Google defines the act of “catfishing” as one of two things: 1. To fish for catfish, or 2. To “lure (someone) into a relationship by means of a fictional online persona.”
Typically, a catfish will steal someone else’s photo from Facebook or some other social media site then use it to create a fake profile on a dating website like Grindr or OKCupid simply to carry on false online relationships with unsuspecting people. We often hear stories of people who have fallen victim to catfish. Rarely do you hear from the people whose pictures are being used to create these sham profiles. Until now.
William Dameron is a 40-something gay man whose likeness has been used on so many catfish profiles that he’s lost count. For a while he was regularly receiving messages on Facebook from people he had never met that said things like “I honestly can’t believe I am even emailing you, but your face has meant a lot to me. And now I’ve found out it’s a lie” or “I’ve grieved to the depths of my soul over someone who never even existed.”
In a new article published by Salon, Dameron writes about all the women (and a few good men) who he’s allegedly had relationships with, including a four-year online comradery with “a 43-year-old man, grieving the death of his wife.”
Dameron says he first learned his picture was being used by a catfish when a woman named Helen reached out to him on Facebook with a link to a profile, ironically, on the dating site Plenty of Fish.
“After I clicked on the link, I expanded the profile picture, head tilted toward the camera, chin down to strengthen the bearded jawline, eyes slightly scrunched. It was a textbook selfie, and it was me,” he writes. “But it was not me. He listed his age as 10 years younger than mine and his height three inches taller. He was single, not looking for anything serious.”
Dameron was shocked. And a little bit creeped out. After doing some sleuthing on Google images, he quickly discovered that “my face floats to the top for the search phrase “40 year old white man.'” But not just that, his selfie was everywhere.
“I was Dieter Falk on the social network VK in Berlin, and I was John, the president of a luxury property management company, in Kentucky,” he writes. “On LinkedIn, I was Richard, a car dealer in the Greater Boston area, and I was Peter, an IT consultant in Melbourne, Australia.”
He continues: “On Yelp, I was Alfonso in Waterbury, Connecticut, griping about the local Kmart — one star. I was Kalledsson on a Swedish dating website and IsThisHowYouDoItNow, a single divorced Canadian man on Plenty of Fish. It was not just one man, but many who had robbed me of my face. I was every man and no man and I was freaked out.”
The whole thing got Dameron thinking: “Why did this man, and all the others choose my likeness? What did they see and who did they hope to become?”
“A friend told me that my profile image ‘really is a good picture,'” he continues, “which means it doesn’t really look like me, and I’m OK with that, because it’s not me. It’s a static image of my face taken at a good angle. Perhaps it was the universe’s poetic response, the man who pretended to be another becomes the one others pretend to be.”
“Most of us fool the world a little bit each day,” he opines. “On social media we choose the most flattering photos, smoothing a wrinkle here, whitening a smile there and applying a soft filter. We share the good and hide the bad.”
Since making the discovery, Dameron says he’s been busy contacting each and everyone one of the websites to ask for his picture to be removed. Most of them have cooperated, but, he writes, “there is still an active profile on Plenty of Fish with my likeness.”
“I have toyed with the idea of setting up a fake profile, posing as someone else and ensnaring him,” he says. “But I can’t. That’s not me.”