Determine whether you want a general dating service, a relationship site for help finding The One, a social networking site that may lead to dates, a niche site that links people who share specific passions or a “merging online dating service,” where you post a profile, then hand out cards to people and they can check you out and decide if they want to follow up.
• Practice safe dating by not giving out a lot of personal information or a home phone number and meeting in a public place for the first date.
• Post a recent photo and something showing you doing something fun and lively. And for men, most importantly, no photos of you with your arms around gorgeous women. It instantly tags you as a player, and not in a good way.
• Don’t lie. Don’t lie about your age, your income, your job, your background – even a little.