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'Catfish', the television show that predicted America's disorienting digital future| GuyWhoKnowsThings

Wesselman-Pierce lived with her husband, Vince Pierce, and their two children. “I didn't want to lose the friendship no matter what,” Wesselman-Pierce tearfully told Schulman in the film. “A lot of the personalities that emerged were just fragments of myself.”

At the end of the documentary, a reflective Pierce remembered a story he had heard and, in turn, gave the film (and the expression) its name. Cod, he said, was once shipped by boat in vats from Alaska to China, but the fish arrived soft and flavorless. Finally catfish was added to the tubs to keep the cod healthy. “There are people who are catfishes in life,” he said. In his opinion, his wife was one of them. “They keep you guessing, they keep you thinking, they keep you fresh.”

Life, he added, would be “boring and monotonous if we didn't have someone nibbling on our fin.”

When asked how catfishing became rampant and how the concept became so widely understood, Schulman, now 39 and a father of three, said that while people have been scammed and scammed forever, the social climate and rapidly changing online in the early 2010s produced perfect weather. storm: a lawless digital landscape where once accepted expectations around romance, friendship and connection are blurred, making it increasingly complex to separate authenticity from artifice.

Instagram was introduced in 2010, and then Snapchat in 2011. The dating app Grindr arrived in 2009, then Tinder in 2012. Concepts that now seem banal – starting online relationships with strangers – were still considered strange and strange. Immediately after the documentary, Schulman was inundated with emails from people with stories similar to his.

The idea really entered public consciousness in early 2013, when Deadspin reported about a scandal surrounding Notre Dame football star Manti Te'o. He led his team to the national championship and was a finalist for the Heisman Trophy, all in the shadow of the death of his girlfriend early in the season. But Deadspin discovered that the girlfriend was never real.

Te'o was the victim of a catfishing hoax, but the situation was so incomprehensible at the time, theories swirled about their possible involvement in the fraud.

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