It seems like everyone is watching Catfish, the new MTV show that introduces people to the person they claim to love, but have never met. Inspired by his own experience, host Nev Schulman travels the country introducing online lovers to each other, and more often than not, uncovering a dirty secret or two in the process. But as always with MTV, after watching a few episodes, the viewer has to wonder how much is real and how much is MTVs manipulation of reality.
The core idea of the show comes from the 2010 documentary Catfish, in which Schulman’s brother followed him as he embarked on an online romance with “Megan,” a singer from Michigan. After doing some research, Schulman found that “Megan’s” claims were mostly false and the songs she claimed to be hers were recorded by someone else. Still, he traveled to Michigan to meet her. Once he arrived, Schulman, 28 (26 at the time), found out that “Megan” was actually 40-year-old Angela, using pictures she stole from a stranger on the internet to make a fake Facebook page. Here are the trailers to give you an idea of the Catfish feature documentary.
On the pilot episode of the television show, a sweet, naive seeming girl named Sunny was convinced she was in love with a handsome guy named “Jamison.” As soon as she told Schulman that “Jamison” was studying anesthesiology through an online school while also working behind the scenes on Chelsea Lately, warning bells started to go off. When asked if she’d ever tried to Google the claims “Jamison” made, Sunny claimed she was just a trusting person who never doubted him.
But how trusting are these people? They are after all computer literate enough to find each other. In this day and age isn’t it natural to Google someone after meeting them, or look through their social media profile with a fine tooth comb? In another episode, Schulman clicks on the employer that a man who claims to live in Atlanta has listed on his profile, and finds it is located in Lahore, Pakistan. As a viewer, you begin to wonder why the woman who claims to have fallen in love with him never thought to do that.
In some cases, Schulman uses Google image search to see if the pictures sent from one lover to another are stolen from another person’s page. Each time, he explains what he’s doing as if Google Image search is incredibly complicated and hard to understand… but it’s not, especially for people who use Skype and IM daily. Perhaps MTV producers screen the people who apply to be on Catfish and only keep the very naive ones. Or maybe, like with most reality shows, the term reality is used very loosely.