Wesselman-Pierce lived along with her husband, Vince Pierce, and his two sons. “I didn’t wish to lose the friendship it doesn’t matter what,” a teary Wesselman-Pierce instructed Schulman within the movie. “Lots of the personalities that got here out had been simply fragments of myself.”

On the finish of the documentary, a ruminative Pierce recalled a story he’d heard, and in flip, gave the film — and the expression — its identify. Cod, he mentioned, had been as soon as shipped by boat in vats from Alaska to China, however the fish would arrive mushy and tasteless. Finally catfish had been added to the vats to maintain the cod wholesome. “There are these people who find themselves catfish in life,” he mentioned. In his thoughts, his spouse was one in every of them. “They hold you guessing, they hold you pondering, they hold you recent.”

Life, he added, could be “boring and uninteresting if we didn’t have any person nipping at our fin.”

When requested how catfishing grew to become rampant, and the idea so extensively understood, Schulman, now 39 and a father of three, mentioned that whereas individuals have been conned and scammed ceaselessly, the fast-changing on-line and social local weather of the early 2010s produced an ideal storm — a lawless digital panorama the place once-accepted expectations round romance, friendship and connection blurred, making it more and more advanced to parse authenticity from artifice.

Instagram was launched in 2010, after which Snapchat in 2011. The courting app Grindr arrived in 2009, then Tinder in 2012. Ideas that now appear banal — beginning relationships on-line with strangers — had been nonetheless seen as weird and uncommon. On the heels of the documentary, Schulman was inundated with emails from individuals with tales just like his.

The concept actually entered the general public consciousness in early 2013, when Deadspin reported on a scandal surrounding the Notre Dame soccer star Manti Te’o. He led his workforce to the nationwide championship sport and was a Heisman Trophy finalist, all within the shadow of the death of his girlfriend early within the season. However the girlfriend, Deadspin found, was by no means actual.

Te’o was the sufferer of a catfishing hoax, however the scenario was so incomprehensible at the moment, theories swirled about his doable involvement within the fraud.

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