Catfishing – Or, A Primer on “The Interview is Tomorrow Morning!”

I do periodic social media and Internet related segments for our local Fox affiliate, Fox 23. Sometimes they are tied to specific events such as Instagram changing its terms of service, or new Facebook “features.” Sometimes, though, they call me when the topic is timely and the need is immediate. Recently it was a story the evening news team was putting together as part of a larger story about a mom suing Twitter and the Tulsa Public School district over an inappropriate photo tweeted of her teen daughter against the daughter’s wishes.

Yesterday’s request was a new one for me… “Can you come on in the morning and talk about ‘Catfishing?'” While I was aware of the Manti Te’o story, I had not heard the phenomenon of online impersonation called catfishing. So my response to Michelle Linn, one of the Daybreak anchors, was tentative: “Um, I am available, but the only catfishing I know about has to do with bait and a river.” Thankfully, Michelle has a great sense of humor and clued me in to the Urban Dictionary use of the word – which made its connection to current events perfectly clear. OK! Now I’m good! So I told her yes, of course, I would do some research to develop some condensed tips to avoid being the next Manti Te’o that would be TV-friendly and see her in the morning.

Photo on 1-18-13 at 9.10 AM #2The keys to a good, short notice TV interview:

  • Make sure it is something you actually DO know about (online interactions I do know about)
  • Make sure you can condense your thoughts into a few minutes of conversation
  • Tie in the current event/story when applicable
  • Do the research to make sure you’re prepared for more than just exactly what you intended to say. It’s live TV… things happen.
  • Wear a “statement” necklace. Well, only if you’re a female, or a guy really into necklaces… but the point is to take a bit of time with what’s going on near your face. It will show.

For those of you who didn’t see the interview this morning, here are the basics we covered… or you can watch the Catfishing interview here.

Red Flag Signs You’re Being Catfished:

  1. Dramatic disasters and miraculous recoveries – Does your new friend seem to live a life more colorful than can be easily believed?
  2. Glamourous careers, trips or experiences – Photo shoots in Hawaii? Model/Photographer/Musician on Tour?
  3. He/She isn’t available except at certain times or in certain circumstances. Scheduled in-person meetings seem to be cancelled at the last minute due to some crisis or family event.

What To Do If You Suspect a Catfish

  1. Use Google. Look up their name, image search for those amazing photos you received, look up any details they’ve provided to check for accuracy.
  2. Ask for a specific photo. One hard to find online and steal…. Consider asking for a shot that includes your friend’s face, a public building in the town they say they live in, and a daily newspaper… perhaps with YOUR name written on it.
  3. Trust your instincts. If you suspect the ‘relationship’ is too good to be true, it probably is. Cut off contact and move on.

Important to note: Some states have “illegal impersonation” laws on the books, but in most cases unless the perpetrator’s intent is said to be/proven to be malicious, no prosecution is undertaken. However, in most cases, if impersonation is used to commit another crime (such as soliciting a child for illegal acts, stealing financial information or identities) then both the impersonation and the other crimes are actionable offenses.

And there you have it. Catfishing for the non-fishing set.

P.S. I am sorry for the serious hiatus from the blog. I promise to be better… It got very, very busy for awhile here at Crossroads Communications. Thankfully, it’s still busy, but I’ve decided to cut back a wee bit on some other avenues of social interaction online and put more effort back into sharing thoughts and having conversations here. Because this is the only online property where my content is mine and the privacy and sharing settings can’t be changed at someone else’s whim 😉

Talk soon… Mandy


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