Catfishing; Avoid this Fishy and Catchy Addiction

Catfishing (assuming a flattering, false online identity) can become an addiction that undermines identity, family, finances and sense of reality.

Dad’s Catfishing

Suddenly obsessed with weight loss, working out and cosmetic adornments like hair coloring and cologne, the male head of household starts spending an inordinate amount of time on his cell phone.  Staying up late at night, hanging out in the garage mancave and withdrawing from the family allow him the time for his new addiction; catfishing with a pretty woman half his age.

Usually, he meets this woman online through a dating site, porn site or “introduction” from a friend.  The woman provides nude photos in varying degrees of exposure along with provocative sexting messages for a modest fee. However, the cost of such services increases as she baits the catfish Dad. Believing Dad is a corporate executive who is close to her age, she reveals details about her troubled life and financial hardships. In the interest of helping her, he offers gifts like rent payments, help with medical fees and simply cash. In time, this addiction not only damages Dad’s marriage and family relationships, but their financial stability as well.

Catfishing and the Young-Adult Son

30 years old and still living with Mom and Dad, Sonny spends most of his free time in his room playing online video games and consuming vast amounts of junk food. Marginally employed, out of shape and socially unskilled, Sonny meets his relational needs online. Although he presents himself to online dating partners as a body-builder hunk with a great job and social finesse, he struggles with low self-esteem.

Over time, Sonny becomes more and more socially withdrawn. Often, his work suffers as a result which may or may not cost him his job. Either way, he sinks further into credit card debt to cover his various online expenses and gifts to his romantic partners. Eventually his parents bail him out of financial ruin.

Mom’s Kittenfishing

Feeling lonely, disillusioned and bored in her family life, Mom turns to Facebook where she looks up old boyfriends and crushes from her teenaged past. With an innocent start, Mom connects with an old flame by sharing stories about her children and her job. Soon however, she password protects her account as the dialog includes more sexual innuendo. Mom’s diluted version of catfishing (kittenfishing) consists of sending her beau old photos of herself when she was ten years younger and 30 pounds fitter. Fortunately, her newfound Romeo often lives out of state, so there is little chance of her deception being detected.

However, Mom becomes moodier and dissatisfied with her husband, who could never live up to her online relationship which is highly rooted in fantasy. She and her husband barely interact, especially in the bedroom. She starts to think about getting a divorce but feels financially trapped and desperately afraid of living alone. So, she resigns herself to her lonely existence dotted with “sexciting” online encounters.

Catfish Dinner

Imagine Mom, Dad and Sonny at the dinner table, each completely absorbed in scrolling, swiping and typing on their cell phones. “Pass the salt” might even be texted instead of spoken. No meaningful conversation or interaction takes place. The more likely scenario is that all three eat their fast-food or frozen dinners in isolation, in front of their own TV with smart phone or tablet in hand.

What is the Solution?

Internet technology has brought many advantages like easy access to shopping, entertainment and research information. But it has also caused many problems, especially social isolation resulting from catfishing, financial carelessness, and various forms of addiction.  Here are a few ideas to minimize these problems.

  1. Limit screen time to 1-2 hours per day.
  2. Spend 1 hour a day (maybe dinner time) in family conversation with no distractions.
  3. Start some form of spiritual practice (reading, meditating, support group, worship).
  4. Start or renew a new hobby that does not involve screens.
  5. Get involved in your community (Park district, organize community events, Meetup.com)
  6. Accept that a meaningful life is not always exciting.
  7. Get some exercise (local adult sports, dance classes, spin classes)
  8. Walk Fido at the dog park where you will meet others.
  9. If you can’t own a pet, volunteer at a local animal shelter.

With a little effort, families can resume the status of being the bedrock of our society.

Photo is under license from Shutterstock.com.