Today & Thursday we are screening the film “Catfish,” which explores the fluid nature of identity on the internet and in social media. This is the same film the MTV show is based on. In the next few classes, we will be exploring several social issues that have risen in prominence due to our new digital world.

Recently, the story of Notre Dame football star Manti Te’o and the hoax surrounding his dead/non-existent online girlfriend. 

The discussion in the media, and in our culture (at large) is interesting when considering the issues surrounding identity on the internet. Some people say the man who posed as Te’o’s girlfriend had, indeed, a real emotional relationship with the football player. Some wonder how Te’o could be so naive. Some wondered how the media was going to handle correcting such a publicly reported falsity. (all these articles are sourced from Deadspin, the blog that broke the story. Feel free to read up on other links from other sources as well.)

What do you think about identity on the internet? Do you have an experience with pretending to be someone your not, or finding out someone wasn’t who you thought they were? Do you think identity is important on the internet, who or why not? What are the benefits of using the internet to explore identity? Discuss in the comments below.



8 thoughts on “Catfish

  1. The documentary was quite interesting, although creepy at times, and it brought up some valid issues with identity on social platforms. Identity is one of those touchy aspects of the online world – you can’t trust it further than you can see it. In other words, if you don’t know the person you’re talking to, you can’t assume anything they say or any image of themselves they post is true. I’ve never had an encounter with someone on the internet who lied about their identity, that I’m aware of, butthat’s mostly because I don’t use the internet much. I’ve never lied about my identity online, although when I was young I made it a habit to pretend I was someone else in real life. This was mostly because I wanted to make my father proud and felt that it wasn’t working as the person I was, so I tried to make myself into the sort of person I thought he wanted me to be. Luckily, this didn’t carry on, and I learned that I had to be who I felt comfortable being, and my dad just had to accept that I wasn’t like him. Identity is just as important on the internet. If you try to hard to base your life and character on a lie, soon you start to lose touch with reality and who you really are. Nobody should feel like they have to change themselves to suit the expectations of family members or society. The benefits of using the internet to explore identity are that we can get to know a wide range of people, and many times we find many who are like ourselves, which helps us realize that we’re not alone. Everyone has bad habits, everybody has quirks and oddities, but we can learn through the vast web of the internet that there are many others just like us, and we’re not so different after all.

  2. The movie was sad but a great movie. When my step-son Mon kidnapped him last year I set up a fake Facebook I to help locate him pretending to be someone else to keep tabs on her. Not sure if it was right or wrong but we found him three days later in Cleveland Ohio and she was captured.

  3. I actually really liked this movie. In fact, I haven’t been able to stop researching story after story about how people have been scammed. And what keeps me interested is the reason WHY people keep making these fake identities. I can’t help but wonder if people felt loved and cared for, would they feel the need to find it through the remnants of their past or insecurities?

    But who hasn’t lied about who they were online? Everyone, at least most, has lied once about something while chatting with some random stranger. Whether it was your age, hair color, or even how many goals you scored at your game, we all want to feel a sense of community- a sense that we fit in- and I think that is at the core of why people continue to scam and hide behind this virtual profile. I mean why else would virtual, online worlds be made? Why would sites like Chat With a Stranger or AIM be so open to random conversation?

    It’s all very interesting to say the least.

  4. This movie was very fascinating to watch. At first i was creeped out then once we began to understand why she did it in the first place my feelings toward her were changed. I felt bad for her and how she had to do create people and different personalities in order for her to be happy, at least for a while.Identity is very important in the world we live in today.

  5. After watching the documentary “Catfish” I find that the relationship between reality and the cyber world are walking a more narrow line. Although I don’t condone what the lady did in that movie I think it shows a bit of an interesting idea that it is becoming harder to be someone you are not on the internet. There are so many ways to check up on things on the internet and I think people’s mind will slowly shift back to this don’t trust anyone on the internet mentality we had years ago. The only difference will be the ability to background check with google.

  6. Prior to watching this movie, i was not as aware of how easy it is to be able to fake an identity. Luckily i have never been a victim of such an act but i now know that i need to be more aware.
    Nonetheless, i do believe that an having identity online is very beneficial and it is getting more important in having one now as technology improves. The benefits of having an online identity are endless as you get to stay in touch with family and friends, as well as being able to show yourself off to future possible employers.

  7. I thought this film was so intriguing. It baffled me at how someone could actually live a double life like that, but in the end, it all made more sense to me. Depression, loneliness, inability to cope with your surroundings, and the need to escape from reality, are all factors that can trigger this kind of bizarre, emotional getaway for people. Although I have never dealt with something like this personally, I can see how easy it could be to let oneself go down that slippery slope of needing some kind of affirmation and escape in their daily lives, even if it is destructive to someone else in the meantime.

  8. I’ve done it.
    Back in the day on Myspace, I used to troll around searching different profiles late at night when I couldn’t sleep. I had just been broken up with my “first love” and I was dealing with that traumatic experience. From the profiles I would see a plethora of people doing things I wanted to do.
    Playing guitar.
    Going out with friends.
    So what did I do? I stole those stories and pasted them onto my Myspace while embellishing the things I thought were really cool about me.
    Playing polo.
    4-H stuff.
    And this was all to show that I was not “losing” the break-up.
    It’s weird looking back at it now. Seeing how easy it was it was to create this person I had wanted to be. The technology was new to me and I was eager to abuse it in whatever way possible. Especially to try and get my ex back.
    …after a few months…
    I realize how crazy, sad and pathetic that I was being. If we had ended back up together how was I going to explain all the things I had put up on Myspace? All these friends. All these trips to California and NYC. My new found skateboarding/guitar skills.
    There wasn’t anyway.
    So I decided to leave Myspace.
    Leave it for something brand new and start over again with a fresh, more adult seeming social network.
    I joined Facebook.

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