Catfish and Social Media

Obese dragon ride

Yesterday we looked at “catfishing,” which basically is going online and fooling another person into believing you’re someone you are not. Often, when people fall in virtual love, it turns out that one of them is up in the plus sizes, and hiding behind fake photos. If the obese person attracts a partner who says, “Let’s get together,” the jig is up, and heartache ensues.

In the 2010 film Catfish, one of the characters explains the term. Codfish used to be shipped in water to keep them alive, but they arrived flabby and inedible, so catfish were added to give the cod a reason to exercise. The implication was that online tricksters are actually good for us in some way.

Apparently, many people have made a hobby of arguing over whether or not the catfish analogy is historically and scientifically accurate. They cite sources going back as far as 1909. Here is an interesting point. A 2007 post by a blogger known as “Runrandall” says:

After studying the cod fish someone discovered that their natural enemy was the catfish. This time when the cod fish were put in the tanks they placed a few catfish in with them. Those catfish chased the cod fish all the way across the country to the west coast. This time when they were prepared they were flaky and had the same flavor as they did when they were caught fresh and prepared on the east coast. You see the catfish kept the cod from becoming stale. The catfish kept them fresh.

We all have and need catfish in our lives to keep us fresh.

Now, it gets really weird. Why did Runrandall tell this story? In order to describe an entirely different kind of human catfish. This catfish was not an online stranger, hiding obesity behind pictures of swimsuit models. This was someone he knew in real life, in the course of his “running and weight loss journey,” which is the declared topic of the blog. Runrandall says:

Last year when I weighed 284 I would jog 3 miles a few times a week… I would see the man, a neighbor riding his bike… Well every time Maynard would ride by me he always had something negative to say about my weight… He would say things like, ‘You need to do some push ups, push ups from the table that is.’

I decided I needed to do something more than just run to lose weight. I started going to a diet clinic, got on a diet, and kept running… One day after I had lost 90 lbs in 5 months I was running a 5 miler and I saw Maynard… As I ran past him he said, ‘Are you losing weight?’ I smiled and said yes.

But I thought are you blind? I have lost 90 lbs and you have to ask me if I’m losing weight. When I got home I told my wife that my catfish was still a catfish.

Runrandall seems to feel that, overall, he benefited from the nagging presence of this kind of catfish, the neighbor who never had a good word to say. So how about it, readers? Do we know of any cases of this kind of catfish?

And what about the other kind, as in the movie and TV show? Is it ethical to pose online as someone more svelte? Under what circumstances is this okay, if ever?

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “The Story of the Catfish,” Runrandall, 06/15/07
Image by Clevergrrl (Heather Hopkins).

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