Are We Slowly All Becoming ‘Catfish’?


By Lifestyle Editor, Leah Johnston

Social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat are all becoming increasingly visual, with the popularity of humorous ‘Memes’ and ‘Vine’ videos rocketing in recent years, as well as the creation of ‘Stories’, and ‘Going Live’. It’s almost as if we want to see every aspect of every persons life, all at once.

We are living in a time of contouring, highlighting, and fewer hairs on our brows than ever before (yet much more Anastasia Beverly Hills). This polished look that we see on Instagram and Snapchat is forcing both men and women to aspire to create this false facade of themselves for the benefit of an online audience; resulting in the rise of the ‘Catfish’ phenomena – there’s even a TV show dedicated to it!

The term, originally coined for a 2010 documentary, followed by the well-known MTV series typically refers to a type of deceptive activity involving a misleading online presence. In other words, someone pretending to be someone they are not. But isn’t that what we unconsciously aim to do almost every day? We spend half an hour choosing between the X-Pro or Valencia filter on Instagram to make sure we look five shades darker than we really are; Or choose dog-ears over a pink halo on Snapchat because it makes our skin look crystal clear? All of these new novelties are inadvertently turning all of us into catfishes – we do not resemble a likeness of our true selves when we post these filtered, airbrushed versions online, and it is becoming increasingly harder to recognise a real person from their virtual presence.

Social media should serve as a platform to project our own individual identities and celebrate difference, but it is increasingly alarming how similar everyone is beginning to look. The airbrushed skin, carved cheekbones, huge lips, enough highlighter to blind you, and artistically drawn eyebrows seems to be the recurring norm as we scroll down our timelines. Not only is this sad for individualism and creativity, but also worrying for those with low self-esteem, who seem to be slowly turning into clones of celebrities such as Kim Kardashian in the hope of ‘fitting in’.

This also sets unrealistically high standards when it comes to meeting people for the first time. With the rise of online dating apps such as Tinder, it is not unusual to see someone in a photograph before you see them in real life; in fact it is predominantly the image that makes them swipe left or right. Your future date could be expecting an airbrushed version of you, leading to feelings of disappointment and deception, when you are nothing like the unattainable perfection that you have portrayed online.

The idea of using social media and enhanced images as a form of boosting self-esteem is supported by research from the University of Buffalo, which states that women who base their self-worth on their appearance are likely to post more pictures of themselves on social media to seek validation. We’ve all been there, when you get likes on a picture – it feels good, right? There’s nothing wrong with posting pictures of yourself, nor am I condemning the confidence-boosting aspect of social media, but we need to get the balance between real and idealised beauty, and be aware of the difference.


Image: Essena O’Neill Instagram

Australian teenager Essena O’Neill, pictured above, had more than half a million followers on Instagram, yet announced that she was quitting the platform because it is “contrived perfection made to get attention”. She posted this image with the ironic caption to anchor her statement, and reach out to people who were maybe stuck in the world of the Insta-image.

Sometimes image isn’t everything.


Featured image:

Published by The Gown Queen's University Belfast

The Gown has provided respected, quality and independent student journalism from Queen's University, Belfast since its 1955 foundation, by Dr. Richard Herman. Having had an illustrious line of journalists and writers for almost 70 years, that proud history is extremely important to us. The Gown is consistent in its quest to seek and develop the talents of aspiring student writers.

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