OSR Journal of Student Research

Article Title

From Lovers to Liars: The Positive and Negative Features of Catfish Relationships


Vanessa Chitry


Online deception in the form of creating a fake social presence is a fairly new phenomenon that has yet to be explored empirically. The term catfish refers to a person who creates a faux profile with the intent to maintain an exclusively online romantic relationship. The current study assessed catfish targets and perpetrators (N= 1,222). Participants completed an online survey hosted on Qualtrics.com. The questions assessed intra- and interpersonal characteristics. Participants were recruited from a university pool and announcements on Facebook, Craigslist, and Psychology Today. For the purpose of the present study, responses to a single open-ended question were analyzed: catfish targets and perpetrators identified the best and worst features of their catfish relationship. Qualitative data to this open-ended question were coded using the constant comparative method. The most commonly reported themes among catfish targets for the best features of their relationships included: an overall positive mood (e.g. happiness, excitement, cheerful), personality of their partner (e.g., humor, charm, understanding, friendly), and emotional support (e.g., feelings of acceptance, being cared for, complimented, and attended to). Among the perpetrators, the best features of their catfish relationship included: communication, attention, and emotional support. The top three worst features of the relationship reported by targets included: deception, being lied to, and never meeting in person. Among the perpetrators, the worst features included: not being able to communicate with targets in person, keeping up with the lies, and the relationship’s negative outcome. Ideas for future research, including a comparison with offline relationships, conclude the presentation.

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