When something seems to good to be true, it usually is. That counts double when it comes to things on the internet — especially boyfriends and girlfriends.
And there’s a podcast about that phenomenon I used to think was silly until I realized it could help teach my daughter to be skeptical.
This 45-minute show follows the same predictable format each week: Someone writes in that their friend, sister, brother, etc. is in love with someone they’ve only known over the internet: Is this person real, or a catfish (that’s the word for fake person on the internet)?
The show interviews the concerned friend and the lovesick target, then tries to get to the person he or she is in love with and figure out who they really are. There’s usually a confrontation with tears or shouting when the truth comes out. Then the show’s hosts calls the people involved a few months later to see if they’ve worked things out or gone their separate ways.
Here’s an example.
Brandi: I’m in love with Kendall, and we’re planning on getting married, but we’ve been talking for 2 years now and haven’t met yet. Each time we have plans to see each other, something comes up – he had to work late, or his truck broke down, or his mama got sick.
Host: You’re going to get married but never met? Do you two talk on the phone or just text?
Brandi: Well, he don’t like to talk. He says he lost his phone or something. We just text and send pictures.
Host to co-host: Hmm, Kendall doesn’t want to talk? That sounds suspicious. If a person is real, they talk on the phone.
They show pictures of this Kendall on the screen: young and buff, dressed like a California model. Host to co-host: And he says he’s a truck driver? Truck drivers don’t usually look like that.
Host to Brandi: What are some of the things that draw you to Kendall?
Brandi: He just makes me feel so special. He listens to me and really gets me, and my boyfriend never really did. Like when my father got sick, and Kendall sent me this message: “I just want to cuddle you.”
Host to co-host: Hmm. That doesn’t sound like a man. Men don’t talk so much about cuddling.
Enter Shelby, Brandi’s best friend: Brandi’s been talking to him for 2 years and I follow him on his Instagram too just to see what he’s like and make sure he’s treating my best friend right.
After a commercial break, the host does some investigating. First, he does an image search on this mysterious Kendall’s profile picture.
Host to co-host: Whoa! Here’s his picture – for a Facebook account for someone named Michael in Podunk, Wisconsin! Let’s text Michael and ask him if this is his picture and he also goes by the name Kendall and is talking with a girl named Brandi.
Michael: What? No, I don’t know anyone named Brandi. I live in Podunk, Wisconsin.
The host gets Michael to send a video of himself saying that, then shows it to Brandi. Brandi is crushed.
Brandi: What? That’s Kendall, but it’s not Kendall! Oh my gosh, if that’s not Kendall, who have I been talking with for all this time?
Shelby, shaking head: Giiiiirl, that’s bad.
Next, the host does a reverse phone number search on the phone number Brandi’s been using to text this so-called Kendall. He finds a name – “That says it’s registered to Jonathan, in the same city as Shelby!”
The host calls Jonathan: Hey man. We have this phone number for you but it’s used by a man named Kendall to communicate with someone named Brandi. Can you help us get in touch with Kendall?
Jonathan: Oh yeah. Brandi is my sister Shelby’s best friend. I know her.
Host: We’re trying to get to the bottom of this. Who is this Kendall who says he’s going to marry Brandi?
Jonathan: Uh – hey man, I’ve got to go to work. I’ll talk to ya later.
Host: But we just need a minute of your –
Brandi: What? That’s JONATHAN’s number? What is going ON? Where’s Kendall?
A little more investigating goes on, and then a commercial break.
Then it’s time for the confrontation. The host gets Brandi, Shelby and Kendall to agree to meet at a coffee shop.
After some clever wording from the host (“Brandi, we just want to help you get to the bottom of this so you can do what’s right for your life with self-respect and a clear heart;” “Shelby, we know you care about Brandi and just want what’s best for her in the end”), the truth comes out.
It’s one of these scenarios:
- It was Shelby posing as the fake man. “WHAT? says Brandi. “THIS is so messed UP! Why would you DO that to me?” “Because you always take all my guys – they always end up liking you better because you’re prettier and I wanted to get you back.”
- It was Jonathan: “Brandi, I’ve been in love with you all along, but when I asked you out you would never go with me. It was the only way you would pay me any attention.”
- It was Brandi’s boyfriend, who Brandi actually broke up with 6 months ago because he didn’t match up to Kendall: “Brandi, I just started out testing you with a fake profile, because I wanted to be sure you would stay true to me, but I couldn’t stop because your texts were so much nicer than the way you treat me in real life.”
- It was actually a real Kendall, who steps out from behind a potted palm to reveal himself. He’s not nearly as good looking as the pictures he got off the internet and used. “Brandi, you didn’t pay me any mind that time I met you when I was hanging out with Jonathan, so this was the only way I could figure out to talk with you.”
Brandi is in shock.
Then the show fast-forwards to 2 months later, when the host talks with Brandi for an update. It’s either “Brandi and (whoever) have worked out their issues, and now they are proceeding cautiously, with a newfound respect for each other and their feelings” or “Brandi has realized the value of her own self-worth, and now she is focused on Brandi time, and she’s no longer looking to find her value in a man.”
And that’s not only a show, but a reflection of what really goes on in the world today. So I leave it to the Brandis and the Kendalls and the Shelbys of that show to teach my daughter, more dramatically and foolishly than I would be able to do, the lessons behind my standard, predictable “Don’t believe what you see on the internet” mom-lectures.
Holly Kozelsky is a writer for the Martinsville Bulletin; contact her at 276-638-8801 ext. 2430 and email@example.com.