Searching for the overlap of our online selves and our “real life” selves.
It wasn’t all that long ago that the words “Internet dating” were a badge of dishonor, considered the last-ditch effort for single men and women. Of course, with the Internet now entirely fluid in popular culture, it becomes easy to misrepresent yourself online. Catfish is the MTV series started by Schulman (itself an extension of his earlier documentary of the same name), someone who fell hook, line and sinker for online dating deception. With this book, the author aspires to create an extension of that show, to “dig into the deeper issues that motivate” such deception and that motivate anyone who spends significant time on their online relationships. Schulman makes inroads deep into armchair-quarterbacking territory with broad psychological generalizations that seem derived from his own experience and the carefully chosen examples his show has chosen to feature. A section titled “Fear” declares, “No duh, right? Hiding behind a fake profile is a pretty good sign that someone is terrified of being themselves.” Catfish fans could take umbrage at a reviewer pulling a quote that makes Schulman an easy target, but every page is peppered with bromides that offer little in the way of useful insight, aimed more at establishing the author as, in his words, “a guru on digital love.” There are islands of good advice, however—e.g., “invest in creating the content of your life” rather than a well-curated Facebook timeline—but more than half the book is more concerned with Schulman’s positioning himself as a guru than attaining any depth.
Another quote from the book, one more telling about “catfishing,” comes from comedian Marc Maron, who said that every status update is essentially a plea: “Would someone please acknowledge me?”