By Dr. Vihan Sanyal
New Delhi, March 13 (IANSlife) There are various types of online impersonations. It could be an adult impersonating a teenager, or it could be seen as harmless fun by teenagers who may target a person and befriend them online in order to later mock or ridicule them (cyberbullying). It could also be a former lover who hasn't moved on or one who wants to exact revenge.
Catfishing occurs when a person creates a false online identity for the purpose of pursuing a romantic relationship. The person acts as if they are someone they are not. They use fictitious names and photos of attractive people to entice a prospect into an online romantic relationship.
Ex-lovers' often catfish their partners leading to consequences on a person's mental health. Here are nine ways they do this:
They choose a profile picture according to their lovers' taste – They know the type of people their ex finds attractive and chose a profile photo accordingly to lure their ex.
Their profile pictures never seem to change – They don't change their profile picture or post other pictures with family and with friends. If in doubt, perform a goggle reverse search based on their photos to see if a matching profile with a different name shows up on the net.
They like to move at a fast pace - They get deeper in the relationship quickly. An ex who is desperate to have you back in their life would like to re-experience the deep loving relationship they once shared with you. This desperation is likely to drive them to quickly deepen their friendship with you and they are likely to start intimate conversations with you early on in the relationship.
They seem too good to be true – It feels like you have found your perfect match. Your ex knows a lot about you and it becomes easier for them to present themselves as the man/woman of your dreams!
They talk mainly about things of your interest – They are good at building rapport and talk 'your language'. They will be cautious to avoid saying things which are likely to upset you. They say things which would draw you closer to them.
Their language patterns seem familiar - Each person has a distinct way of speaking and writing. If you pay close attention to the words they are using and their style of communication with you, then you may be able to see the similarity between the imposter and your ex.
They don't have many online friends - The purpose of them creating this online presence is for them to have you back in their life. It is likely to be a recently created profile and so they are not likely to have many friends. Also no one would know this fake identity and they will not follow each other on social platforms.
They avoid facetime or meet in real life - They will make excuses and be reluctant to meet you in person. They will not even speak with you over the phone. They will keep all their interactions with you strictly virtual. You ex is likely to go to any extent not to be caught by you and to reveal their true identity to you.
They are guarded with their personal history - Their story is not likely to make complete sense. Their background is going to be vague. If you probe them about their past or ask to many questions about their family, they are likely to divert the conversation quickly to other topics
Some people are prone to anxiety or depression, and catfishing is likely to have a significant impact on them. This can have the following effects on a person's mental health:
Difficulty Trusting People – Being catfished can make it difficult for people to trust another human being. They may feel betrayed and violated. It can take a person month and even years of therapy to get back to trusting people again.
Feel Ashamed & Embarrassed –It can make a person feel like a fool. Imagine that they have gone ahead and told all of their friends and family members about this wonderful person they are interacting with. They are likely to be angry with themselves for being fooled by their ex.
Result in sleepless nights – The shock of discovering that a person has been catfished can keep a person up at night. They are often in disbelief that something like this could happen to them and keep ruminating over it.
Increase Stress levels – The after effects of being catfished often leaves a person feeling stressed and people find it difficult to focus and to concentrate on the present.
Increase Fear, Anxiety & Paranoia - A traumatic event like being catfished can leave a person feeling vulnerable and nervous. They fear something like this happening again to them. They might delete their social media accounts and go offline completely.
Dependency – A person, even after knowing that they are being catfished, continue the relationship. They have become dependent of the attention and fake love that they are receiving from the relationship. They keep checking for messages and feel sad if they don't receive a message from their partner. Any form of dependency is unhealthy for relationships and a professional therapist can help a person to explore this area further with them.
Living In Denial - Many people refuse to acknowledge that they are being catfished even after being presented with compelling evidence. They would rather be in a fake relationship than without a relationship. Working with a therapist in facing facts and dealing with loneliness is far more important than to continuing to live in denial.
Cause Depressive Symptoms – If a relationship break-up didn't cause a person to experience depressive symptoms, a catfish experience is likely to result in depression. It is common for people to go into a shell and stop interacting with the world. Depressive symptoms can impact every aspect of a persons' life.
Result in Suicidal Thoughts – A traumatic experience like being catfished can deeply impact a persons' self-worth. It can cause a person to feel like they will never find a genuine person or a person who will love them unconditionally. A person can dive deep into depression and can start to indulge in self-harm and have suicidal ideation.
Things to do if you have been catfished:
Cut all contact Immediately – It may be one of the most difficult things to do for certain people, but it must be done. Stop all forms of contact and block them on all social media accounts.
Stop blaming yourself – It is not your fault that you have been catfished. Thousands of people each year get catfished globally. People who catfish can be extremely crafty and manipulative. It can fool the best of us.
Accept what happened – This can be challenging and difficult to do. Accepting the fact that this happened to you is extremely important for your mental health.
See things as they are – See things as they are not as you would like them to be. Identify fact over fiction.
Become socially active with supportive friends – It is important for people not to go into a shell after a traumatic event. Increase your social activity. You have nothing to feel ashamed of. Don't keep discussing about the experience with your friends, talk about other things.
Take precautions – Ensure you become more vigilant in your future interactions with people. However, don't stop socialising and connecting with people. A single bad experience doesn't guarantee that all future interactions are going to be bad.
Contact a Mental Health Professional – Mental health professionals are trained to help people deal with emotional challenges and in overcoming trauma. Get in touch with a professional who can work with you and help you overcome your feelings. You will be surprised with the positive impact a few counselling sessions can have on your life.
(Dr. Vihan Sanyal, psychotherapist and founder of Mind factory)
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Dr Vihan Sanyal/tb
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