The world of the internet is an ever-growing question of positive strides and negative knocks. For every positive it seems there are a million negatives. Millions of people are actively uploading personal information to their social media accounts hoping to connect with friends across the world, bringing people closer together. There is unfortunately, a dark and sinister side to the internet, as the rise of the Catfish continues to grow.
Following the rise of online identity theft, the term ‘Catfish’ was introduced to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2014 defining Catfish as: Lure (someone) into a relationship by adopting a fictional online persona.
According to a study, more than 83 million profiles active on Facebook are fake, with 97% of those profiles being female. One of the many fake female profiles existing on social media sites is the fake profile version of Salford University student Niamh Shackleton, 20, who found herself on Facebook under the alias ‘Faith Connors’.
“I found out through other friends that I had a fake account” says Niamh, “it was going on for two years”. Quays News has also found over 50 accounts of fake profiles within the Blackpool and neighbouring areas, which causes many to question the identity of the creator of these ‘Catfish’ accounts, being someone they know personally.
“It started because one of my primary school mates put it on Facebook and everyone commented saying ‘I’ve got one as well’, then someone commented telling me I’ve got one. That just got the ball rolling on the whole thing and made us realise they’re all entwined.”
It is unknown at the time of writing if any actions have been perpetrated on behalf of the Catfish accounts however Niamh says it has made her paranoid and more vigilant of the material she posts online. Whoever the identity thief is, Niamh, now 20, says the images found on her fake profile feature images from her 18th birthday and even dates back as far as to her school years when she was 16.
“the stuff that this person’s written, are statuses and Tweets I’ve done. So obviously they’ve got me on other social medias platforms. It had pictures of me, pictures from my 18th birthday, from when I was 16 as well it makes me a really paranoid about the stuff I put on especially when I know loads of other people who have been catfished as well, it makes us all paranoid because you think there’s a link somewhere, it’s someone we know. So you just think who is it actually doing this?”
Following her experience of discovering her Catfish alternative, Niamh has reported the account to Facebook and has also been in contact with the police, encouraging others to do the same. “It’s difficult because my page is private” she says “so if it’s someone you know doing it there’s not a lot you can do other than taking the obvious precautions of making your account private, so only you can accept who’s looking at your stuff“.
By Nathan Smith