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Catfishing is a real phenomenon in online dating. How can you tell if someone is catfishing you?

ADVICE: Am I Being Catfished?

Dr. Toughlove dishes out advice to a young online dater who fears his new lady friend may not be what she looks like online.
Catfishing is a real phenomenon in online dating. How can you tell if someone is catfishing you?Collider

dear dr. toughlove,

i’m a 21 yo male, and recently decided to try online dating. for the most part its been a waste of time… but recently i started talking to a girl on okcupid and now were chatting on facebook and texting. she seems cool and the pictures she sends are super hot. the only weird thing is she either refuses to hang out or makes excuses at the last minute to get out of it. i don’t get it. i pick cool places but she always flakes. and now theres this manti teo thing… i read that deadspin article and got super paranoid. am i being catfished too? all the signs are there. how can i find out if this girl is a catfish or at least get her to meet up with me?

catfish catcher

Dear Crawdad,

Listen, kid. Finding total honesty in the Internet dating world is difficult to say the least. Nearly every dating profile fabricates something. Most just tweak the truth and say the person weighs 125 lbs rather than 140. However, online, a middle aged male janitor can claim he is a 20 year old stripper from Belfast who practices yoga, shakes her ass like a maraca, and reads Kurt Vonnegut religiously, and you would have no way to know otherwise. Welcome to Internet Land! Here, little accountability is required. You can be as visible, invisible, or contorted as you like and act with all the brilliance of a baby digging through its own loaded diaper.

If you want to find a real person and a real relationship, act in ways that attract real people and critically evaluate what you encounter.

With this in mind, noodling for online catfish is difficult. But, here are a few thoughts. First, I suggest evaluating your online fishing techniques. Do you seek potential partners on reputable websites or do you troll the seedy underbelly of the web for f*ck buddies? Do you look for accounts that seem backed by real people or do you scream, “Ureka!,” at the first image of double d’s you see? Do you text and speak on the phone or do you just send her images of your half-masted pecker?

If you chose the latter option for any of these questions, you could have an issue. While I am not saying catfish do not swim the depths of eHarmony or Okcupid, I suspect there are fewer bottom feeders on these sites than Horny Housewife Chat. Also, I am willing to bet more actual women interact with men in the prior conditions mentioned than the latter ones. If you want to find a real person and a real relationship, act in ways that attract real people and critically evaluate what you encounter.

With that said, don’t take online relationships too seriously. Yes, the Internet can enable you to meet great people and lead to great relationships. However, it’s pretty absurd to become infatuated with a person you cannot verify as real. Until you meet this person, relax and keep your options open. Don’t overly invest yourself someone you haven’t met in person. If you do this, you don’t need to worry as much if this person is a catfish or not unless he or she asks for your credit card number or mentions he or she likes to torture puppies to death and you’re next on the menu.

As for moving your relationship beyond the Internet, all you can really do is ask her to meet. Choose public locations or offer to be in a group if that makes her more comfortable. If she keeps refusing, so it goes. Move on. Don’t be an asshole and try to force her out of hiding. Offer her a choice and deal with the consequences.

These are my words: abide.
Dr. Toughlove

Send your questions to thedoc@readthehorn.com.

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