What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Catfish peels back the romantic trappings of online dating to reveal its more questionable side by bringing together people who may have used social media to misrepresent themselves. It's an intriguing journey that does a good job humanizing a timely issue for tweens and teens in a nonjudgmental way, allowing viewers to draw their own conclusions from the players' predicaments. That said, the fact that the show is creating entertainment out of people's emotions -- both good and bad -- raises issues about voyeurism and the participants' motivations. What's more, even though it intends to point out the inherent dangers of social media sites like Facebook and MySpace, the frequent references to them might have the opposite effect on viewers. Because each episode follows a different couple's story, it's difficult to anticipate the content, or how heated or heart-wrenching the confrontations might be.
What's the story?
CATFISH: THE TV SHOW is a reality series that investigates the emotional fallout of the anonymous nature of online dating. Created by Nev Schulman, who chronicled his own experiences with social media relationships in a short film of the same name, Catfish turns the focus to fans' Internet love tales and examines the truth and lies that are forced into the open when the two parties meet face to face for the first time. In each episode, Nev and his filmmaker partner Max Joseph follow the story of a fan who's hoping to make a personal connection with the object of his or her affection, but just how that first encounter will go is anybody's guess when phony profiles and misleading photos often lead to betrayals of trust.
Is it any good?
Catfish cuts to the chase of the woes of virtual friendships: How do you know the person on the other end of the chat line is who he or she claims to be? And are you always true to yourself when you're online? It's an issue that drives families' Internet rules and many conversations between parents and their web-savvy tweens and teens, but is it one that really hits home with yours? If you're not sure -- and even if you think you are -- then this raw series is a great segue into a more concrete dialogue about the pleasures and dangers of befriending people online.
The show doesn't create drama or ignite controversy for sensationalism, but it does devote a lot of time to drawing out the emotions of its participants, so it's not always comfortable to watch. Sometimes the initial meetings are joyful confirmation of the two parties' deep affection; in other cases the outcomes aren't so happy, thanks to someone's dishonesty and the victim's sense of betrayal. It's impossible to watch these emotional confrontations and not feel for the one who's been duped, but the instigators' honesty about their motivations is a telling glimpse into the prevalence of this issue.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about the benefits of social media. How do sites like Facebook encourage relationships you might not otherwise have access to? Do you think they enrich your life? What is your main objective in using them?
Teens: How does the anonymity of the Internet allow you to be someone other than yourself? Do you ever find yourself doing this? How would you feel in the shoes of this show's victim? Of the guilty party?
Parents can use this series to lay the groundwork for their teens' Internet rules. What sites are they allowed to use? What oversight will you have? What should they do if they suspect someone is targeting them with misleading information?