The 2010 documentary, Catfish, brought the term catfishing to the forefront. This film followed along as a young man, Nev Schulman, as he begins an online relationship with someone he met through Facebook named Megan. As the relationship progressed, Nev becomes suspicious that Megan might not be who she claimed to be so he paid her a surprise visit. Megan turned out to be a middle-aged housewife named Angela who had created multiple social media accounts with multiple personas.
In the film, it was Angela’s husband, Vince, who made the connection between social media impersonation and catfish. He explained to Nev that cod are shipped live from the United States to China, but the fish would arrive at their destination with inferior meat because they were lazy and inactive during shipping. To prevent the cods’ flesh from going mushy, the shippers place a catfish in the tanks to keep the fish active and moving frequently. Vince noted that, perhaps, some people have been placed in the lives of others to keep them active. Nev’s documentary spawned a hit TV reality show on MTV in which Nev and his partner, Max Joseph, expose a new catfishing incidence in each episode.
For Emma Perrier, her catfishing journey began when she downloaded the dating app, Zoosk. Scrolling through the photos of other members, she found a handsome, dark-haired Italian named Ronaldo Scicluna, or Ronnie for short. According to his profile, Scicluna was 34 and lived just 100 miles away from London. Their relationship moved quickly and soon Emma and Ronnie were texting, messaging, and talking on the phone several times a day. For Emma, whose family and friends were all in France, connecting with Ronnie filled a void in her life. Plus Ronnie was sweet and attentive and charming. Emma was smitten. There was just one problem…they two had not yet met in person.
Emma tried several times to arrange a physical date, but Ronnie was always ready with an excuse. He was busy with work or taking care of his father, so he claimed. Emma was frustrated and disappointed, but she had no reason to doubt Ronnie’s stories. After all, she saw pictures of him so she knew he was a real person.