I know what you’re thinking Catfishing is TERRIBLE. And Mean. And it IS. I agree. I’ve seen the movie. I’ve watched the TV show. That’s not the type of Catfishing I’m talking about.
I mean, seriously, what normal, sane person would ever Catfish?
Would YOU Ever Catfish?
You’re probably thinking a resounding “NO!”
I, myself, would have said the same thing a few years ago. Until I found myself in a scenario where curiosity got the best of me.
If you’ve read my original TracyLovesCats post you saw that my friend Bob Ladewig and I conducted a social experiment where we placed 38 UNDATEABLE characters on the dating website OkCupid to track the results. And later inspired the stage shows Undateable & #DateMe: An OkCupid Experiment.
We took great care not to be cruel in our stage version. But here on the Internet, without all the context, I am very aware that this could read unkind. So I want to clarify…
This Experiment Was Not Born With The Intent To Mess With People.
It was conceived out of my own crazy neurotic self-doubt and curiosity as to why I was still single after years of heartache but a Crazy Cat Lady could be so popular on the internet.
And Bob and I don’t think we’re better than anyone else. We both fully admit that we can be Undateable.
We knew we wanted to do the experiment. But we also knew that we didn’t want to be Jerk Wads. Or Meanies. Yep, I chose the word “Meanie” over “Asshole”… so that should tell you something about my personality.
Anyway, we wanted to be careful. So here’s what we came up with.
The Rules For Our OkCupid Experiment…
Rule 1: Don’t Start Conversations
We couldn’t start conversations with other people. “Regular” people had to initiate conversations with our crazy characters.
In other words, if people were drawn to our UNDATEABLE character profiles enough to message us, then we could message back. But we weren’t going to seek out random people.
So if someone is intrigued by…
…A character who’s lifelong dream is to work at Hooters…
…Well, if they are drawn to that clearly fake character and want to write something like…
“Yeah you better explain this to me it freaking cracks me up all the time.”
“Hands down the funniest profile I’ve ever seen. Perfect photos. If I managed a Hooters I’d hire you. Best of luck to you I hope you achieve your dream.”
…Well, then we could interact back. They don’t seem too fragile and seem to be having fun with us.
But we were not going to seek out people who, for real, might legitimately work at/love Hooters and try to lead them on. They had to come to us first.
Rule 2: Use Our Own Pictures
We had to use our own pictures, or pictures of friends who were in on our Experiment. No stealing another person’s likeness and posting it without their permission.
So this is what “BoobsandWangz” looks like:
Rule 3: Stay In Character
We had to stay in character and push the boundaries of being Undateable.
This was easier said than done. I was pretty specific with my point of views and had fun playing along because no matter what people wrote, I always had a logical answer based on the character’s personality.
But Bob got sucked in at times. He wanted to actually talk to people and get to know them as Bob. So the lines of his characters blurred a bit. He’ll go more into this on a future guest post.
But, basically, we kept each other in check. I’d remind him to stay in character. And he’d remind me to stop getting so emotionally attached/worried about people. On that topic…
Rule 4: Don’t Lead People On
Believe it or not, there are a lot of lonely people on the internet and we shouldn’t mess with them or their sensitive hearts.
This was the BIG ONE. So important. As someone who nearly gave up on love because it was so gut wrenching and awful at times, I would Never want to be the cause of someone else’s pain.
It was pretty clear when people were having fun/playing along with us.
But there were a couple of times when people really seemed invested and truly searching for a soul mate.
So… this guy is ADORABLE. He’s got a sense of humor. AND he read my profile and was making specific plans. A total WIN if I were really “BoobsandWangz”.
I would never want to lead this guy on so I had to write back and tell him how much I appreciated him but that I was unavailable to meet up.
I sent a variation of that message to several people. And, as time went on, and I could see the humanity of everyone out there searching… well, I became obsessive about this. I would stay up until 5 AM making sure I wrote everyone back. No joke.
It’s hard enough, as a woman trying to respond to everyone’s messages. Try being 38 different people! The amount of messages was insane and I was constantly worried.
When It Comes To Other People’s Loneliness I Always Assume the Worst Case Scenario…
I’ll see someone buying Ben & Jerry’s at the grocery and my mind jumps to how they obviously just got fired from their job and then returned home to find that their cat had died in a freak accident and their fiance left a note on the end table saying “It’s Over. Give me my ring back.”
Or I’ll see the one person alone at a bar or a party and I’ll go talk to them because it EATS AT ME to think that they are feeling lonely. And then they think I’m romantically interested and my spiral of worry continues as I have to figure out how to navigate THAT now.
All this stems from displacement, obviously, as I am the socially awkward lonely one and I’m just projecting.
Bob had to remind me “Robyn, they are FINE. It’s normal for people not to get responses. It happens all the time.” But I still felt bad. I’m sure that Hooters guy was TOTALLY fine. But I couldn’t live with myself if I “Ghosted” him or gave him any hope that we could actually date.
Ghosting is Terrible! I understand it’s the norm, but I’ve never done it to anyone in real life. And I couldn’t do it during this experiment either.
Rule 5: No Meeting In Person
Pretty self explanatory. Since we weren’t leading people on, we would obviously never get to the point of even implying that we would meet them in person. That would get people’s hopes up too much.
Plus, our characters were posted all across the country so, even if we met someone who we truly wanted to meet, it just wasn’t going to happen with this experiment.
So… Would YOU Ever Catfish?
I hope the answer is still “No”. Unless you’ve got a VERY good reason, in which case, I want to hear about it!
I don’t regret the experiment we did as I DO feel we treated people kindly. But it wouldn’t have been possible without setting up these Rules to keep us in check as human beings.
I see so many posts online of people taking screenshots of people’s full faces and then posting on Reddit talking about what “losers” and “assholes” they are for even trying to hit on a woman. #TinderFail. Now, let’s be clear, the majority of those messages are lewd and crude. I received Plenty of those. And I totally understand wanting to call them out.
But I also want to show the humanity of it all. And that these are REAL people putting themselves out there. So while I will use Verbatim dialogue in these posts. I am going to conceal the user photos and usernames to protect the Guilty.
So I’ll just leave you with this…