Catfishing: Background and Main Causes

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The way that people interconnect using the Internet has truly transformed since 1990. Social media has introduced new means for people to communicate with each other and stay connected. People chat with one another and share memes via Facebook, post pictures on Instagram and Snapchat, etc. Technology has significantly altered the way that people search for love. In this modern era, it is not unusual for people to online date. Popular dating apps include: Tinder, Bumble, Hinge, etc. Many might even find romance through social media platforms such as Instagram. Some people might have the belief that internet dating can be dangerous because people could be deceitful about their true identity. “Catfishing,” a popular crime usually amongst younger people, is when an individual lies about their true Identity on the internet in order to lure someone into a relationship. This essay will explain the background of “catfishing” and why people catfish.

Online dating and hookup culture have become the general trend in today’s society, or the “norm”, as well as the possible risks behind it, which include: scammers, false identities, and physical harm. People tend to choose online dating because it’s convenient and easy, and they may be in search of a wider range in the dating world. These apps can be intriguing and fun, but what people do not recognize is that it can potentially ruin relationships. One of the major risk factors with online dating is fake profiles or identities. Today, many people come in contact with fake profiles, however they may not realize. Catfishing is impersonating an individual by using someone’s photos without permission, and usually targeting a specific victim due to a romance interest, whether it be for a harsh joke, or intentionally hurting someone’s feelings. This type of behavior can be viewed at as an act of “crime” or “deviance”. Impersonating someone is extremely illegal and can lead to consequences. Catfishing has the capability to create emotional destruction and distress to individuals resulting in feelings of betrayal, humiliation, depression, etc. Today people are extremely self-absorbed into social media. This has become the new “norm” into networking, making friends, and even finding love. Social media allows individuals to create profiles in which they can alter their information.

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As a consistent viewer of the show Catfish, I can classify some of the reasons behind this “cybercrime”. Most of the suspected “catfish” characters have blamed their reasoning on their previous life experiences including: a great amount of bullying, harassment, lack of confidence/ low self-esteem, etc. On some of the episodes I have seen, most of the characters will say that they committed this “cybercrime” as a means for revenge. People are not always happy with themselves and struggle to feel that way, therefore creating “aliases” making them feel comfortable in their own skin. Others might use this as a desire to escape; maybe they are feeling trapped and anxious with themselves. This allows that individual to express themselves freely without their insecurities holding them back.

Two theories that can be applicable as to why people partake in this are the strain theory and the labeling theory. Robert Merton established the strain theory. The meaning behind the strain theory is that people feel “strain” when they are exposed to the cultural goals that they are unable to obtain because they do not have access to these culturally approved means of achieving those goals. Society does not provide adequate means to attain those ambitions. Merton claims that deviance is the result of discrepancy of the goals. The responses of deviance show how society can put a strain on people. Other ways that an individual might respond such as conformity, innovation, ritualism, retreatism and rebellion explain an individual goal and the access to the means. This can either present a negative or positive outcome. For Merton these responses to deviance show how society strains people hence the name of the strain theory. The strain theory can lead to triggers of feelings that can develop into rage and defeat by society which can lead to a result in crime.

The second theory that can explain why people engage in this type of behavior over the Internet is the labeling theory. The labeling theory was created by Howard Becker. The intent of this theory is to explain how society labels a specific individual. However, the individual begins to act deviant when that specific label is given to that individual from a person who has authority. The label is not something that is permanent or a characteristic embedded in an individual. What categorizes an individual would be how one may view themselves and their behavioral aspect that may provide the influence in which causes them to become a deviant.

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Catfishing: Background and Main Causes. (2022, August 25). Edubirdie. Retrieved May 17, 2024, from
“Catfishing: Background and Main Causes.” Edubirdie, 25 Aug. 2022,
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Catfishing: Background and Main Causes [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Aug 25 [cited 2024 May 17]. Available from:

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