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‘Catfish’ reveals common truths about human desires

Chris Beacham

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I recently came across a television show called “Catfish” that has been getting attention since parts of the first episode were filmed in Tuscaloosa. This show, along with the movie it is based off, is about people developing “relationships” through social media, via internet, texting, etc. Each episode consists of a central person who wants to meet their mystery partner, whom they’ve never spoken or had direct contact with, but are convinced they are in love with — that this is something special and they have to meet this person.

Although I’m not sure how real the show is, the idea of this being common does not surprise me at all. When the person finally has direct contact with the other they wanted to finally meet, it almost always isn’t what the person thought it would be, sometimes drastically different. A girl thinks she’s been communicating with an attractive young model in Malibu, and has fallen in love with him, when in fact upon direct contact, it’s an awkward young girl. This girl has many other people she’s also been leading on to believe she’s something she is not. As weird, funny and sad as this is, it’s also strangely profound. The show, although dramatic and strange, shows how many people operate.

The central person in each episode has convinced themselves they are “in love.” They have a Facebook page, a few photos and over a year’s worth of texts, much of which are very emotional, intimate and provocative. Their startling realization is that they were really in love with a self-created image of the other person. They created this fiction in their minds and become infatuated with it, to the point of feeling they had found their “soulmate.”

This leads to expectation, obsession and pain from the disappointing truth of it all. The reason why this is profound is because I feel that this is the case for many of our relationships in life, even with those we may have physical contact with. A great example of this is the celebrity culture in America and the unhealthy obsession around it. It is based on nothing real, but on similar projections that gives us the illusion that we really know someone we have never met, or that this person is meant for us.

The reason why most relationships fail is because of identification with images. We may be around a person, but we see them through the veil of our own desires, wants and expectations, much of which leads to pain and disappointment when reality does not meet them. The romantic feelings of wanting to be completed by another are also based also on illusions, because we’ve been conditioned to feel that unless we’re with someone, we’re less of a human being.

The people in this show feel the need to feel whole, be appreciated, feel worthy and be happy, simply because they cannot give themselves these things. The drama of relationships may be fun for some people, but the honest truth is that no one can give you what you can’t give yourself. The things you are seeking, you already have in a reservoir deep within yourself, and the desire to get fulfillment from someone else is a barrier to you experiencing these things.

The people on this show are looking for another person, conceptualized mentally as an image, to bring them salvation and make their lives fuller. Eastern philosophy talks about working out your own salvation and learning self-reliance, while also saying, “You, as much as anyone else in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” You can only give yourself the things you desire, not anyone else.


Chris Beacham is a sophomore majoring in psychology. His column runs biweekly on Sundays.

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‘Catfish’ reveals common truths about human desires