As someone who has lurked around a multitude of dating websites (POF, Tinder, Match, OKCupid, Bumble – God loves a trier right?) for near on half a decade, I consider myself pretty proficient at weeding out the porn bots, foot fetishists and fuck boys. If there is a category of dire human beings on the interweb, the likelihood is that I’ve probably dated them and learnt a tough lesson as a consequence. I have been ghosted so often in 2017 that I am beginning to think Casper ‘the friendly ghost’ is a biographical movie of my life. It is no a great surprise to anyone then that my friends often describe my approach to dating as ‘guarded’ or ‘suspicious’. On a night out, I strap on my ‘don’t even fucking think about it’ perfume and pair it with my ‘touch me and I’ll get the pepper spray’ handbag and I’m normally home in bed alone by 2am with a bag of cheesy chips for company. Last week, after another wine clouded conversation with a married friend about my loveless love life, she suggested I retired my broomstick and cauldron and attempted to become a more approachable, less resting bitch face internet dater.
So the next day, I swallowed my positive pant pill and opened up my Tinder app and began swiping to my little shrivelled up heart’s content. I matched quite quickly with a beautiful specimen of a human being named ‘Jon’. Dark hair, brown sultry eyes and a jaw line I could shave parmesan cheese with. Yes please! He messaged me shortly afterwards, Shakespeare wasn’t quivering in his boots, but he was pretty so I messaged him back. And then, nothing. So far – so standard. Then three days later a little message to say that he had been busy and an apology and then we chatted. The conversation flowed. He was witty, silly and funny and I felt the ice around my chest begin to thaw a little. Sure, there were moments when Negative Nora tried to interpret some of his messages, like the time he said he couldn’t take a selfie because his “camera was broke” or the fact he seemed super keen to impress me, sending me videos of his ‘man cave’ and £90 bottles of vodka. But when Nora raised her head, I squished her down and thought, ‘What would Cher from Clueless do?’ as I twiddled my fluffy pen in my fingers and tied another glitter scrunchie in my hair. “I shall not be a bitter spinster, I shall not be a bitter spinster.”
After four days of 1am texting and giggling like a frigid school girl, I began to think that my new attitude to dating was indeed working and it would not be long before I joined my married mates on coffee date, where we would talk about mortgages, throw cushions and the Next catalogue. And then during the day he sent me a photo. It was a random photo of some work he had been doing on this house he was apparently refurbishing (did I tell you he owned a building company?!).
“Hey!” I said, “Isn’t your camera broke?”
“Well if your camera works, I definitely deserve a selfie”
And then a photo came through and I eagerly opened it. Wow, I thought, cute eyes. Then I scanned the rest of his face. It did not look like the pictures I had seen before. His jaw line seemed less defined, slimmer and perhaps a little obsolete. His lips, not so pouty, thinner, less cute. And then those eyes, those big brown eyes in the Tinder photos were now small, bright blue eyes. Positive Polly suggested it was a bad angle, a bad day, perhaps a very old photo. But Negative Nora knew the truth. I had been bloody catfished. Catfishing is the term used for people who use fake online profiles in order to persue someone, usually romantically. And on this occasion that someone was me.
Bizarely, he made me confront him about it. “You’re not the same person” I noted. “Well he said, long story but…” He suggested he had broken his phone and was using a friend’s Tinder to save his ex girlfriend’s feelings, but he had enjoyed chatting to me and hoped I would continue talking to him even though he was a completely different person. It seemed irrelevant to him that he had been posing as a completely different person for 4 days, that his name, his job, his face had all been a lie. He seemed to that because we had gotten on whilst he was ‘Jon’ that I would somehow transfer those feelings to this ‘John Doe”. I called him a few names and then deleted and blocked him. Not without learning a whole new set of lessons about the dating world first.
1) Never Trust Your Married Friends
Bless them and their rose tinted view on all things relationship. If your married friends’ last experience of dating was back when Craig David could still make love from Wednesday to Saturday without a Viagra and a nap, then don’t trust a single word of advice they utter. Their intentions are good, they are happy, they want everyone to be as blissfully in love and as happy as them, but they have absolutely no concept of the Jumanji style jungle you are surviving in every time you open your dating app. I mean if a member of the Russian mafia hasn’t tried to blackmail you over your nude selfies, have you even internet dated??
2) Verify, Verify, Verify
The great thing about our generation being so connected is that there are endless ways in which we can confirm the identities of others without even leaving our sofas. As soon as someone hands over their phone number, you can access almost all of their social media sites and check out whether they are who say they are. Even the most hipster anti social media wanker will have an old BEBO or Myspace account you can check out their teenage goth stage out. Sure it’s a bit stalkery, but better to do a five minutes of lurking than wasting 4 days on an old man with an iPhone.Additionally, there are lots of ways of getting live verification from someone without needing to become Columbo. Snapchat, Kik, FaceTime and Skype are all ways in which you can verify someone is who they say there are in less than a second. If they aren’t keen to do this, there is probably a reason why.
Point to note: I did this with the Catfish and I found his Facebook page. ‘Jon Drake’ did exist, however the only photos he had on his FB profile were the same ones from his Tinder profile. He also only had one friend. One! It’s almost laughable how desperate I was to ignore my gut feelings on this one. On that note…
3) Trust Your Gut
There is a reason why ‘gut instinct’ is a universal term for when something seems a bit fishy. Our bodies are sensitive sausages and they react instinctly to when we feel unsafe or in danger. It’s the reason why when we burn ourselves on the frying pan we don’t leave our arm in the fat and wait for our brain to reflect on what the emotional damage might be. Throughout my conversations with ‘Jon’ my gut was telling me there was something not right. For a handsome man, he seemed overtly keen for me to like him. Now I am not saying pretty people can’t be interesting, but normally, good-looking people don’t need to put much effort into getting people to like them.
However, Jon would send me photos of different things he owned, pictures he had painted and would try and keep me engaged in conversations long after I had told him I was going to bed. At the time, I thought it was weird that he was so keen but Positive Polly wasn’t having any of my naysayer attitude, in reality, Polly should have shut the fuck up. Long live Bitter Betty!
If It Seems Too Good To Be True – It Probably Is
Now that I’ve let ‘Bitter Betty’ out of the closet, I want to ensure you that I do not say this as some old hag who wants you to doubt anything good can come into your life. However, this isn’t ’10 Things I Hate About You’ and Heath Ledger isn’t about to serenade you on the football pitch in front of the whole school. This is real life and people are flawed, faulty and sometimes idiotic beings. Of course we all pump up our statistics on the internet to make ourselves seems a little better (Hello Instagram!) and lying on a dating profile isn’t anything new. But if the guy you are talking to is a 6ft, Thor like creature, who is a top 100 CEO whilst also doing a bit of charity work on the weekends, yet is still swiping madly on a Tuesday afternoon, then he probably isn’t real mate.
So after five years of internet dating, I experienced my first Catfish. It makes a change from the ghosting, at least these ones text you back.
Have you ever been lied to on the internet? Any hot tips on how to avoid the Catfishes on Tinder? Let me know in the comments below, Bitter Betty could do with your help before she buys a cattery and a chastity belt.