Catfishing (the colloquial term given to somebody using a false identity online) has been around for as long as I can remember. From emails telling me there are "hot Russian girls in my area dying to meet me" to Instagram comments telling me..... There are "hot Asian girls in my area dying to meet me". (Funny how I've never noticed them dying to meet me when I've been out and about). As much as I think I'm a pretty street-wise person, I was "catfished" too once upon a time.
It was 2012 and I'd just gone through a horrible breakup. Drinking rum straight from the bottle and listening to "Nothing Compares 2 U" on repeat wasn't really getting me out of the post-breakup hole as much as I'd hoped. Naturally my friends were amazing at telling me it was "her loss" and there are "plenty of fish in the sea" but all I really needed was a good old-fashioned ego boost.
With this in mind, a friend had mentioned something about a dating app called "Badoo". I told him I really wasn't into the whole dating app thing with the stigma of only desperate people and weirdos using them. But, he insisted, hijacking my phone and downloading it in front me. That was it - I was officially a dating app user.
It started with a real hiss and a roar. Message after message arrived and as much as I wasn't ready to date anybody, it felt really good that all these women found me attractive. So, naturally I started to reply to a few of them with one in particular taking my fancy. She was gorgeous and had a great sense of humour, what more could you want, right? We chatted on and off for a few days when finally I suggested we meet (heaven forbid). She kept sidestepping the issue before finally admitting to the fact that "she" was actually a "he". The scarf covering the Adam's Apple in a heavily filtered photo should have been a dead giveaway. I didn't want to know why he "catfished" me, I just blocked him, deleted the app and moved on by having a cold shower in the foetal position whilst watching the Crying Game.
So, I find myself single again. Still not a massive fan of dating apps, but the stigma of only desperate people and weirdos using them is gone. The landscape has certainly changed with the likes Tinder, Bumble and Badoo leading the way in such a competitive market that there's a lot more choice. Security is also one of the big priorities for both the apps and users alike. As someone who'd been catfished in the past, it was definitely one of mine too.
I decide to give Badoo another go, if anything just to see how much it's changed over the past 4 years. I'm really apprehensive as I type "Badoo" into the search bar wondering what the hell I'm getting myself in for. Naturally it's changed extensively. No longer can I just enter any random photo and an email address. I find myself going through the "Badoo Photo Verification" process where my account is given a once-over in order chat to other verified users. The whole process revolves around me sending a selfie in a unique pose that is then controlled by 1 of 5000 moderators from around the world (so an actual person). That whole process took less than a minute and made me feel a lot more at ease after the whole catfishing incident of 4 years earlier. I started chatting to people with a lot more confidence than expected and was pleasantly surprised that dating apps are taking massive strides in eradicating catfish.
So where to now? I did notice that Badoo had already incorporated videos into people's profiles too which I guess is where the dating app world's heading. That's great, but I guess there are always going to be those who try to abuse the system and people's good will. My advice is to keep your wits about you, flag it up to the app if you have any concerns and if she does end up having an "Adam's Apple" it's probably not going to end well.