How can curated, online personas affect relationships? How is this mask we put on, every time we venture online, influencing the way we type, think, speak and interact with others?
As we make our way further into the 21st century, people continue to find new ways of re-inventing or re-creating themselves. An extreme example of this is when people catfish.
Ruth Palmer discovered that, after three years, a fake account by the name of Leah Palmer had been imitating her.
During that time the fake accounts had used her personal photos and amassed thousands of social media followers. Even a romantic relationship was formed with an unfortunate, unsuspecting male suitor, who later described Leah as a “no-show“. The life of Leah Palmer was a complete fabrication and consequently, it emotionally affected the people who were interacting with her.
Another example of catfishing presents itself in the case of internet personality, Andrea Russett. She described the numerous fake accounts of her as “…kind of flattering but as the years went by…it started to register that these people could say something that I would never say, like something racist, homophobic, anything offensive…“. As a result, the catfishing of this micro-celebrity momentarily impacted on the personal brand she had crafted for herself since her Youtube channel kicked off in 2008. Luckily, most people were smart enough to realise that these were fake accounts making the offensive comments.
But just how prone exactly are people to becoming catfished? Some twitter users believed Carina Santos, a Brazilian journalist, was a real person, when in reality she was a twitter bot. What if someone tried to connect with her romantically only to discover she was a cold-hearted piece of well crafted software?
Ultimately, the cases of Ruth Palmer and Andrea Russett just go to show how easily our online presence can be drastically altered. Once our information is out there, it belongs to the public. This kind of identity theft is not considered a crime and therefore, nothing can legally be done about it. This makes it difficult to prevent dangerous events from occurring for the victims; those who have been catfished and those who have had their identity stolen.
What if the person whose is catfishing is a pedophile who is using the internet as a platform to speak to young children? Or what if the person whose identity has been stolen is confronted by someone they have never met before because their profile has been catfished?
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