Zishan’s Long Response to Catfish

The 2010 documentary film Catfish, directed by Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost, depict the life of Nev, a young man from New York City. Both directors hold a close relationship with Nev (Ariel being his brother and Henry a close friend). The documentary starts off with Nev receiving a painting from eight year-old Abby, a young girl with a lot of artistic talent. Even though I didn’t quite understand why she sent him the painting and how their relationship began, Abby begins sending paintings of various things to Nev all the way from Ishpeming, Michigan. They become friends on Facebook and very soon he’s Facebook friends with Abby’s mother Angela and her half-sister Megan. The friendship quickly becomes stronger between Meg and Nev after he receives a painting made by Meg of Nev’s Facebook profile picture. He says she has “the biggest crush on me” and without much delay they begin chatting online all the time. Up till this point, Nev has never talked to Abby, Meg and has talked twice with Angela over the phone. Meg begins sending songs to Nev that she claims to have sang herself and things continue to sail smooth. After some time, however, Nev finds out that the songs that Meg has been “singing” for him aren’t sung by her, but actually are songs from the Internet. It’s at this point that Nev’s feelings are hurt and he wants to back out of the whole relationship he has with Meg, however, his friend and brother convince him to continue the relationship for the sake of the documentary and since it’s only the “tip of the iceberg”. They continue to investigate and find out a few more lies (I can’t recall all of them at the moment). With the help of Google, they locate and contact the owner of Abby’s gallery where they sell Abby’s art from. They find out from the gallery’s owner that the gallery is vacant and has been for four years! With too many blank spots and a lot of curiosity, Nev and the guys decide to travel to Michigan and pop-up in front of Meg’s house uninvited. Upon arrival to Michigan, the crew decides to visit Meg’s farm where she supposedly lives to see if it’s true. The farm is empty and Meg is not home. The next day, they drive to Abby’s house to meet Angela and the young artist. After a slight delay with Nev knocking on the door, Angela opens the door with her husband Vince behind her. Angela lives there with Vince and his two mentally handicapped sons.They meet and Nev asks to meet Abby. They then have to drive to another place to meet Abby. By talking to Abby, Nev understands that Abby isn’t actually the artist she’s supposed to be and she has no idea where Meg lives and doesn’t even know what she looks like! They tell Nev Meg isn’t around, that she has a drinking problem and is currently in rehab… Finally, at the near end of the film, at Nev’s request, Angela tells her the truth. Angela herself is “Meg” and the artist, the talented painter whose art Nev has been receiving. The Facebook profiles are all fake, created by Angela to authenticate her lies. And the pictures of “Meg” are of their family friend’s who is a professional model…

From watching Catfish, I learned something new that I couldn’t even have imagined before. Without real-life interaction with people/society, we could become miserable with our lives. And that was the case with Angela. Living in rural Ishpeming, Michigan, with her not-so-smart husband and two mentally unstable kids, she must have had a lot to cope with. With that being said, it is not a justification for her crimes, but it is the source of her pain. Social media is a tool, as┬áJohn Cacioppo┬ásaid in Stephen Marche’s article “Is Facebook Making us Lonely?”; it could be beneficial or harmful depending on how that tool is utilized. Angela curated an exhibition of herself in a very efficient and sadly truthful manner. She created approximately 15 Facebook profiles, each a form of backup for her vast lie. She claims them to be “fragments of her”, pieces of reality she wished she was/had. However, I think this video is a clear and literal way to understand the complicated ideas of “ersatz intimacy” and “curating the exhibition of the self”. By this I mean that in the film, Meg’s relationship with Nev is artificial. Meg doesn’t even exist yet Nev is in a relationship with her! This raises a very interesting question of weather true emotion could exist between a person and someone who doesn’t even exist. I believe that it cannot, or can for an extremely brief moment. I for one need to meet a person in person to be able to judge them and feel comfortable in engaging in any emotional connection with them. The next point of curating an exhibition of the self is also represented clearly by Angela and her life on Facebook. She has a beautiful woman as her Facebook’s profile picture (a lady she obviously looks nothing┬álike). In reality, I like to think of curating the exhibition of the self as putting up your best pictures, cropping out anything unwanted, portraying one as perfect as possible. In conclusion, I feel sympathetic for Angela and all the people in this world, especially Americans, who find happiness/their true selves over the Internet. Communication has no value today because it isn’t “required” anymore, we have everything we need over the web. I really get amused by the ads in the trains that say “such-and-such is just a click away and it has never been this easy”. Sure this is an amazing form of technology and we are evolving like never before but that shouldn’t make us lose value for the things we had. We shouldn’t forget the true values life brings for us and with that in mind, utilize technology as efficiently as necessary.

P.S. Sorry for writing so much… =)

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