A relatively recent reality obsession of mine has been the television show Catfish. The premise of the movie (and now spin off show) is that someone is in an internet- based relationship with someone they’ve never met… until they do. And it’s never what you’re expecting.
Here’s a trailer for the show (hosted by Nev, the original Catfish victim (or experiencer- depending on your outlook) whose experience was documented in the movie).
So it may have struck you, as it did me, that in the days of Google, it’s weird that this kind of thing could happen. Sure before Facebook and Chat Roulette, when most of the country was only online to check email and maybe enter an occasional anonymous chat room, the ability to completely deceive someone about who you are seemed possible.Now this would seem to be much much harder.
While the reveal in this show is supposed to be the shocking part, I am equally as interested in why these people don’t dig around for the identity of a person they are in a relationship with… especially when that person never wants to meet you or video chat.
Am I saying to show up to your next first date knowing the person’s shoe size, birthday, and mother’s maiden name? Of course not. But all of us should know who we are entering (or thinking of entering) into relationships with.
If it’s a question of knowledge you have come to the right place. What tools are at your disposal for this sort of thing? Here are a few:
This app (that you can install on your Windows computer) will check the Facebook images of a profile against what else is online. Here is a man who apparently is in love with my friend Carrie (have friend requested her with professions of love):
Google image search
This is one of the Catfish show’s primary tools. You can upload photos (either from a URL or your computer) and see if they exist anywhere on the internet. Please be amused that my photo looks like a dude’s photo:
But I included this photo not just to make you laugh but to show you what I mean could happen. Look below. See how William Secor and Jack Appleby have the same photo? Clearly one of them (at least) in impersonating the other.
Is someone pretending to be in an artist or some other figure that you can find a website for? If so, this is handy to know.
Unless a domain is privately registered (which you pay extra for), you can tell who owns a domain by typing into the address bar of your browser: http://whois.domaintools.com/THEDOMAINNAMEHERE
Here’s what you see when you look up Breaking Even Communications:
You see my name, email, address, and phone number. Not so easy to be mysterious online!
These tools should at least get you started on some paths (pseudonyms, locations, etc.) that can improve your Google searching.
So enjoy looking at all those mysterious muscled guys who friend you on MySpace and bikini girls who find you on Facebook… because now you know what’s behind the curtain.