I’ve been online dating since online dating began. Well, probably not literally, but… long enough. 16 years or so. Throughout that time, I’ve met a lot of cool people, had many crazy stories, and made a lot of new friends and lovers over the years. I’m still doing it, now that there’s a wealth of options like OKCupid, Tinder, Bumble, Hinge, FetLife, and more. In all these years, I’ve never had a truly bad date — though I love hearing bad date stories — and I’ve only been catfished once.
My go-to dating site was also my go-to “I need textual entertainment” destination : Nerve.com. Nerve is now just another online magazine, sort of a filthier Salon.com, but from about 1998 – 2006, it was a much more lively place and they had their own little dating website built into it. Nerve Personals weren’t unlike what OKCupid would later become (aside from the Q&A portion and match percentages). The main profile was a few “fill in the blanks” headlines, on which you could expand your thoughts or leave empty. The nice thing about Nerve was the website itself attracted a certain type of person : artistic, progressive, predominantly sex-positive. Nerve also billed itself as “a community of thoughtful hedonists”, which was a pretty apt description.
It was on Nerve that I met “Lux”. A thin, attractive, punk-aesthetic blonde girl. She lived somewhere in Michigan, but found me on Nerve as she was planning a move to California and was scouting for friends before coming out. Normally, I wouldn’t bother talking to out-of-state folks on a dating site, but if you say “I’m moving to CA soon”, I’ll apparently relax my standards on that one.
We talked online quite a bit, and there were no red flags to be had. She wasn’t ridiculously hot, she didn’t immediately get sexual with me, she wasn’t making absurd claims, she didn’t sound desperate or over-the-top with compliments, and she was busy. Young, hot women who seem to always have time to talk to you are a big red flag — but we talked, mostly online, only about once or twice a week for the first month or so. Eventually, she wanted to talk on the phone. She gave me her number and said “call me later?”. Normally, I wouldn’t bother, but I figured “what’s the harm?”. I called and we talked about our respective days, and she was asking a bunch of questions about life in SoCal. She was appreciative that I had tips on how to find a place, where some good places to live were, and things like that.
About a week later, during one of our online convos, I was doing some client work and she was — in her words — “really bored and looking for distraction”. I was trying to focus on work, but I didn’t mind her kind of distraction. She said “I think I could distract you…” and sent me a photo she said was “from a recent photo shoot [she] did with a friend”. The photo was topless, and she was covered loosely in rope, wrapped around some of the nicest, perkiest tits I’ve seen. I told her she had my full attention now. The conversation veered a little more towards the sexual, but since we were 3 hours apart in timezones, she wanted to get to bed and I needed to get back to my work.
For the next week or so, our conversations were casually sexual. Nothing over the top, and no real “let’s make plans to fuck like rabbits when I get to SoCal” remarks. Just… kinda hitting on each other and making little sexual remarks and compliments.
The following week, she was again bored and I was again working for a client. She said “I’m going to call you, I want you to put me on speakerphone while you work”. At first, it was just me talking out loud to my phone sitting on my desk, and her giggling or making lewd remarks back. She said “sorry, I’m a bit tipsy and horny and I love your voice”. I asked if this was the part where I was supposed to compliment her voice. She said “no, no, but… I could give you something entertaining to listen to”. I was intrigued. She followed up “I’m just gonna finger myself until I come — you keep right on working”. So, for the next 10 minutes, I pounded away on Photoshop, and she … well, pounded away on herself. This became something of a ritual of hers. She’d call me about once a week thereafter, talking dirty on the speakerphone, then masturbating until she came and then excusing herself to go off to sleep.
One night, she called and said she was leaving town to visit her family, since she wouldn’t be able to do that as easily once she moved to California. The countdown to her moving to CA was about a month away. She was excited. I told her to have fun on her trip, and to check in when she had a chance. That was the last we ever spoke.
As these things go, people sometimes just fade away. Their plans change, or they change their mind about meeting you, or they meet someone else. Life goes on. I wasn’t that concerned. I just thought “hmm. guess she moved on”. That was, until about a year later, when a friend of mine bought me a membership to SuicideGirls for my birthday 1fuck knows why he did that, but… whatever. I figured I may as well check it out, and I pulled up the site. Right there on the frontpage, as a “featured set” was a familiar face. That of “Lux”. I messaged her on the site, as if we knew each other, saying “heyyy… whatever happened to your plan to move to SoCal?” and a few other follow-up questions or things we talked about.
Her reply was quick and to the point : “I’m sorry — I don’t know who you are. You don’t look familiar. I’ve never lived in Michigan. It sounds like someone pretended to be me and used my photos to trick you. I’m sorry!”.
The weird thing is : none of the photos she sent me had the tell-tale SG logo on them, which is on every single photo ever posted on SG. I’m not sure how this girl got ahold of pre-watermarked photos, but that was the least of my confusion. Who the hell was I actually talking to? What about her profiles (she had a few, scattered around the web, all using the name “Lux”)? Why was she carrying on with me, and pretending to want to move to CA? And why hit me up in the first place?
I’ll never understand the motivation for catfishing, or what it’s supposed to accomplish, but I learned a lot about sussing out real people online. I’ve never been catfished since.
Here’s my tips on avoiding being catfished :
- Use “Search Image on Google” if you’re using a browser that supports it natively (like Google Chrome), or get an extension for your browser, or just go straight to images.google.com and search that way
- Try to videochat, as soon as you can, and ask them questions about things in their room (“hey, what’s that thing back there?”) so they’re interacting in realtime with things not likely to be part of some weird video loop or pre-recorded video
- If they don’t live within a reasonable driving distance from you, videochatting prior to meeting is a really good idea
- If they do live within a reasonable driving distance, try to make plans as soon as you can, and meet in a public place
- If they’re conveniently unable to meet with you every time you have plans, and/or they conveniently have no way of videochatting, just move along. Practically everyone these days has the ability to videochat, even if it’s from their smartphone
Are you thinking “if you’ve only been catfished once — how are there 2 stories?”, then I applaud you for paying attention. But this is a very brief story about someone who catfished others pretending to be me.
It was back when LiveJournal (LJ) was the Tumblr of its time. I was pretty active on there, blogging roughly once a week or more. I did the little “quizzes”, re-posted weird shit, told stories, things like that. I was using LJ when I first started performing stand-up comedy, and I even uploaded videos to my website and linked them from LiveJournal — this was before the days of YouTube.
One day, I get a comment on my LiveJournal from a girl saying “hey, this journal is a fake!” along with a link to another LiveJournal. With my face on it. And about 300 more friends than I had. And every entry had 3-4 times as many comments as any of my LJ entries. The user’s name was “Mitczhert”. WTF?
After a little investigating, it turned out this person — this fake — went all over the LJ “hot goth dudes” communities posting photos I’d posted on my LJ. The Fake got a lot of followers, and praise, and had a bustling mini-community going. What never made sense to me is that The Fake never bothered to change the dates on the LJ entries they were re-posting of mine. For instance, I linked to a video of me doing comedy and the entry kept saying “last night…” and “yesterday…”, but the date of The Fake’s LJ entry was 18 months newer than the video it linked to — which started with a date stamp (i.e. “Rev. Mitcz Live on __(date)__”). No one even questioned it.
When I saw how far the rabbit hole went, I was torn between flattery and anger. I was, of course, angry that this motherfucker went around purporting to be me (and, apparently, soliciting nudes from everyone they possibly could). But I was also flattered by how many fans I had that I didn’t know about. So many lovely, positive comments about my writing, my comedy, and even my face. It’s a fucking head trip to find out that not-you is more popular than actual-you. Like if I’d just had the out-of-control ego that would inspire me to run around trying to promote myself to “hot goth dudes” communities, I could’ve made a name for myself.
When I commented on The Fake’s LJ, a few of my friends joined in. Then a few of the moderators of these various “hot goth dudes” communities commented, asking The Fake to prove themselves. Nothing ever came from it. The Fake never owned up to it. Never posted another entry afterwards. And those communities, instead of linking to REAL ME, just removed any reference to The Fake. A few fans of The Fake eventually followed my actual LJ, but about 80% of ’em probably forgot all about “me” because The Fake stopped making posts, and they moved along to someone else.
Footnotes [ + ]
|1.||↩||fuck knows why he did that, but… whatever|