On the MTV reality show, “Catfish,” the show’s hosts help a viewer track down an elusive online love. Almost inevitably, it is discovered that they have been fooled, and the person to whom they poured out their heart is not who they appeared to be. However, sometimes something very real has developed beneath the lies.
In each episode, a viewer involved in an intense online relationship contacts hosts Nev and Max, asking for help tracking down an online paramour, who has repeatedly refused to meet in person. In almost every episode, it is revealed that their love is merely a “catfish,” someone who has constructed a false identity with a fake online profile and lured the unsuspecting subject into a relationship.
The feelings expressed by the people on the show are intense. Some even claim to be engaged to online loves they have never met in person. In some cases the catfish themselves express strong feelings and a desire to continue the relationship after the deception has been revealed. Many viewers wonder how someone can feel such a strong bond with a person they’ve only met online and how some of the catfish can claim to truly care about a person they have been deceiving for months, or even years. However, research on the expression of the “true self” online suggests that the development of these intense bonds is not so surprising.