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Assignment One

Catfish: The Movie and MTV Series



*Background I nformation: In order to understand the title Catfish, it is imperative to know that
catfish is defined as a person who sets up a false personal profile on a social networking site for
fraudulent or deceptive purposes, (Merriam-Webster Dictionary). My observations included
Catfish: The Movie, based on a true story about the main character Nev, and two episodes of
Catfish: The TV Series, which depict real catfish stories that Nev helps unfold.

Figured World and Social Norms: a society or a group of people within a society that
have their own guidelines for acceptable actions, ways of behaving, and views of what
is okay or not okay to do.
In the figured world of Catfish: The Movie and TV Series, there are many rules and
conventions that are acceptable within this community. Catfish: The Movie and TV Series are
about romantic relationships that are formed on and based off of the social networking site
Facebook. Within Facebook itself, there are also many rules and conventions that are socially
acceptable and normal. For example, Facebook allows each user to have a profile, post pictures,
update their relationship status, send messages and chats, and also like and comment on other
friends walls, pictures, or statuses. Facebook also allows users to be friends with people who
they do not know or who may not even be a real person. In the figured world Catfish: The
Movie, Nev and Megan communicate and express their affection towards each other using the
features provided by Facebook in order to engage in a romantic online relationship even though
they have never met before. Megan sends Nev a friend request and then continues to like his
pictures and post statuses about missing him. If a users profile is public, anyone on the internet
can see the activity posted by that user, however if the profile is private, then only the users
friends can see their activity. With this is mind, when a picture, status, or comment is posted on
Facebook, potentially the whole world or Facebook community can access this information
making it public to almost anyone. When Nev and Megan decide to take their relationship to the
next level, it is then that they exchange phone numbers and begin to talk and text as another form
of communication between the two.

Actors: people that play a certain part within a society
-Nev, who is the main actor is being filmed during his love affair experience with Megan.
He is a photographer that works in New York City and travels throughout the country to
photograph mainly dancers. One of Nevs photographs is published in the newspaper and Abby
from Michigan paints a picture of his photograph and sends it to him, which is the beginning of
the lies, humiliation, and fake love story. He then falls for Megan who, is believed to be Abbys
older sister, and they begin to communicate over Facebook and phone conversations.
-Megan, who is not an actual person but her exquisite Facebook profile and beautiful
pictures are used to bait Nev by Megans mom, Angela Wesselman. Megan is the picture perfect
girl to Nev, as she is a musician, dancer, and artist. Nev finds her physically attractive and is also
intrigued by her many talents. They talk on the phone, message and instant message on
Facebook, text, and even send each other letters and postcards in the mail. Towards the end of
the movie, Megan is discovered to actually be Angela who created a false Facebook profile and
used an alternate phone in order to disguise herself. The actual girl in the pictures, who portrays
Megan in the fake profile, is a professional model and Angela simply stole her photos.
-Abby Pierce is the daughter of Angela Wesselman. She is an 8-year-old girl who Nev
believes paints pictures of his photographs that he sends her. She is very optimistic and always
signs her letters and paintings Peace & Love, Abby. At the end of the movie, it is revealed that
Abby never sees her actual half-sister and hardly ever paints. Angela made Nev believe that
Abby was the one painting the pictures in order to bring to life her past artistic abilities.
-Angela Wesselman is Abby and Megans mom. She is also Megan by creating a fake
Facebook profile in order to engage in a false relationship with Nev. She has been through some
difficult events in her life, including being diagnosed with uterine cancer and undergoing
chemotherapy treatment, and she is able to cope with these issues by creating fake profiles. She
has no shame in how her actions and lies are affecting Nev and others. She admits to Nev that
she is the one who painted all of the pictures and communicated to Nev through numerous false
profiles on Facebook.
-Henry and Rel are Nevs brother and friend. They are simultaneously Nevs crew as they
videotape the relationship between Nev and Megan. They are very intrigued in the whole
situation with Abby and Angela who very frequently send all of them gifts. When Nev begins to
second guess everything he was told by Angela and Megan, he does not wish to continue the film
but it is Henry and Rel who push Nev to finish the documentary in order to find out why Megan
remains a mystery to them.

Literacy practices: certain ways of interacting between people
-Phone conversations between Nev and Megan. Nev talks to Megan on the phone
habitually. He does not expect her voice to sound the way it does but yet he glows and smiles
while they talk on the phone. Nev confronts Angela at the end of the movie and it is then that she
confesses that she had an alternate cell phone and altered her voice so she could pretend to be
Megan over the phone.
-Facebook messages, Facebook IM, texting, phone calls are all ways that Nev
communicates with Megan and stays connected with her daily even though they live in
different parts of the country.
-Megan liking Nevs pictures on Facebook and posting statuses about Nev are all
common actions done on the internet in order to express a sense of attraction, liking or friendship
between Facebook users/friends.
-Lying is a huge way that Angela and Megan interact with Nev. Whether its lying about
physical or intellectual characteristics, natural disasters that have occurred but have successfully
been overcome, or realistic life aspects, Angela and Megan lie about everything.

Artifacts: a commodity, mental state, or belief that is important or symbolic within a
community of practice or figured world
-The feeling of wonder or missing someone youve never met. Nev and Megan both use
their imagination to turn internet characteristics into what they believe are real-life
characteristics. Both actors express to one another that they miss each other yet they have never
met, which concludes that there is a mutual attraction between the two.
-Abbys paintings are significant because when Nevs photograph appeared in the
newspaper, Abby and Angela sent Nev a painting of his photograph. Nev would then send Abby
a photograph that he took and Abby would paint the picture and send it back to Nev. Abbys
mom, Angela, told Nev that they were selling these paintings for a lot of money in Abbys
personal art gallery. It was believed that Abby was the artist creating the paintings, however,
Angela confesses at the end of the movie that she infact painted all of the pictures and Abby
rarely paints.
-Trust is a huge artifact on Facebook and just between the actors of the figured world. For
example, Nev trusts Megan enough to tell her about personal aspects of his life. On the other
hand, Nev also trusts that Megan is telling him the truth about her life as well even though they
have not met. On Facebook, it is easy to want to believe everything you read or see on the social
networking site and you trust what other users post.
-The feeling of regret and embarrassment when Nev finds out that Angela made everything
up and Megan is not real. After Megan sends Nev another musicians recording, that she claimed
to be her own, he researches and finds out that Megan and Angela have been lying about who
they are and what they do. Nev cannot believe that he bought all of the lies.

The Domain: the collective goal that is strived for by the actors of the figured world
-Henry and Rel help Nev to figure out why he has been receiving false music, pictures
and talking to a girl that is not who she is portrayed to be. The three of them complete this task
by researching Megan, Angela, and Abby on the internet when they get the notion that they have
been lied to.
-The domain of Nev and Megan is to find love through a social networking site. Nev and
Megan are both attracted to each other and utilize Facebook as a way of communicating or
engaging in a relationship. It is easier to engage in a relationship on Facebook because you can
pretend to whoever you want to be, falsify certain details, and say things to another person that
might be difficult to say to their face. Also, Facebook is a good site for connecting people across
the country or world. For example, Nev lives in New York and Megan lives in Michigan and
Facebook is something they can use on their phone or computer wherever they are.

Community/Communities: a select group of people that share similar beliefs,
aspirations, and interaction styles
-Facebook is a community within the internet. Users of Facebook interact with each other
in certain ways that only occur on Facebook. For example, users like pictures, statuses, and
comments that their Facebook friends post. They also use a certain type of language, such as
made up words or using acronyms in order to abbreviate their words or phrases.

The Practices of the Community: certain actions taken by the actors of the figured
world as they try to improve on a certain procedure
-For most of the conversations on the phone and over the internet, Henry and Rel are with
Nev and help him research, discover, and realize that he has been believing nothing but lies that
Angela has been feeding him. Henry and Rel are Nevs support system because they care about
him and his romantic relationship with Megan. They want to help Nev uncover all of the lies and
face the woman who is responsible for the whole situation. Henry and Rel help Nev google
Abbys art studio, Megans songs that she claims to be her own, and other information about the
family that they all find to be untrue and made up. It is then that Nev decides to travel to
Michigan to confront the family about the lies.
-Facebook is a community and network on the internet. Facebook users have friends and
there is a shared timeline between a user and all of their friends. It has become a place where
users often times post a lot to too much of their personal information online. There are also users
on Facebook that are looking for love. These users are interacting with one another via Facebook
in order to engage in virtual relationships.

Observation One:
Catfish: The Movie
September 6, 2014 @ 8:30 pm
0:00-0:30 mins

-Nev is being filmed by Henry and Rel, his brother and friend. They are putting Nev in the
spotlight about making this movie about Abby. Nev seems shy and uncomfortable about being
filmed.
-The story of Nev begins to unfold about his unfortunate love affair that started over Facebook.
-One of Nevs photographs is posted in the local newspaper. Three months later, Nev receives a
painting of his picture in the mail signed Abby. Abby is 8 years old, a painter, and a huge fan
of Nev and his photography. Nev and Abby become friends on Facebook and she expresses her
interest in his pictures.
-Nev then begins to send Abby and her mom, Angela, pictures of Nev and photographs taken by
him. In return, Abby would paint his picture and Angela would send it to Nev along with other
gifts, such as t-shirts.
-Nev and Angela would talk on the phone briefly about sending and receiving packages from
each other, but never for a long period of time. Meanwhile, Abby was messaging Nev on
Facebook thanking him for the opportunity to paint his photographs, always signing Peace &
Love, Abby. Abby would tell Nev cute stories about her pet snake that died but she
optimistically saw the opportunity to own a mouse as a pet instead of it being food.
-Angela began to tell Nev that Abby had her own art studio in Michigan and she was selling her
artwork for up to $7,000 per painting. She exaggerated the truth about many other things as well,
however, Nev trusted her in the beginning and thought she sounded nice over the phone and
says, She seems awesome, well from Facebook.
-It then turns out that Angela has a daughter, Abbys half-sister, who is very pretty, talented, and
attracted to Nev and his kindness towards her sister. It all begins with the simple friend request
on Facebook and Nev and Megan are infatuated with each other. They talk on the phone, text,
send messages on Facebook, and even write letters. Nev tells her that her voice is not what he
expected at all.
-On Facebook, Megan is portrayed as a musician, dancer, vet, sings and is very pretty.
-Nev and Megan stalk each others pages and like profile pictures and statuses as a way to
interact with one another. Day by day, they start to become very close by talking, messaging,
flirting and exchanging very spicy messages. Nev grins from cheek to cheek when he talks to or
about her.
-Megan exaggerates her stories. For example, she tells Nev that she bought a house with a bunch
of horses and as a housewarming gift, her 8-year-old sister bought her a goat.
-Megan photoshops a picture of herself to put in a picture of Nev and titles it Someday.
-While Nev is out of state for work, he is messaging Megan on Facebook and asks her to cover a
song. Thirty minutes later, Megan sends him the link to what she claims was her singing. Nev,
Henry, and Rel all become very suspicious and curious and search the song on the internet. They
figured out that Megan took a song from another musician and falsely claimed it to be her own.
As Nev confronted Megan about it, she was quick to deny it and defend herself. This made Nev
question his whole situation with this family and whether or not his love affair with Megan
was real.

*Background I nformation: After Nevs movie was filmed and produced, he began to help
people with their own catfish stories on Facebook through a TV show series. I chose to observe
the movie in order to provide adequate background for why Nev helps others with similar
situations. The TV show series itself is about how Nev and Max, Nevs sidekick and on-screen
cameraman in the TV show, unfold the mysterious relationships and search for the underlying
causes of catfishing. For example, Nev would receive emails from catfish victims, gather
information about both of the persons involved and have them meet, and finally resolve the
catfish situation by having the two persons tell their side of the story. These next two
observations are real stories about real people who have found themselves in catfish situations
and have requested Nev and Maxs help.

Observation Two
Catfish: The TV Show (Season 3, Episode 9)
September 13, 2014 @ 1:00 pm
0:00-0:30 mins

-Jeff is a 26 year old navy sailor who is stationed in Florida. He wrote to Nev and Max with
hopes to meet a pretty, young nurse named Megan whom he met on Facebook. Jeff told Nev and
Max that dating in real life just doesnt work with his job.
-Megan is a registered nurse who lives in Texas.
-Jeff one day received a Facebook friend request from Megan and their romantic relationship
began from there. They have never met, never video chatted, but Jeff is considering moving his
life to Texas to be with Megan.
-They were both owners of Siberian huskies and Jeff loved that Megan was an animal lover and
they exchanged phone numbers and began talking and texting while still messaging on
Facebook.
-Their relationship consisted of phone calls, text messages, a Valentines Day gift (which
involved Megan giving a complete stranger her address), and even nude pictures.
-Meanwhile, Nev and Max finish each others sentences because they have become so close
from working together,
-Jeff wants to finally meet Megan, so Nev and Max investigate Megan using her Facebook
profile. They use her phone number, address, and pictures provided by Jeff and discover that
Megan is really Brandy from Texas.
-Max then goes to Texas to meet Brandy and the truth comes out about who she really is. Brandy
then admits that her job, pictures, and name were all falsely provided on her Megan profile. She
then begins to explain that she was in an abusive relationship and lost all of her self-esteem. By
creating the fake profile for Megan, she was able to get away from reality and be someone
other than herself.
-Jeff and Brandy both decide to move forward with their lives.

Observation Three
Catfish: The TV Show (Season 3, Episode 1)
September 14, 2014 @ 6:20 pm
0:00-0:36 mins

-Nev and Max receive a message from Craig who is 24 years old and lives in Pittsburgh,
Pennsylvania and has fallen in love with Zoe from Florida over Facebook. Craig wants to find
the truth behind the whole situation with Zoe.
-Craig and Zoe exchanged phone numbers over Facebook and began talking on the phone and
after a few months of talking, they exchanged I love you. These phone calls occurred every
day for over a year. They never video chatted and when Craig would ask her for pictures, she
would make him feel like he was asking for too much.
-Craig began to experience financial problems and Zoe was there to support and comfort him, so
he began to trust her and would essentially do anything for her. He didnt feel alone with her and
she gave him the love he was looking for but didnt get from his family and friends.
-They started talking about having a life together but every time Craig went to meet up with her,
she would stand him up. This frustrated Craig because he was being loyal to someone that he
didnt even know.
-When Max and Nev investigate Zoe on Facebook by linking her phone number, they discover
some really interesting information about Zoe, who is actually Cassandra from North Carolina.
-Zoe also manipulates and bullies her Facebook friends online by posting mean statuses and
personal and private pictures of them.
-Nev, Max, Craig, and his sister Mariah go to North Carolina to confront Cassandra. As they sit
down to talk, Cassandra apologizes for lying and tells everyone that she created a fake profile
and lied as a game or joke but it went too far.
-Cassandra also admitted that she tries to act tough as a front, but she suffers from self-esteem
issues, was bullied, and had thoughts about suicide.

Interview Questions and Response
Jessica Hawks
September 14, 2014 @ 12:31 pm

*Background I nformation: Jessica Hawks is a 17-year-old girl from High Point, NC and
previously my co-worker. She is an avid viewer of the show Catfish and has plenty of
background knowledge of the show. Besides being familiar with the show, I interviewed her
because at one point in her life she was in a relationship with a guy from New York whom shed
never met, but they found each other on Facebook.

1. Give some reasons why it may be easier to lie over the internet rather than in person.
-Over the internet, you have the ability to mold your life into whatever you want it to be
perceived as. You can alter details to the specific person you're talking to in order to make them
like you more, and they have no choice to believe whatever you say because they've never met
you so they have no conflicting information. There's countless sites/profiles that you can pull
information and pictures from in order to back up your story.

2. Do you believe that people who falsify their identity online live in a fantasy world? Also, do
you think they falsify details in their real life?
-I think so. Once you tell one lie, you have to go with it no matter what and at that point you can
get so involved in what you're saying that your fantasy becomes a reality to you and you start to
try to change who you are in order to suit this online persona that you've created, which in turn
can develop into telling small lies about yourself in reality, especially to people whom you've
just met.

3. Explain why you think Facebook has become a social media site where users look for love.
-Facebook has been a platform for communication for a while, so you can almost guarantee
you'll find someone who you'd define as "perfect", even if they're all the way across the country.

4. How can Facebook be problematic or unsafe due to the false information portrayed by users?
-You could be talking to someone who you feel is completely safe because of the life they've
shown or revealed to you, but behind their profile they could be dangerous. Not only could they
access information about you such as your phone number, address, town and friends but if you
trust this person enough to meet them in person they could take advantage of you in that
situation.

5. What common element do you think all Facebook users who are interested in romantic online
relationships possess?
-The desire to find someone who likes you for your personality. Most people who create profiles
have self-esteem issues or something that they're insecure about that they feel the need to
manipulate so that it's not a factor in their relationship with this person. They feel like this fake
person they've created is who they should really be and they want to prove to themselves that
that's enough for someone else to love.