Meeting My Catfish In Real Life

For those of you old enough to remember the
early days of the internet, you might have fond memories of spending hours in chat rooms,
talking to strangers from all over the world. Mostly because that was the only thing to
do back then, at least until Diablo and Starcraft came around and made the internet awesome. Nowadays it’s basically an unwritten rule
that you don’t trust anything a stranger tells you online, but back in the more naive days
of the internet’s younger years, the trend that today is known as catfishing was very
popular. Today we’re turning to one of our staff writers
as he relives one of his most embarrassing high school memories, all for your enjoyment! The term catfish comes from the 2010 documentary
by the same name, and refers to the act of being tricked about the identity of someone
you communicate with exclusively online. In the film a young man is catfished into
falling in love with a girl he’s never met in real life, and spoiler alert… she never
existed. Instead she was the persona of a lonely house
wife who had stolen photos from an online model and created a fake facebook profile
to deal with her boring, lonely life. Ever since the release of the documentary,
the term has stuck, and every day thousands of people are catfished all around the world,
which is pretty surprising considering that by now surely everyone’s learned not to trust
strangers online. That’s probably why I feel a little bit better
talking about my own catfishing experience, seeing as I was only sixteen years old and
the internet as we know it was a pretty brand new thing. Back then you still had to use a dial-up modem
to get online, and if someone needed to make a call well, guess what, you’re out of luck. My story begins with us first getting our
internet hooked up. We were a little late to the internet game,
and back then it was still mostly an optional thing rather than the critical necessity that
it seems to be today. In fact it was really more of a novelty than
anything else, but my mom thought it would help me with my school work. I still remember watching tv shows talking
about how one day you’d be able to order groceries through the internet, or shop for clothes,
and it all seemed so fantastical and unbelievable. Fast forward to today and I don’t have to
leave my house for anything if I choose not to- in fact I don’t even have to leave my
bed as long as I have my phone on me. Listen, we might have failed you younger generations
by not inventing hoverboards and flying cars yet, but you have no idea the incredible world
of whimsy and fantasy that you live in every day. Back in my day you could barely get through
a match of Starcraft without someone getting disconnected because their mom had to make
a call. Anyways, I was drawn pretty quickly to internet
chat rooms, because the idea of chatting with people all over the world was pretty incredible
to me. Nowadays you can get into flame wars with
people from all different cultures and all it takes is leaving a comment on your favorite
informative youtube channel to do so, but in my day it was pretty mind blowing being
able to talk about anything with anyone across the world. The big draw though naturally was chat rooms
that were local, and there you could talk to people that lived around you. Naturally as a teenage boy, this meant talking
to girls- and you know what, more often than not back then the girls were actually real. It was a far less jaded and more novel age,
but that would all quickly change. I met Stephanie in an AOL chat room one day
after school. For those of you too young to know, AOL was
a terrible internet service that used to ship out DVDs straight to your mailbox, letting
you install their browser for free. AIM, or AOL Instant Messenger was pretty much
the Facebook of my time, and we didn’t have a million emojis to express ourselves with
back then, we pretty much had smiley face, frowny face, and kissy face, and to type them
into a message you had to trudge two miles uphill in snow both ways. Stephanie and I got into the habit of chatting
constantly, and every day I’d spend at least two hours chatting with her online over AIM. We swapped pictures, and that was a hell of
a hassle too. Back then you couldn’t just snap a selfie
on your phone, because phones didn’t have cameras. You couldn’t just snap off a pic with a digital
camera either because there were very few digital cameras and those that existed were
pretty expensive. The best thing to do was to actually buy a
disposable camera, snap off your pictures, get them developed, and then have them transfer
the photos to a DVD which you could then put into your computer. Have you kids even seen a DVD? I told you life is so much better today. So I obviously found Stephanie very pretty,
she was attractive but not unrealistically so, which I guess was one of the things that
made me feel better about the whole thing. She lived a little bit outside of my town,
and I didn’t have a car back then so actually meeting up was pretty difficult. We planned it a few times but it fell apart
every time. Instead we pretty much just settled on talking
over instant messenger. Stephanie told me that she was attending a
local college on the outskirts of town, and even had pics of her dorm room to prove it. She was 19 and thus three years older than
me, and it was kind of cool that an older girl was into me. Thing is, back then people were a lot more
trusting about this whole internet thing, and even my friends thought the whole thing
was really cool and definitely legit. I guess we were all more naive, but the internet
hadn’t been around long enough yet to crush our souls with the awfulness that is humanity. Stephanie was studying to be a veterinarian,
though she would never really talk about her classes or anything like that. I guess in retrospect I should’ve found that
suspicious. She asked a lot about me, and we both sort
of admitted we were into each other. At this point I asked if we could just talk
on the phone, and she told me that the phone in her room was having issues so she couldn’t. This excuse lasted for about two weeks before
finally she relented. I called her late one night, and a very gruff
voice answered on the other end. This immediately put me off, but quote- Stephanie-
unquote, said that she was very sick and was sorry she sounded so terrible. Now, maybe I really wanted Stephanie to exist
so badly, or maybe I was just an idiot kid, but I accepted that she was simply sick. We didn’t talk on the phone for long and went
back to messaging each other. That was the one and only phone call, much
like now, back then you didn’t really talk to people that you could just simply message
over instant messenger. The only time you would call is if you needed
to get a hold of them and they weren’t active online. Eventually though we agreed that we should
meet up, though again she kept postponing. Once more, I should’ve probably seen the warning
signs, but you know what, when you’re a kid you’re pretty dumb. Sure, if you’re a kid watching this now you’re
probably wiser in the ways of the internet than any of us were at your age, but that’s
because our pain served to teach you. Trust me, you’re pretty dumb in a lot of other
ways and you’ll realize that with age. If you’re young and curious about what the
meaning of life is, it’s pretty much just the process of finding out how dumb you really
are by always getting older and looking back. Anyways, eventually she agreed and I took
a bus to her side of town. I remember being really nervous, but also
really excited. We seemed to get along so well online, and
we had so many similar interests. It was exciting to meet someone you clicked
with so well face to face at last. Things however, wouldn’t quite work out like
that. I looked around the bus stop confused, as
there were very few people there. Few people had cell phones back then, so sending
a, “hey where are you” text wasn’t an option. Instead I waited around until the bus stop
cleared, looking for a teenage girl three years older than me the whole time. What I hadn’t been paying attention to was
the middle-aged woman at the far end of the bus stop, sitting by herself and watching
me. The bus stop cleared out except for just us
two. I waited a little bit more, growing more frustrated. Suddenly, the woman stood up and began to
walk over to me. Again, no alarm bells, no recognition that
something was terribly wrong, just a middle-aged woman approaching me for some reason. I kind of miss being that naive to be honest. The woman said my name, and that’s the moment
that a cold chill settled in my spine. Her voice was gruff, and I recognized it,
the sound of a chainsmoker that had told me she was just really sick and had a sore throat. My eyes widened when I realized the truth. She didn’t do anything, just kind of stood
there. I could tell that she knew that I knew, and
I could see that she was kind of ashamed. We didn’t need to say it out loud, it was
obvious to both of us. The silence stretched on for a pretty long
time, and finally she just said, “I’m sorry.” Then, she walked away. I sat down at the bus stop and waited for
a bus to come around so I could catch it home. I had planned to be out all day, but clearly
I was now determined to head straight back home. The whole time waiting at that stop and on
the ride home I just kept thinking about this middle-aged woman. I felt deeply embarrassed, stupid, angry,
and really sad inside. A whirlwind of emotions. Unknowingly I had just become a cautionary
tale for the internet age, and one of the reasons why you today know not to trust any
online strangers. After a few weeks though I kept thinking about
that middle-aged woman, and what she had done. It’s easy to ridicule her for stealing some
young kid’s photos and pretending to be someone she wasn’t to talk to teenagers, but the more
I thought about it the more terrible I felt for her. Here was a woman who has lived such an unfulfilling
life that she felt the need to become someone else. I looked into her eyes, and there was no malice
there, just a deep sense of shame at what she’d done. Plus, she had actually come to the bus stop
when she could have just ignored me, blocked me on messenger and let it lie. Some part of her knew what she’d done was
really wrong, and that she had to make it right. No, we never talked about anything sexual
or anything like that. We actually just talked about life stuff-
or life stuff for a teenager anyways. Music, school, random things that are so important
when you’re at that age, but completely meaningless in your adult life. That’s what made me feel so bad for her, she
had created this persona not just to escape her own dreary life, but to either relive
her own younger years, or to live out the fantasy that when she was younger she was
popular, or cool, or pretty. Yeah, it can be easy to make fun of people
who catfish, until you consider the deep loneliness or dissatisfaction with life that leads people
to do this. We call them weirdos, or losers, when in reality
they’re human beings just like us, trying to fulfill an emotional need that’s missing
in their life. Or perhaps trying to live a life they never
could otherwise. I still don’t think you should trust people
online, and my story is kind of really embarrassing to this day, but I find myself thinking about
that woman from time to time. I wonder if she ever found something fulfilling
in her own life, or if she still lurks the internet trying to live the life she wished
she could’ve, as opposed to the one that she got. Have you ever been catfished? Have any embarrassing online stories of your
own? Tell them to us in the comments! Now check out “Why The Dark Web Became The
Place You Should Never Visit.” And as always if you enjoyed this video don’t
forget to Like, Share, and Subscribe for more great content!


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