You have (1) unread message.
“Ugh,” I groaned. Another spam message. This particular alert had been popping up in my inbox for days and I decided to finally open a new tab to log into LinkedIn and deal with it.
What I didn’t expect to see was this:
Hi Jules, someone is using your photos on an OkCupid profile [profile link]. Was recently messaging this person claiming to be Hannah in LDN and googled the photos and they’re actually yours, and you don’t live remotely near. Just warning you so you can report it.”
“What kind of holy high hell specific spammy sh*t is this?!” I wondered. Afraid to click on the link, I instead clicked on the sender, David’s, profile. His intro, connections, and credentials seemed far too specific and normal to be fake. I bit the bullet and clicked on the OkCupid profile link he had provided.
“Log in to view singles in your area!” the website shouted when I tried to view Hannah’s profile.
I quickly created a profile, adding the bare minimum requirements, and retried the link from David.
And there she was.
“She picked that photo?!” I marveled.
I mean I guess it made sense. You’d want to use ‘real’ looking images if you were gonna go full catfish. I scrolled through the profile. I’d just watched Love Hard on Netflix and felt catapulted into its plot, wherein a 30-something guy, Josh (who, oddly, looked a lot like David from LinkedIn) creates a fake dating profile to lure in a cute, unsuspecting journalist, Natalie, whose job was to write about her love life fails.
In the movie, Josh tells Natalie that everything else besides the photos was really him: the voice she talked to on the phone every night, the favorite foods and movies, the sense of humor. Hannah’s profile was a full throttle Josh. The details depicted a real, living, breathing person – who was absolutely nothing like me. I was half tempted to let her* keep using my photos.
*I’ve chosen to use she/her pronouns since that’s what “Hannah” used.
I get it, girl. I wanted to write. It’s a sh*t show out there.
On the other hand, I empathized with David and anyone else getting duped. I’d personally seen everything from wildly inaccurate photos to fake phone numbers.
“Oh, wow, this is a first!” I replied to David. “Thanks so much for the heads up – am reporting now!”
After reporting the account, it was swiftly removed by the OkCupid overlords. I wondered how the whole process worked.
Maybe Hannah was a scam artist trying to score money or a pathological liar. Or maybe she was a stone cold fox and just didn’t want her image out there. Her profile mentioned that she was into “persuasion, hypnosis, and mind control.” Maybe this was all part of some grand experiment that we’d someday see on Netflix’s latest special, Love Hard and Catfish Harder.
And how could the OkCupid team be sure I was the woman behind the photos? Did Hannah put up a fight? While my ego was stroked by the incident (“Ooh! Someone chose MY photos!”), I also couldn’t help but be curious about how deep David had gotten with her before uncovering the truth. How must it feel to fall for someone and then discover the ‘real’ person behind the photos? It’s disappointing enough to meet someone [after any online exchange] and not click in person, let alone after weeks or months of messaging.
In the end, the whole thing left me a little sad. Whatever the specifics, surely at least one person got hurt. Because of this blog and my business, I have no choice but to be utterly upfront. Simply search “Jules” + any number of other basic terms and there I am in all of my dorky glory.
After Hannah’s profile disappeared and within days of joining OkCupid, I discovered a potential match. Our message exchange was uncharacteristically delightful, and we wound up arranging to meet. After setting the time and location, my match sent one more note.
So, just a heads up, I was looking at your profile again and noticed that you are 5’8″. I’m 5’6″. For me personally, that is absolutely not a problem. For some people it is, some people it isn’t. Online dating can be a harsh world. But I didn’t want that to be a surprise in person tomorrow. If that changes anything, just let me know.”
I quickly responded that it wasn’t an issue for me if it wasn’t an issue for him, and jokes ensued. I couldn’t help but wonder, though… was that a Catfish Lite? He hadn’t listed his height, so technically hadn’t lied.
“When you go to the doctor’s or wherever and have to fill out forms,” I recently asked a few divorced female friends. “Do you check the box that says ‘single’ or ‘divorced’?”
“Oh, ‘single’!” they unanimously replied.
“I always check ‘divorced’!” I said, surprised I stood alone in this survey.
Did it matter? Weren’t they both accurate? I thought about how many first/second/third/fourth/fifth dates I’d been on where the guy suddenly revealed his ‘in progress’ divorce, kids, or the woman living in his spare bedroom (that one happened twice!).
Where’s the line between omission and deception?
What do you think? When it comes to the early stages of dating, do these details even really matter? When is it okay to withhold information and when is it not?