Catfishing: Online Relationships and Deception
Jim LiebeltJim is Senior Writer, Editor and Researcher for the HomeWord Center for Youth and Family at Azusa Pacific University. Jim has over 25 years of experience as a youth and family ministry specialist, and has been on the HomeWord staff since 1998. He has served over the years as a pastor, author, youth ministry trainer, adjunct college instructor and speaker. Jim’s culture blog and parenting articles appear on HomeWord.com. Jim is a contributing author of culture and parenting articles to Crosswalk.com. Jim and his wife Jenny live in Olympia, WA.
- 2013 Feb 07
A 'Catfish' "is someone who pretends to be someone they're not using Facebook or other social media to create false identities, particularly to pursue deceptive online romances” according to UrbanDictionary.com. About two months ago, most Millennials, and certainly most adults, didn’t know what the term meant despite the release of a 2010 documentary of the same name. Now, it’s become a common catchphrase in culture, is the subject of a hit reality show on MTV, and is national news following Manti Te’o’s scandal. Millennials are redefining dating in the digital age, and unfortunately that sometimes means being misled online.
Having a relationship that solely exists on the Web is more common among Millennials than one might think. Two in ten (22%) say they’ve been in an online relationship before, and nearly this same percentage (19%) believes that an online relationship is just as meaningful as an in-person relationship. This generation has grown up forming friendships and relationships on the Internet, so it’s no surprise that they feel close to others through a screen. (JL note: Generation Z — post-millennials born around the turn of the century to present — kids who are now entering their teenage years will be similarly, if not even more accustomed to establishing online relationships! Parents and ministry leaders should seek to help equip today's teenagers to successfully navigate online relationships.)
Typically, a "Catfish" creates a fake profile for the purpose of putting on a front and forming a relationship with someone online. According to Ypulse research, 44% of Millennials understand the term Catfish and of those, 19% known someone who’s been Catfished. While this percentage is relatively low, it still shows how this behavior exists beyond Manti Te’o’s story.