Why the term “Catfishing” annoys me

Angela Ratzlaff, News Editor
January 20, 2013
Filed under Opinions

After the release of the addictive documentary-turned-TV series “Catfish,” the name of what once instilled an image of mucky rivers and whiskered fish has now become a term associated with individuals who instigate false relationships online, often with complete strangers.

The name of what once was defined by Webster’s Dictionary as “an order (Siluriformes) of chiefly freshwater stout-bodied scaleless bony fishes having long tactile barbells” has become a thing.

“Catfishing,” a southern, down home, get-to-know-your-dad activity, turned into an urban dictionary sensation.

The mudfish’s new definition stemmed from the Yaniv ‘Nev’ Schulman-hosted documentary about his quest to find who was behind the online profile of a girl he fell in love with. After signs of the profile being fake, Schulman and his film-making buddies dove deep and investigated who was the face behind the text flirts and hour-long phone conversations.

After taking the journey to what Schulman thought was the young, blonde Megan Wesselman’s house, he got his heart broken after discovering that the woman who created the profile was in fact Angela Wesselman, a middle-aged house wife living in Gladestone, Michigan.

Schulman was nice enough to talk to Wesselman to understand the motives behind creating a false identity and relationship. He was even inspired to make a TV series based off the documentary, which received raving reviews from critics and fans alike.

Like the documentary, the TV show took off like a mind-numbing bullet into homes across America. Now, one can watch an online-dating hopeful get their heart crushed once a week. There are multiple episodes. Multiple hours of agonizing awkward emotional pain. What’s not to love?

What really peeved me was the recent coverage of football player Manti Te’o’s fabricated girlfriend and the use of the term “catfishing” by most every media outlet.

First of all, this is not a new thing. Yes, it is more recognized thanks to Schulman and his series. But fake profiles have existed for a good while now. What about “To Catch a Predator?” Did anybody forget about the creeps who created fake profiles looking for young teenagers to pounce on?

In all honesty, I do enjoy the approach that Schulman has given. He shows us that everyday people, including our peers, create these profiles to get some sort of self-fulfillment or a feeling of friendship. It’s great that this is being exposed so others can reach out to those who may feel rejected from society.

However, the media’s use of “catfish” is overused. I really don’t see it fit for casual conversations, either.

If they are going to use any fish, they should use the red herring. I mean, it’s all a diversion of attention, right?

Angela Ratzlaff is a senior majoring in journalism with a minor in film. 

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