This post is sponsored by Domain.ME
When we talk about being authentic online, the individuals duping others into believing they’re people they not on MTV’s Catfish are anything but.
catfish [kat-fish] verb: To pretend to be someone you’re not online by posting false information, such as someone else’s pictures, on social media sites usually with the intention of getting someone to fall in love with you.
From Catfish: the tv show
This MTV series features hosts Nev Schulman and Max Joseph helping romantics who have fallen in love online but have never met the person they desire face to face. Those who reach out to Nev and Max for help are head over heels in love with the person they have been corresponding with and want to take their relationship to the next level by seeing their face. Whether the conversation has been going on for months or years via text or email, the other party always has some excuse for not wanting to do a video chat or meet in person.
If it sounds suspect, it’s probably because the other person always has something to hide. Through online research, Nev and Max piece together the puzzle pieces to figure out who is on the other side of the digital communication and eventually get the two to meet while documenting the journey through the show.
Even though I am far from MTV’s target demographic, I’ve been watching Catfish for years and am always captivated by the show. In each episode we see a commonality among those who reach out to Nev and Max. Individuals have fallen in love with someone who they’ve never talked to on the phone or met in person. Those featured on Catfish are emotionally invested with someone they’ve never met as is the deception by the other individual in the relationship.
Recently my husband and I have started screening Catfish episodes to watch with Emily (age 12) and Thomas (9 years old) because they provide some excellent lessons about being authentic online. Using others as examples certainly serves as a conversation starter and there is plenty to talk about after each episode of Catfish.
6 Lessons from Catfish About Being Authentic Online
On the internet, you can pretend to be anyone you want but that’s doesn’t make it ok to do so. Teaching your kids to ensure they’re being authentic online by creating a positive digital footprint is just as important as taking steps to properly manage their digital reputation. Here are 6 lessons from Catfish about the importance of being authentic online.
1. Present a carefully curated version of yourself without being deceptive
On the internet, no one knows you’re a dog. Even though you can pretend to be anyone you want on the internet, doesn’t mean it’s ok. Rather than lying about who you are, talk to your kids about presenting a carefully curated version of themselves online and through their social channels. Not only does this protect your personal information by not sharing everything about yourself (such as identifying information like full name, age, address, where you go to school, etc.) but it also helps to preserve your digital reputation.
Most of the relationships that are featured on Catfish are built out of lies but lying about who you are harms your digital reputation. Person A falls in love with Person B based on a promise of who this person appears to be and in many cases, these individuals aren’t who they say they are. People have been duped by others who have lied, claiming to be models, rap stars, etc. It’s never ok to lie and pretend to be someone you aren’t.
2. Know the risks of not being real
Since digital footprints are created by our online activity and never go away, it’s important to know that what we say and share will exist forever. Photos, texts, and content shared on platforms like Snapchat where the content disappears after 24 hours, can exist for an eternity thanks to a screenshot. Chances are if something exists in the digital space that doesn’t reflect who you truly are, it can come back to haunt you. There might not be an immediate consequence to online lies but they can catch up to today’s digital generation when applying for college or jobs and in the case of Catfish, exposed for the world to see on television.
3. Protect your identity by protecting your photos
One of the best ways to be authentic is through the photos you share but everything shared online has the potential for being used by someone else. Just because we share photos online doesn’t make them fair game for others to use but know if they’re out there, the possibility exists.
So many times the catfish will steal someone else’s profile photo and use it as their own as they pretend to be someone else. Keep an eye on the photos that you’ve used as profile and other pics by conducting periodic Google image searches to ensure they’re not being used by others.
4. Be a good digital citizen
Sometimes Nev and Max reach out to an individual to share their story on Catfish because they’ve had a friend who has expressed concern. If you know of someone who could use assistance, reach out to them or seek the help of others.
5. Take steps to manage your digital reputation
Recent results from a survey conducted by Domain.ME found that out of 1,000 adults who frequently use social media and the Internet, findings demonstrated that 60% hadn’t Googled themselves. Of those who had, 20% found inaccurate our outdated information while 8% reported embarrassing or reputation damaging content in cyberspace.
With so much misinformation about ourselves existing online, it’s important to know what’s out there and try to manage it by Googling ourselves and our family. If your results feature other individuals who have your child’s same name, positive mentions about them and their achievements, or you didn’t find anything about them on the first couple pages of the search results, that’s a good thing!
If the images that you see aren’t of your child, that’s good too but you’re not off the hook. If your child doesn’t have much of a digital reputation, now is a great time to start the conversation about what a digital reputation is, how one is created, and how to always ensure that your online reputation reflects who you truly are and how you want to appear to others. If you’re looking for ways to talk to your kids about their digital reputations, visit my post: Important Conversations to Have with Kids About Managing Digital Reputations.
6. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is
That perfect family, guy or girl at school, or the seemingly blissful vacation may be just that or if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. No one’s life is as perfect as it seems on social media. Including mine.
While some episodes of Catfish might not always be age appropriate for those in your house, there are some real lessons to be learned about the importance of sharing the “real you” online and why it’s never ok to pretend to be someone you’re not by stealing an image from the internet.Last week I shared The Importance of Being Authentic Online and how my Facebook friends only choose to believe only part of what I share. Despite being authentic, people only remember what they want to remember about my life even if I intersperse real life moments. While we can’t change what people perceive, we can sleep a bit better at night knowing that we’ve been authentic and shared the truth in person, online, and through social media.
When creating an online identity that genuinely represents you, look to experts like Domain.ME who offers domain names, ending in .ME, that are uniquely positioned to provide you with the space you need to build your personal brand and create a captivating online persona that’s a direct reflection of you. .ME domains are great for personal websites, such as blogs, online portfolios, or aliases for social network profiles.
This post was inspired by Domain.ME, the provider of the personal URLs that end in .ME. As a company, they aim to promote thought leadership to the tech world. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Catfish images courtesy of MTV Press.