Catfishing is when someone creates a phony online account—and not necessarily to scam someone for financial gain. An article on vice.com tells all about a person who’s been catfishing for eight years.

She started in middle school by creating “Joey” on MySpace. She then commented, as “Joey,” on her real MySpace page to make herself appear that some cool kid named Joey thought she was pretty.

She got older and didn’t have friends. Don’t blame her for this. Her mother was an addict and father behind bars. She wanted friends, but years of abuse impaired her ability to integrate with people—as herself.

So she created more fake accounts, to create the self she wanted to be. She snatched photos of a cool-looking girl on MySpace and created an account for “Amanda Williams.” The common name would make detection of catfishing impossible.

Because Amanda’s photo was stunning and her account presented with confidence, many people began adding her and sending flattering messages and friend requests.

Our girl here spent loads of free time on social media, constructing Amanda’s life. (Can you see how it’s believable that many adults do this with Facebook? There’s even a site where you can hire a Photoshop specialist to alter and beautify your headshot for only five bucks, and shop you onto a galloping horse or a sailing boat.)

One day our girl, posing as Amanda, messaged a classmate that Amanda liked her, figuring that this would get out and make the other kids think she was cool if Amanda liked her.

But she got busted because it was discovered that Amanda’s phone number was the same as hers.

Then she was hooked on catfishing, and this awful experience only taught her to be more cunning. So she created a new account—with the same photos used for Amanda Williams (not a bright idea), but she blocked her classmates.

After ninth grade, she was transferred to a vocational school due to bullying. All free time was spent on social media doing you-know-what.

More clever this time, she gradually added about 150 “filler friends” to make the account look legitimate, then began adding desired friends. She’d steal photos from Facebook and then block that person’s friends to avoid getting busted.

She then created subaccounts to add to the authenticity. This was done by taking Instagram videos and posting to Facebook. She used Photoshop to fake the “proof” signs.

The phony Amanda Williams account, studded with stolen photos, backstories and fake friends, made our unfortunate girl feel validated. But to her, the fake friends of Amanda Williams were real enough to “speak” to. Those made-up friends cared about her. They were more real to her than people in real life who didn’t care.

She even managed to lasso a cyber relationship through Amanda Williams, but her conscience won out and she fessed to the young man the truth. He vanished after that. But it haunts her because she wonders if she could have accomplished this without Amanda.

She admits to being addicted to catfishing for attention, which has prevented her from working on relationships with real people in person. She’s created more than 20 fake accounts thus far, excluding the subaccounts, which perhaps total 200. But she claims all of this has been therapeutic, though at the same time, heartbreaking.

Today she’s 21 and still friendless in real life. She’s never been employed. But she admits to how wasteful this addiction has been. She hardly leaves the house due to social anxiety; her reality is inside her computer.

She’s in therapy, though, and only one of the fake accounts is active. She can’t part with it. “My existence hinges on this fake account,” she says in the vice.com article. She raised Amanda as her child, giving her new hairstyles, even. Amanda grew up, but her creator is still crippled inside a cocoon.

Robert Siciliano is an identity theft expert to BestIDTheftCompanys.com discussing identity theft prevention.

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