Catfish, the TV show turned buzzword, is back to help love-struck young adults track down their Internet paramours IRL (in real life).
On Wednesday, the MTV show kicked off its third season with Nev Schulman and his camera-toting buddy Max Joseph attempting to hook an especially slippery “catfish” – a person who creates a fake social media account using someone else’s photos to build online relationships.
Formerly catfished himself, Schulman is an expert at rooting out the real identities of the show’s posers, but the warning signs are often there all along. After doing a little Catfish detective work during the premiere episode, we discovered the “three red flags” that led to “the big reveal,” and then “the silver lining” that followed. Let’s get fishing, shall we?
The Catfishee: Craig, a young man living outside Pittsburgh who thought he finally found love through his online connection and phone calls with Zoe.
The Catfish: Zoe, a girl introduced to Craig via Facebook through his sisters and her friends.
Three Red Flags
Like previous catches, Zoe’s story was filled with the usual suspicious holes – the lack of video chats, vague details about personal information – but also more sinister activity. As Max put it, Zoe is the show’s first “catfish terrorist.” Here’s why:
1. Everyone who claimed to know Zoe never met her in person: One of Craig’s friends claimed to know Zoe from as far back as middle school, but solely over Facebook. This establishes a long history of Zoe dodging face-to-face meetups.
2. She bullied Craig into giving her the password to his Facebook: Zoe blew off four in-person meetings with Craig, but she wants unlimited access into his personal life? Sounds like the move of an experienced manipulator. Worse yet, when Craig tried to regain control and changed his password, Zoe continued to hack into his account.
3. Friendships were destroyed due to Zoe’s games: After discovering Craig received risqué photos from a friend, Zoe hacked into his Facebook account and posted the shots on his page, including the girl’s full name and school. The move lead to a serious fallout among Craig’s group of friends, causing the most relationship casualties in Catfish history.
The Big Reveal
Calling upon the magic of the reverse phone number search, Nev and Max took Zoe’s digits (via Craig) to find an address, which eventually led them to a name … which led to a Facebook account … which wasn’t Zoe’s. Instead, it belonged to Cassandra Rozmus, a young woman living in North Carolina, who, outside of her Zoe persona, was a stranger to Craig and his friends.
When the Catfish crew confronted Cassandra at her home for an explanation, all she had to offer was: “I did it for fun” and “to mess with people.” Yeah, Cassandra sounds like a seriously terrifying Monopoly opponent.
The Silver Lining
Understandably outraged by Cassandra’s initial reaction to her unmasking, Craig, Nev and Max tried talking to her again the next day. This time, Cassandra had something of her own to reveal.
“I sit here and try to act all tough. I used to get bullied a lot. I know how people can be so mean, and I just did it back. I guess in a way it felt good,” she shared.
After being caught at her mean-girl masquerade, Cassandra is finally starting the cathartic process of finding healthy ways to deal with her own bullying. She deactivated her Zoe profile, which means one less “catfish” in the sea. Craig, while still admittedly scarred from the experience, is no longer looking for love on Facebook and is now using his time to build a career.
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