This one time we catfished somebody…kind of.
Way back before the days of Google mail. Your nights were spent on MSN messenger, changing your 100x100 icons to match your username. Picking a super pink font on a bright white background so you would piss off your mates. Trolling chat rooms asking a/s/l? Becoming millionaires on Neopets. Oh those were the days, and back then, I don’t think cat fishing even existed, it didn’t even have a name.
So we had this friend, boy band obsessed. I’m talking every conceivable space on her walls and ceiling covered in life size Smash Hits centrefolds. It all started out as a joke, a laugh, something we did one afternoon in IT class because we were bored and we could. We signed up for a free local email account. We named it after her favourite member of the boy band, saying we’d seen her name in the fan mail list and wanted to say hi. Because yeah, that happens, makes total sense. She was sat across the room, we fired off the email, and we waited.
It was a laugh. A joke. It wasn’t supposed to be taken seriously.
She was over the moon he had got in touch, she couldn’t thank him enough. She felt so lucky. Her idol, her love, her favourite, and he wanted to talk to her.
Never mind he was based down south. Never mind it was a .Liverpool email address. Never mind she wasn’t even on a fan mail list.
Convinced she was taking the piss out of us. Convinced she was just playing along, we fired off another email before the end of class.
She was over the moon. We didn’t know what to think.
Days went by and she kept exchanging emails with this boy band front man. We made them as outlandish and as obviously fake as we possibly could but still, she played along. She was playing along? Right?
We wanted to know how seriously she was taking this. Another friend took over the account and asked her for her home address, under the pretence he was sending her a signed poster. Without question, she gave it.
Don’t get me wrong, what we did wasn’t exactly nice, but it was only a joke, she was never supposed to take it seriously. So, we told her. The next time she brought up the emails we told her the truth, that it had been us all along.
Har. Har. Was her response. She genuinely didn’t believe us. And carried on emailing him.
I don’t know whose idea the next email was. Convinced she was messing with us now, we thought we would just carry on playing along. I mean, we had told her it was us. She had to believe us?
So we asked her to meet. He was going to be passing through our insignificant little area of Liverpool on his way somewhere. He really wanted to meet her. He even suggested the location. Because of course this celebrity knew the park nearest her house that well.
I'd heard the horror stories on the news about people who went to meet people they had spoke to online. I could never understand why they would do this. Nowadays it's no wonder so many people fall into a cat fishing trap. When you can create a plethora of social media profiles for your alter ego. All pointing in the same direction. All making you out to be someone you're not.
Date. Time. Place. It was all set. She told us she was meeting him. We told her it wasn’t safe. We told her it could be anyone, she clearly didn’t think it was us.
Another day. Another IT class. We logged into his account in front of her, showing her all the emails she had sent him.
She ran out in tears. Devastated none of it had been true.
And that was by a bunch of stupid school girls who weren’t even trying.
We think blogs and vlogs give is this air of transparency these days. That selfies on Instagram can’t come from anyone other than the account holder. And these everyone’s my friend online personalities really do feel that way towards you, as an individual, and nobody else. No matter how little or even how much you might think you know someone online, it can all change the second you take the screen away.
Blogging opens you up to a community of strangers. I am so fortunate that the strangers I have met through blogging have been in every way as wonderful as I imagined. I’ve been very lucky. I’ve spoken to bloggers who haven’t been so lucky. Those who have gone to meet up with other bloggers who have been anything but how they thought. I don’t know of anyone who's gotten into a dangerous situation yet but still, that’s not to say it can’t or won’t happen.
Do me a favour, don’t let it happen to you.
Have you ever had any bad experiences when meeting people online?