Feb 28, 2013

Gone Fishing

#MTV approaches Linden Lab for #SecondLife inclusion in the show Catfish



Catfish Logo



Catfish: noun

Someone who pretends to be someone they're not online to create false identities, particularly to pursue deceptive online romances.




What the Fresh Hell?


In a recent Linden Lab announcement, the following source of insanity burned the retinas of my eyes and cause kittens worldwide to spontaneously implode in a show of glittery contempt:



"MTV’s Catfish is Seeking Second Life Stories

by Community Manager Linden Lab on ‎02-26-2013 10:49 AM


MTV’s Catfish: The TV Show brings together couples that have online relationships to meet offline for the first time, often with surprising results as the differences between online personas and offline lives are revealed. MTV is now casting the show’s second season, and they’re interested in hearing from Second Life users who have fallen in love inworld, and would now like to meet their love in person. If you’d be interested in being on the show, you can apply online here."


It would seem that the circus has come to town, and the ringmaster (MTV) is looking for Second Life residents who would like to participate in the show Catfish for Season 2. In and out of SL dating myself, I’ve heard that term over and again “Catfish” to describe people in online or long distance relationships who build a false persona in order to invariably hook people into a romantic relationship.



Here…. fishy fishy fishy fishy fishy….



I’m no stranger to the term or to people pulling this, but I’m usually on the cynical side of things looking to tear those safe-harbor identities to shreds. I’m kinda a bastard like that in the long run, despite my outward appearance…


After all, in Second Life we can, and more often than not do, play characters and hide behind that digital mask for safety. I’m not entirely sure if that sort of safe harbor is warranted or deserved, because it’s all about context in the end. I really have no issue with people in Second Life for roleplay purposes, to explore identity or alternative situations of being which they otherwise couldn’t in real life. But the moment you’re dealing realistically with another person’s emotions you are inherently having a real world effect on them, your reasoning about keeping SL and RL separate go right out the window. You no longer deserve to have identity safe harbor.


If you value even keeping a friendship with somebody, you owe it to them to be honest. Either in disclosing that you’re playing an identity which is not who you are or in coming clean entirely and letting the mask down. Other people deserve to make the decision for themselves whether they feel they want to continue being involved with you as you choose to represent yourself. Otherwise you’re just acting too chicken-shit to face the consequences of your actions, digging yourself a deeper hole and the consequence will be worse over time.



Rainy Days


rainyday superstar

Not to be confused with Rainyday Superstar. Even though she’s 100% Super Awesome.



Even if you’re setting those boundaries in advance, and both parties are in agreement, emotion takes a toll on real life whether we like to admit it or not. But in the half-honest scenario of mutually agreeing to lie to each other, as strange as that sounds, I at least see where people shouldn’t (but likely often do) get hung up with real consequence and emotion. I’m not so polarized as to insist everyone needs to be completely honest and themselves at all times. It’s really about the context of interaction which dictates what is appropriate.


It’s when none of that exists up front, and you’re giving no indication of lying, but instead insisting you are being honest, that I have a problem with. You’re leading others into your persona and having a real life effect on their emotions – knowing full well you’re outright being selfish at the expense of others. That’s what Catfish is about, and a show from MTV isn’t to blame for making your actions look bad.


Whether we want to admit it or not, we’re having a real world effect on people and our refusal to respect that simply makes us shallow and selfish. I care no more about offending those people than they do in jerking others around and lying to them. I suppose that’s a big reason why I choose to be 100% myself in Second Life and not hide who I am. It’s less about me and more about having the empathetic consideration for my effect on others who get to know me.


I respect others enough to let them make an honest decision about their involvement with me on any level – whether that be an acquaintance, friends or more. And yes, even if that means people choose not to associate with me at all – I give them the honest chance to decide that for themselves. Taking that away from them shows absolutely no consideration for anyone but myself, and that’s just wrong.


There is, of course, some amount of mini-ranting going on about all of this. Bryn Oh (bless her petite twisted heart) chimed in on her blog talking about how MTV would play the part of Jerry Springer, only looking for the drama and to incite it, even going so far as to suggest creative editing and selective memory in episodes to make a story that didn’t happen but looks great for television drama.




SL Secret

As if this isn’t considered an every day normality in Second Life to begin with.



I’ve seen some of the show before on MTV and to my knowledge, the people behind it are a lot more sincere than you would expect. After all, they seem to really want things to work out well for people and are just as dismayed that they do not more often than should.


I think this says a lot more about our behavior in the online world than about MTV. If there wasn’t ample amount of drama and deceit in Second Life, and it wasn’t an everyday occurrence for people to have ten and twenty ALTs and fifteen partners and be married in Real Life… do you think MTV would consider Second Life a viable pool of material for a show like Catfish?


All a show like Catfish is doing is exploring the premise of distance relationships in the online world, and facilitating the initial first meet-up, with probably some help in resolution for better or worse. The people behind it, while they know drama is good business, are also keen to admit that they’d like to see happy endings more than not. In the context of television and MTV, maybe they do lean heavily on creating drama and scenarios… but that’s business.


If television programming is business, and drama is good television, then by default drama is good business.



Sunny Days


Sunny day

Not to be confu – We need some rehab if we’re confusing this with anything sane.



Setting aside the accusations of MTV making shit up for good television, because it probably happens a lot anyway, let’s look at the bigger picture. The underlying root of all of this is that there is more than ample amounts of Catfish and Drama in Second Life for this show. If anyone is delusional enough to pitch a fit about that declaration of inarguable truth, they deserve to be flatly bitch-slapped into the next region.


Really, this isn’t a sudden realization that a lot of people are about to be publicly humiliated on MTV for being lying sons-of-bitches and jerking people around in SL (because they deserve it), but more importantly -


If you don’t want to look bad, then simply stop acting bad.


Novel concept, I know… You mean to say that if MTV goes looking for the drama and bullshit in SL and the couples that apply for the show are more likely honest and overjoyed at meeting each other in real life, instead of uncovering dirt-bag guys and manipulative women, the stigma of Second Life would change for the better?


Well, duh.


Captain ObviousI always hear about the media giving SL a bad name and saying it’s all about sex and bullshit, and all sorts of perversion… and people in Second Life just going on ad-nauseum about how it’s all the big media’s fault for making them look bad.


That’s absolute bullshit and you know it.


It’s a lot like a bunch of kids throwing temper tantrums and wrecking the place, but having the audacity to blame the parents for pointing out that they’re having temper tantrums and wrecking the place.




“Well the rest of the store wouldn’t think we’re horrible children if you stopped pointing out that we’re acting out of control!”


Some of the worst human behavioral qualities are manifest in Second Life, and dramatically amplified because of that feeling of identity safe-harbor. If you think you can get away with anything without consequence, apparently Second Life is a prime example of just how many people would take you up on that offer.


All the things society would think are morally reprehensible? Yep, it’s an everyday occurrence in Second Life. MTV didn’t make that happen, and it’s not the media’s fault for making you look bad. Nobody is really throwing a fit about MTV or Second Life looking bad to the world, and that’s something we need to understand. What people are really having a fit about is that there is a possibility that their safe-harbor identity in Second Life has a very real possibility of coming back to bite them in the ass.


You no longer have a guarantee that your actions have no real consequences.


That’s what people are flipping shit about… and it’s still just a selfish reaction. Cry me a river… you’ve acted badly to another person, lied through your teeth and treated another human being like they are disposable, all because you thought you would never have to pay the piper for it.


I sincerely hope you get busted red handed and shown for the person you really are. That’s what you deserve.


So for a moment, you might want to seriously think about the person you’ve been falsely romancing for months, and even a few years. Now is a good time to ask yourself – “Have my lies done such a good job of convincing them that they are going to bring MTV over to my house?” – Oh yes, it’s a possibility… and that’s what freaks people out the most. The very real possibility that their actions will come back to bite them in the ass in a public manner. Which, for all intents and purposes, may as well be the biggest fear of a majority of SL users. Because in real life, you can’t just make an ALT to escape it.


But there is a bright side to all of this – drama, lies, and bad behavior aside. Just as much as MTV will capitalize on your bad behavior which is running rampant in Second Life, and likely show just how insanely fucked up you all are to the world, there is a bright side to be discussed… a golden opportunity if you’re willing to take it.



Bad Press | Good Press




In hindsight, we went on to continue having an awesome night ;)



Most are immediately assuming that Linden Lab is being brave for exploring the notion that there is no such thing as bad press. That somehow Linden Lab is betting on capitalizing your drama for publicity.


Ok, let’s explore that a bit. Maybe they are, and that’s how they are looking at it. But Linden Lab isn’t in control of the community dynamics which produce that drama and bullshit.


You are.


Ergo, wouldn’t it be awesome if you were responsible for sabotaging the drama expectation and instead (as a community) showing the world that this is better than they expected? Linden Lab and MTV are likely betting on the drama factor, but what if a majority of the relationships in Season 2 of Catfish stemming from Second Life showed happy couples that were overjoyed for meeting in real life?


What if a majority of the relationships stemming from Second Life on Catfish turned out to be honest and good instead of the expectation of lying, cheating, etc?


Linden Lab wins either way, and so does MTV. The only real losers in this situation are you and the community if you can’t get your shit together and present a better Second Life to the world.


Think about it… if Catfish comes out with Season 2 and it involves a ton of lying, cheating, manipulative people treating SL like a total adult playground without consequences, then that will attract more of that to Second Life, won’t it? You’re giving the green light and impression that Second Life is a veritable Sodom and Gomorrah with absolutely no consequence.



Bunny Ranch Nevada

As if escorts, prostitution and extreme kinks aren’t the “norm” in Second Life.



Maybe… just maybe… Linden Lab is looking at it like if they bring in MTV to start busting people in the real world for the bad stigma they’re giving their community and flagship product, maybe you’ll tone it the hell down and start acting a bit less morally reprehensible or (at the very least) quit flaunting it and ruining the overall community reputation in the rest of the world?


I dunno about you, but the thought of MTV coming in and randomly busting people for being Catfish, and the real world ramifications that will have on people who previously thought they were untouchable… I’d be more worried about saving my own ass than anything. That’s the sort of thing that should (in theory) be enough to put a healthy fear of CeilingCat in you.


But the realization about all of this is that it won’t.


It’ll be good drama, people are going to get hurt, and there’s nobody to blame but yourselves. Only you can decide whether this is going to be a train wreck for the world to see or whether that train gets to the station untouched.


After all, I’m a bit of an optimist. I’d very much like to see you break the stigma and expectation of failure and drama… but I bet it’ll be great television even when you fall flat on your faces.


jewlie & san 2I know my friend Jewlie and San both met in Second Life a few years ago. They partnered, and did a long distance relationship. After a few years, they are now engaged to be married in real life. Nobody turned out to be already married, or lying about anything. They had (and have) a loving and committed relationship that didn’t disintegrate the moment they met face to face.


After about two years together in SL and RL in a distance relationship, he proposed and she said yes.


Therein is an example of some of the best human qualities which manifest from Second Life, and an example of an honest and long term relationship should be like. Using Second Life as an identity safe-harbor to lie to people just to get into a relationship is never a good idea and almost always… and I mean always, ends badly.


As BotGirl said in a recent post:



The common thread in every episode is that someone feels they have to project a false image of themselves to initiate a relationship. As authentic human connection deepens over months or years, they become trapped by the initial lie, fearing that disclosure might end what has evolved into an important friendship. They agree to reveal their identity as a latch ditch attempt to salvage the relationship, or at least get closure. Although there was only one fairy tale ending, most participants used the show to move forward with their lives. None of them planned to try another online relationship.



I think that is pretty spot on, but I’m sad about the last line where nobody planned to try another online relationship. That says a lot about negative expectation…


Sure we’re going to meet a lot of dishonest people, but wouldn’t it be worth it if you found just one that was honest and it worked out? Equivalent to shoveling a mountain of coal to find your diamond. Ultimately, a true friend would be honest – even if it’s going to hurt.


Give MTV stories that show the best qualities and not the worst, and you’ll bring Good Press to the community of Second Life. Otherwise… I await the train wrecks.


If you think your relationship has what it takes, then why not sign up for Catfish. I wish you all the best of luck… you’re going to need it.




  1. In a world with no police, hitmen or priests, the veneer of civilization is pixel deep.

  2. You know I've got nothin' but love for you <3 Great read!

    1. =^-^= Thanks, Rainyday! Glad you enjoyed it, and also spared some extra luvin.