Just in time for April Fool’s Day, I watched the documentary Catfish. I was left incredibly disturbed. The film documents the life of a photographer, and his interesting connection to an 8-year-old girl living in Michigan. Through various phone calls, letters and Facebook interactions, this man becomes entangled with this girl’s entire family-her mother, father, brother, and even (romantically) with her sister.
The man and this family exchange thousands of messages over a period of several months, when the filmmakers finally start to suspect that something is not quite right. Nothing seems to add up, and nothing the girl’s family says checks out. Sure enough, when the filmmakers take a road trip to Michigan, they find out they were being lied to all along. (You can watch more about the documentary here).
On a network that promotes transparency, it’s scary to think how much can be fabricated. I consider myself part of a “social networking generation,” where growing up it seemed normal to participate in chat rooms and share gossip through AOL Instant Messenger (though my family didn’t own a legitimate computer until I was 12). Since social media has become such a large part of our lives, I wonder about the level of significance we attribute to what we see and hear on Facebook.
Do most people stop to question what’s reality, and what’s Facebook faux-reality? In a previous post I’ve written about the “dangers” of Facebook, and this documentary raises even more questions about social media’s impact on our lives.
Even more interesting than the man duped by a faux-romantic interest through Facebook in Catfish is a new site that offers to pretend to BE your Facebook girlfriend. Enter: Faux-Facebook-Girlfriend. “Cloud Girlfriend” (http://cloudgirlfriend.com/) claims that the “best way to get a girlfriend is to already have one.” The site will interact with you as a “social network girlfriend”–all you have to do is input specifications of the “perfect” woman.
It’s an interesting concept, and to think that there might be an actual client base for this service blows my mind. This service would operate on the assumption of others that an actual girlfriend exists, through “evidence” of posts on social networks.
What motivates the need for others to create a Facebook “faux-reality”? Likely deep insecurity, and a need to connect on a social level—in a way that reality can’t seem to fulfill.
What are your thoughts? Has anyone been “duped” on Facebook or other networking sites?