'Catfishing' can cause harmful obsessions

Lately, I’ve been watching a show called “Catfish” on MTV. It has made me realize that our generation is obsessed with how we appear online in our social media profiles.

“Catfish” is a documentary series that helps two people who have met through social media meet in person for the first time. People who catfish usually have entirely fake profiles.

I know what you’re probably thinking right now. “How dare she say such a thing? I’m nothing like those horrible people!”

Your profile may be 100 percent real, but you have to admit, you do take time to choose your default picture on Facebook. You’re guilty of proofreading your tweets and if you have an Instagram, you get annoyed when you don’t reach a certain number of picture likes. Now just agree that you, like me, like the people on Catfish, are somewhat self-conscious of how others view you via social media.

We are always updating our profiles to show the best of what we have to offer. We’ve become addicted to making them perfect. Online profiles are a vulnerable concept. It allows people an opportunity to create an online persona that makes them confident and powerful. The people on “Catfish” are an extreme version of the online obsession that we have as normal users.

Cal State Dominguez Hills psychology professor, Larry D. Rosen, authored a book, iDisorder, in which he said that social media could be harmful for people prone to narcissism, OCD and depression. Most people on “Catfish” suffer from insecurities and loneliness, so they use their profiles to escape the real world and create an identity they can be proud of presenting.

In one of the episodes, a girl pretends to be a male model to talk to girls. She said she had been catfishing for years because she always got made fun of for her appearance. This was her way to escape the bullying and find confidence within herself. In the end, she just ended up hurting someone that grew to care about the fictionalized version of herself that she had created.

As everyday college students, we understand the pressures of wanting to be liked by our peers. We will retake pictures of ourselves until they are just right to post. We will reread statuses until they’re perfectly formed. And we will hide tagged pictures of ourselves if it doesn’t portray our ideal self.

Our actions may not go as far as creating a fake profile, but we will edit, filter and delete until we like the person we present on the Internet. It fuels our self-confidence and reflects who we are as individuals. We can disagree with the deceit of someone who catfishes, but at the end of the day, we all care about how people view us and that will never change.

Social media isn’t bad in and of itself, but it can be dangerous for people who suffer from disorders. Their addiction to social networking can lead to extreme results.

There’s an episode where a girl pretends to be a former Miss Teen USA. She admitted to catfishing for years because she liked the attention. When she determined she had an addiction to online profiling, she still could not delete the profile. She was so attached to her fake identity and online popularity that she couldn’t stop.

If we don’t address online social media addictions now it will be too late for people, especially ones with disorders, to change. What happens when people who catfish are caught? They are more embarrassed than ever, their confidence falters even more and the people they deceive are brokenhearted.

It is normal to be addicted to updating your online profile. But if you use it as a way to escape and become a whole new person, you’re ultimately hurting yourself and others. You’ll end up getting lost in this fantasy world, lying to other people who don’t deserve it and forgetting your real self. Everyone gets self-conscious of themselves, but that is no excuse to be someone you’re not.