Many people have heard of the term “Catfish” when referring to an individual who pretends to be someone else on social networking sites to create a false identity. This practice is popular when seeking online romantic relationships. The documentary film “Catfish” by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman is about a young man who uses Facebook as a tool to engage in a romantic relationship with a woman. Plot twist… This woman is using Facebook as a tool to create a false identity. Claiming that she is a young woman pursuing a career as a singer while actually being an older mother living a completely different life style. It is interesting to look at this unique case because it provides us with an inside look on how bodies of all types can occupy and manipulate an online space. Building false identities via online websites has been given a negative connotation because of the direct link to online predators. However, disregarding the fact that there are people who use it for law infringement reasons, others use this tool as a way to reconstruct their identities in a different types of spaces. It is interesting to look at platforms such as second life, which provide a virtual gaming mode reality in comparison to the practice of “catfishing”. Of course there are many judgments that come with this practice from outsiders, however having watched this film, I felt as though this lady, who was leading a difficult life, simply wanted to re-create herself through the use of people’s online images. In the end I felt bad and a sense of compassion towards this lady. But why feel bad? Angela was engaging in this “counter-culture” practice that benefited her mentally and emotionally. Angela even went about in creating her entire “fake” family and friends. Is there a limit to this? When does it become too much? Are there consequences when engaging in this practice? Are there laws governing this practice? Should Catfishing be banned from the Internet? Is Catfishing a freedom of expression issue?
The practice of catfishing has also been linked to scammers and can have very serious emotional impacts on the victims.
Catfishing does not disregard a specific body. It is quite an inclusive practice that provides anyone with a mode of inventing a new and improved identity for themselves. These users are creating online “heterotopias” in which they are virtually representing themselves to make a utopian space possible. Copyright issues can also apply when using other online user’s pictures, which would be considered invading someone’s privacy. I personally believe that this online practice can be both rewarding and dangerous depending on the intent of it’s use. Of course there will be limitations as to how far you can “push it” since I believe that the truth will always prevail at some point. The case of Angela in the film “Catfish” was a deliberate mode of action to try and escape her lived and embodied space. Nonetheless this a morally and politically charged practice and can be interpreted differently by many.