Star of “Catfish” cautions Illinois students to be safe when online dating

By Daniel Corry

Years ago, Nev Schulman believed he was in a relationship with a 19-year-old woman. When the couple finally met in person, Schulman learned the person he had been talking to online was actually a 40-year-old  mother. 

Schulman was “catfished,” an experience that led him to create his own TV show and will be the topic of his lecture at the University Thursday.

A “catfish” is a person who uses social media to pretend they are someone else, particularly to spark romances, according to Schulman’s website.  Schulman’s show, “Catfish: The TV Show,” centers around people who seek to meet their loved ones in real life. Filming for the show began in November 2012.

The origin of Catfish comes from people transporting cod from Alaska to China, according to the website. To keep the cod moving and alive on the trip, fishermen would put catfish in the tanks with the cod to keep them nipping at the fins of the cod to keep them moving. These online impersonators serve as the catfish in people’s lives, always keeping people on their toes. 

When Schulman isn’t filming “Catfish”, he is also giving lectures, such as his Thursday appearance at the Illini Union. This event is one of many hosted by the Illini Union Board. The board is the largest programming board on campus and is completely student oriented, said Yuka Wada, director of enriching programs on the board. 

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    She said inviting Schulman to speak was “completely student demand.” She said the board thinks it’s important they listen to students and plan events that are always “a great fit for students.” 

    Wada also stressed the importance of “(taking) the opportunity of the free lecture and growing in their own minds.”

    Among 18 to 24-year-olds, one in four has online dated, and one in two has a “friend” who has online dated, according to the website. Wada said because students often attend events focused on their own major, she thought of this lecture as a way to find a “great ‘out of major’ friend group.”

    Yasmine Gordon, freshman, thinks Schulman talking about the changes in dating as well as the dangers of online dating is beneficial to students. 

    “It’s important that people are aware of what can happen in an online dating situation,” she said. “While there are always dangers, there is something good coming out of it. (The lecture) just teaches us to be cautious.”

    Maranda Jenkins, freshman, is also eagerly anticipating the lecture, if for nothing else, just to see the celebrity. 

    “I‘m  mostly just excited to see Nev in person,” Jenkins said. “I’ve been watching Catfish since the first season aired. It’s very nice that he learned from his experience and now he’s helping others.”

    In addition to Schulman’s personal experience to pull from, he also released his first full book titled “In Real Life: Love, Lies & Identity in the Digital Age” in September 2014. 

    The book covers what drives people to “catfish” others, why people fall for them, how people can avoid being fooled, guidelines for dating — both online and in-person — how to connect genuinely with other people over the web and how to turn an online relationship into a real-life relationship. 

    Schulman, along with his friend Max Joseph, are currently filming the fifth season of their MTV show “Catfish,” where they help others who have become caught up in possible fake online relationships. 

    Students can attend Shulman’s lecture at 7 p.m. Thursday in the I-Room of the Illini Union. Admission is free.

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