The term catfishing refers to creating an alternate persona on the internet. A person uses pictures of someone else and creates a "new self," and then they use that "new self" to lure an unsuspecting interest along. It's deceiving, often hurtful, and one of the pitfalls of living in the internet age.
MTV took the term catfishing to a whole new level and made it a common term when they took one Nev Shulman's documentary on the subject and turned it into a weekly series. Every week, viewers tuned in to see who was getting duped over social media.
Fans of the show could not help but be fascinated with how gullible the catfishee seemed to be. While wondering if some of the show participants maybe had some screws loose upstairs, we also felt genuinely sorry for them, because when it turned out that the person they were falling for was someone entirely different, their hearts were in pieces.
The MTV show Catfish created all sorts of feelings in viewers. And questions.
Was this show authentic? Or was too much of the whole thing staged to create such wild plotlines? It could go either way. Here are eleven reasons why the show Catfish might be staged and nine reasons that have us thinking that it's genuine!
20 Microphone Ready
When Catfish host Nev Shulman rolls up to the Catfish suspect's front door, everyone seems to have microphones on, and they are ready to go. The person getting caught doesn't always open the door immediately, and viewers often see him or her peeking out from behind curtains until Nev can coax them outside, but when they do finally appear, we can hear them as clear as a bell.
So, if Nev is wearing a microphone, and we understand him, and the catfisher speaks clearly and evenly too, is the catfisher miked up also? If he is, then Nev showing up at the door isn't much of a surprise and makes us think the show is not as real as it wants us to believe it is.
19 Producers Know The Outcome
According to Ranker, the producers of the show know exactly how storylines will play out in the end. Reality television is big business, and the people who make it all happen have to adhere to deadlines and budgets. They know how much time they are devoting to each story, where the cast and crew will be traveling, and how things will transpire before they ever choose to send their team on location.
Hotels, airfare, and vehicles must be reserved and paid for in advance. The people working behind the scenes could never get a tip on an excellent catfishing story and tell Nev and his co-host Max to get out there and go wild with it right? We doubt it.
18 First Contact Catfisher
MTV's Catfish usually starts with show hosts Nev and Max reading an email from a desperate person who begs for help getting in contact with the person whom they have been talking to online. There are usually clues that make the email sender think something with their online love story might be amiss.
Ranker claims that more times than not, it is the Catfisher who contacts the show first. There is even an application online for people who are currently deceiving someone via the internet. If this is the case, then the catfisher's look of surprise when they get discovered must be fake.
17 Background Checks Are Done First
This reality show makes it seem like random emails from people looking for help are sent, and just like that the team gets on their laptops and begins to unravel a twisty tale of deceit and fakery. Is this indeed how it all goes down though? Because the show requires the cast and crew to have contact with people who they do not know, MTV has both background checks, and psychology tests run on all of the show participants.
They must ensure that no one's safety ever gets compromised, no matter how good a storyline might be. To run these tests, initial contact with show participants must be made. Again, this pre-show work takes away from the element of surprise that the show functions under, but it keeps all parties safe.
16 The Show Hosts Know Their Destination
Once Nev helps desperate show participants uncover who it is they are talking to on the net, he convinces them to jump in a car or on a plane with him and confront the liar face to face. Everything seems to happen all at the same moment, but we have to wonder how spontaneous these road trips and jet-setting missions are.
One Reddit user pointed out that in a particular episode, the catfisher speaks to Nev about all sorts of details, yet never mentions were he lives. During the conversation though, Nev asks if they can come down to Mississippi and sort the fiasco out. Yep. Viewers caught that Nev knew where the catfisher was without him ever revealing that ever-so-crucial bit of information.
15 Misrepresentations For Ratings
Reality television banks on ratings. If their storylines are a bore, viewers don't tune in each week to witness the drama and ratings plummet. If the weekly storyline isn't explosive and intriguing, then the show is destined to end. MTV has to keep Catfish dropping viewers' jaws each week, and one way that they do this is to take the show participants and twist their stories to make them more interesting.
Ranker discovered that some people who appeared on the show went off the record to claim that MTV convinced them to change their identity up so that their story wasn't blah. It doesn't get more staged than making someone into something that they are not.
14 Twisting Timelines
Reality television is very good at manipulating plotlines so that viewers never become bored. In real life, many issues and situations take weeks or even months to sort out, but viewers don't have the patience to wait for everything to shake out in the end. They need fast-paced action, and because of this, producers alter the timelines to make everything run smoothly and quickly.
Sometimes the people behind the scenes will take liberties with participants' stories, altering the length that they have been speaking to someone and changing that timeframe so that the story works with what they are trying to achieve.
13 Waivers Have To Be Signed Beforehand
Nobody wants to end up in a lawsuit, so reality shows often have their participants sign waivers, letting them off the hook for all that might occur after the cameras start rolling. According to Tylt, MTV's Catfish has every person who comes onto their show sign a waiver before any filming begins.
If catfishers must sign a waiver, then they know that the person whom they lied to is on to them and will be showing up at their door soon enough. Remember this next time you watch the show and see how the catfisher can't believe that they have been found out. They probably knew the jig was up long before Nev and the gang ever showed up on their front porch.
12 Sloppy Editing Reveals Cracks In The Truth
Nothing gets past avid Catfish fans! For those who have watched the show for several seasons and hang on every word and detail, sloppy editing jobs have raised doubt. Minor misses in editing make some folks wonder if the show is not actually about uncovering truths.
One Reddit user saw these editing cracks appear in the episode entitled "Rod and Ebony." The people working on editing the show should have caught the fact that Nev told everyone where Rod lived before Rod did! Little missteps like this make people think that this show is not as real as its creators would like us to believe. We have to think that after this blunder, editing tightened up real quick.
11 Too Close To Not Know
Seriously guys. You live two towns away and never managed to meet up face to face? We aren't buying it. Some of the people that call in or write to the show are begging for help. They can't seem to get face to face with the person that they have been talking to for months, no matter how hard they try.
But if you live one city away from someone, and they can not make the time to meet you, get a clue! Other people have stories that are too out there, like the one guy who seemed convinced that he had been dating Katy Perry for years. We suppose that is where the psych evaluations come in handy!
10 Storylines Are Getting Darker
Season one of Catfish was full of reasonably innocent and harmless plotlines. Maybe feelings got hurt when truths were revealed, but no deep psychological scars seemed possible in the initial episodes. In reality television though, the darker and more eyebrow-raising, the better.
Recent seasons of Catfish have gone about as dark as things can get in hopes of making fans and viewers watch and go, "Whoa!" Vulture found that new episodes have catfishers playing these games with people just for the fun of it, or to create pain, which is much different than doing it because of insecurities about physical appearance or other concerns.
9 Searching For The Spotlight
Not everyone is genuinely trying to unravel the twisty world of internet romance. While some show participants do want to meet the person who they have been in contact with for months, others are trying to catfish the show! Lately, people have been trying to dupe producers and "sell" their stories so that they can have their fifteen minutes of fame.
The show producers do their best to perform background checks on all who come onto the show, but there will always be those who slip through the cracks. While Catfish started reasonably straightforward, a whole other layer of deception has been added, making it complicated and messy even for those who know best how the show works.
8 Therapists Get Sent To Show Participants After Filming
While some people remain convinced that MTV's Catfish is as fake as it gets, others remain firmly in the show's camp, believing the stories to be authentic. According to Vulture, one thing that MTV always does after an episode airs is they send certified therapists out to the show participants in case they need them.
If the people on the show were faking everything, and they were essentially actors playing parts, there would be no need for therapy. The fact that therapists are there to help with lingering emotions does point to some element of truth where people's feelings are involved.
7 Even With Show Participants Committing, It Doesn't Always Film As Planned
Regardless if show participants have to sign waivers, get background checks, and undergo psychological evaluations, some parts of the show might still be genuine. One aspect of the show that can always throw hosts and producers for a loop is when a participant declines to appear as they initially agreed to. Just because people sign waivers does not guarantee that everybody is going to show up and film.
Producers remain adamant that they, "never know 100 percent for sure if the catfish is going to go through with this, even if they commit to filming. That’s why there is a lot of tension in those scenes when we pull up for the visit because we’re all waiting for the day when the catfish will not respond or change their mind.”
6 Cracking Cases Sometimes Takes A Very Long Time
When viewers watch Catfish, everything seems to happen so quickly. Emails get written, calls get made, some hardcore detective work gets done, flights get booked and BAM! The mystery is solved. Of course, the show producers and the editing team work to condense everything down so that all the drama fits nicely into the forty-five minutes of air time.
In real time, however, some of the internet puzzles take much longer for Max and friends to figure out. Of the process, producers told Vulture that “The guys are better at it now, but it’s not always obvious how to crack these things." Even with all of the leg work the team does, some cases genuinely seem to throw Nev for a loop.
5 And Nev And Max Do The Detective Work
While the show producers might know all along how everything is going to work out, it seems that Nev and his former co-host and buddy Max, really don't know what is about to go down. It is up to the show hosts to figure everything out in between the start and the finish! They work tirelessly to solve the puzzles of deception and help those in need to uncover the truth and in the end, find some peace with the situation.
Producers told Vulture that in some cases, the guys thought that they had all bases covered, but even they were blown away at how things unraveled. In those instances, they genuinely feel sorry about not getting everything right.
4 Nev's Reason For Starting The Show Came From A VERY Real Place
Parts of Catfish might not be as authentic as we have been led to believe they are, but Nev's start to the series is as real as it gets. The series stemmed from Nev's own real-life catfishing experience. An innocent internet friendship with a young budding artist and her family spiraled into a love interest with the half-sister of Nev's new friend. Nev found himself enthralled with a lady whom he had never met.
When it came time to meet up in person, cracks in the mystery girl's story started appearing. That is when Nev, his friend, and brother started doing some digging and realized that they had been "catfished." The suspicious and brilliant trio then recorded the experience and the rest if history.
3 Liars Are The First To Get Caught
While many believe that the liars coming forth with their stories make the show seem as if it is entirely scripted, others point out that in many cases the liars are the ones that get caught in the end. This simple premise points to there being some truth behind the show. So while some catfishers approach the show with their story first, there are always a handful of people who seem to want help meeting the person that they think they have grown to know and love.
These are the "Nevs" that make us believe that not every episode is made up. People use the internet to lie all of the time, so it's feasible that some of these episodes are more real than scripted.
2 Survey Says
So while skepticism regarding the show certainly exists, it is possible that situations like the ones we see on Catfish happen all of the time. According to Fame1o, MTV did a bit of research, polling people ages 18 to 24 about their experiences with meeting people on the internet.
What they discovered was that people in this age bracket use the internet to find love far more than they ever anticipated. One in four people dated someone that they had met online first and half of the people polled knew someone that had used the internet as a dating tool. With so many people turning towards social media and computers for romance, it seems entirely possible that many of the matches go south.
1 Max And Nev Are Real Friends
Max and Nev's friendship might be the most real part of the show. While Max has since moved onto greener pastures, the pair were always far more than two guys put on a reality series to work together. Max and Nev go way back to the days of childhood.
According to The Heavy, the guys, along with Nev's brother Ariel, have all been tight since they were fourteen years old. They all shared an interest in film and direction, so when Nev was presented with the opportunity to do Catfish, Max was the first person who came to mind to be his partner in the journey.
Sources: Ranker, Tylt, Vulture, Fame10, The Heavy