|Bob and Dick were excited about the big catfish their friend Steve caught using only his hands, but sorry that it swallowed him in the process.|
Now, to a boy from Georgia, cat fishing used to mean going out to the river where the big ones lie in wait with your pole and can of worms and trying to catch one of those big whiskered fish to take home to fry up and eat. Not that I actually ever did this. My fishing expeditions were few and far between, and when I did manage to catch something, it was usually a perch or bluegill. There was more to eat off a jumbo shrimp.
I’ve also seen shows about guys with some skill and less sense who catch catfish by hand. This process is called noodling, and it involves sticking one’s arm and hand into an underwater hole where the catfish hangs out. When the fist tried to escape, it usually clamps onto the noodler’s hand, who quickly grabs the cat by a gill and hauls it out of the water. That is, if a snapping turtle or poisonous snake is not living in the hole formerly occupied by the catfish. Other outcomes follow from this scenario, including but not limited to the loss of fingers and death. I think I had an uncle who noodled for catfish, though I’m not sure. We called him “Seven-Finger Bob” after he disturbed a snapping turtle. (I made that up because deception is related to the theme of this post. Trust me.)
But I’m not here to talk about that kind of cat fishing. I found out just the other day about another kind which involves the mighty river of the internet. And deception. Lots of deception. According to the online Urban Dictionary ( http://www.urbandictionary.com), a “catfish” is “someone who pretends to be someone they’re not using Facebook or other social media to create false identities, particularly to pursue deceptive online romances.” “To catfish” is to fool someone using the internet by creating a false identity.
All this came up after the revelation that Notre Dame football player Manti T’eo was hoodwinked into thinking that a non-existent young woman was his girlfriend. It’s more complicated than it sounds (for more of the story, go to http://abcnews.go.com/US/notre-dame-football-star-manti-teo-dead-girlfriend/story?id=18232374 ), so it’s about more than a delusional young man creating an ideal relationship. Officials at Notre Dame believe he was the victim of a cruel hoax, and I suppose there are some things to be learned from this.
One is that online relationships are not real relationships. I’ve had the experience of “getting to know” people in our local writers’ group on Facebook, but I’ve always wanted to meet them in person, although months might elapse before we do so. A second learning is, not everything on the internet is true. (Notice the number of times I steered readers to the web in this post. Uh, yeah, I did.) We still have to check out what appears to be true. When I was teaching, we told students to not believe everything they read. That advice still holds true, perhaps even more today. And, third, the human heart, while capable of much that is good–love, respect, caring, sacrifice–also may be a place of darkness.
Be careful out there. Every fish swimming in the sea ain’t necessarily a cat fish.