Catfish and Secrets
Some things are best left unsaid, especially in online relationships.
Posted Jun 24, 2013
So maybe secrets, especially in the case of catfish, are good for relationships. Scientists have known for a long time that some degree of secrecy exists in a majority of satisfying, long-term unions. That is, partners typically do not disclose everything to one another, particularly if they want the relationship to last.
With respect to catfish, one point seems obvious: when they keep their secret, the relationship flourishes; when they tell the truth, the relationship dies. Without MTV’s intervention, such relationships might not experience such devastating conclusions, or would they? The partners seem to obtain many benefits from their relationship, which have been documented on the show. For example, individuals with stigmatized identities (e.g., transgender) and significant hardships (e.g., financial, health) find companionship and support with their catfish partner. These relationships aren’t unlike face-to-face relationships in that they contain intimacy, romance, and even sex. But from the victim’s standpoint, are these benefits grossly overshadowed by feelings of betrayal?
From a researcher’s standpoint, we know that happy and long-lasting relationships result from the interplay of predictability and freshness. That is, individuals want to feel secure and accepted by their partner, but they need novelty and excitement, too. The most fulfilling relationships are ones in which our partners keep us guessing, to at least some degree. So as the second season of Catfish begins, I will tune in each week, hoping to see a relationship succeed. And if none do, I guess there will be reason to tune in next season.
If you or someone you know has experienced catfishing, as a victim or initiator, please consider volunteering for my study. I hope my research will provide greater insight about this important phenomenon. If you would like to volunteer, I can be reached through Psychology Today.