Chronicles of a Catfish: You Got Got!

Up until Nev and Max hit the MTV scene, a catfish was simply a creature of the sea. Today, a catfish is a creature of the web, who creates a deceptive online “sock puppet” identity. The underlying reasons behind cat fishing may vary, but regardless of the scenario, the red flags remain the same.

Yesterday, between my day of working in the field of social media, and studying the world of social media psychology at the doctoral level, I was baited by a catfish. It’s amusing, and a bit insulting to think that I would appear foolish enough to get got by such an obvious facade— but hey, kudos for trying. With a bit of awareness, analysis, and basic knowledge of social media patterns, it is actually quite easy to not only spot a catfish, but to reveal their true identity…

Reverse Google Image Search

If you’re curious if someone’s selfie is in fact of them self, then turn to the ol’ google reverse image search. To check the accurateness of this tool, first, I uploaded a photo of myself.

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Since that photo has been associated with my blog Out There Social, Google was able to pull the term socialite from a face recognition (creepy, huh?). But know what’s even creepier… when a random stranger’s identity has been used for not one. Not two. But a multitude of online accounts! tumblr_inline_oo4c4viVx41qze00y_1280-1.jpg

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Lesson learned: If you haven’t googled your face yet, have a go at it. You never know who is hiding behind your selfie.

Overeagerness

This catfish could have simply slid under the radar if it weren’t for being such an overeager beaver. Now, it’s not uncommon for a new follower to scroll through and like a magnitude of photos. However, when hours pass between the initial add and the liking binge, a red flag is raised.

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Easy killa, I know my photos are great and all, but something’s up.

Dig a Little Deeper

It almost seems silly to call this “digging a little deeper”, because with basic knowledge of social media, this next step is quite obvious. When was the account created? Oh, the first photo was posted 3 days ago… that’s totally not suspicious. Please note my sarcasm. 80 likes on your first photo posted, with no hashtags? Do they come from accounts with names like ~^ مبآرك الـ فطيم ^~ ? Seems legit. How many followers does the account have? 310.. in 3 days? More power to ya! As someone who is no stranger to the “fake follower” game, they’re quite easy to spot. Are they beneficial fillers to create an influential social media page? In moderation and with reason, sure. But an unbalanced ratio (general rule of thumb, any more than 5% is too much) you’re fake af.

It goes down in the DM

This goes hand in hand with overeagerness. Not all catfishes are created equal. Some anonymous accounts are created with their purposes right out in the open.

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A big reason that catfishes invent themselves is as way to get nude photos. I guess these fish have never heard of pornhub? In any event, the thrill of getting photos from someone you know under an anonymous facade, whether it is an alternative identity or a “send pics for shoutouts” type page, may be their motivating factor. And the thing that keeps them going, is that people actually get baited.. hook, line & sinker.

Will the real (insert catfish here), please stand up?

Now, you may be wondering if there’s a way to catch your catfish before they catch you. Sure, with the help of Max, Nev, and MTV it’s been done over and over again. However, Instagram has developed some handy new algorithms that allow you to be your own detective, with little to no effort. Did you know, that when scrolling though the list of people an Instagram account follows, the ones that are connected to you by some degree are the ones that appear first? Then! Instagram also installed this handy feature that when you click on an account that you’re not following, it says “followed by ___”, naming your friends that follow that person. You know, I’m still pretty upset with Instagram for getting rid of their maps, but they sure have given us some safeguards to protect ourselves against the sneaky catfish of the world.

The most important practice behind scientific theory: patterns. When the same name keeps popping up over and over and over again… it’s safe to say you’ve found your culprit. Science, bitch.

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A note to my catfish

Don’t worry, your secret is safe with me. I’m not sure what the reason is behind this new identity of yours, but if it makes you happy, then rock on dude. Just know, I’m not one to get got. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, I’ll write a blog about it.

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I’m Not Done Yet. From Finstas to Finding Yourself

 

“Protopia is a state of becoming, rather than a destination.” – Kevin Kelly, The Inevitable. 

As I flip through my copy of “The Inevitable”, my mind wanders to the corners of its own protopia. Kevin Kelly describes it as a state that is better today than yesterday, although it may just be by a little bit. A Protopia is the realistic future we should be striving towards. It’s the unavoidable tomorrow that will arrive come sunrise…

As a working member of this technological society, I know first hand that we are morphing. We’re growing, expanding, and changing, every. damn. day.

You may be reading this and thinking, “duh.” We’re not static beings, but instead are multi-faceted humans with the capability to learn and morph with our environment… This is universally understood. However, how often do you stop and think about how our technological presence plays a part in all of this?

Maybe you’re one of those naysayers who believes that social media is the devil. Maybe you’re a child of the 00′s, who doesn’t know life without an online identity. Wherever you fall on this spectrum, we can all agree on one thing: the internet isn’t going anywhere. So, let’s come together & brainstorm ways to use these intertwined virtual networks to create a very real protopia.

Create

Unless you live under a rock, it is likely that you are a member of at least one social network. Whether its Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, or a blog platform like Tumblr- you have created a virtual portrayal of real life you. I had an interesting conversation with my 17 year old sister yesterday about this topic. She was talking about how important “aesthetic” has become, and the great lengths her peers will go through to completely scrap an old look to become something new. “Finstas” are being created, and for all y’all who aren’t in high school, these are fake instagram accounts used to post photos that you only want your close friends seeing. It’s not even a matter of these posts being nasty or offensive, these are typically just photos that don’t go with the users “real” insta aesthetic.

The question then becomes, what is real? 

If you scroll all the way down to my very first Instagram post, I’m still the same ol’ Lauren I am today. Just younger, and strapped with an iPhone 4. The core of a social media identity is to represent who you are, but in a virtual world. This is sort of a crazy concept to wrap your head around, so it does not come as a surprise to me that we’re running rapid with finstas and gym posts, when we haven’t once lifted a weight IRL.

On or offline, there is a (not so) simple solution to this: self awareness. 

How do you define yourself? How would you describe yourself to others?

When I was in 6th grade, I shopped at Hot Topic and listened to Good Charlotte. In 7th grade, I had a change of heart and style, and started shopping at PacSun. The middle school years are when you’re searching for your identity. Trying on different masks, seeing which one fits. If I had an Instagram back then, do you know how many punk rock princess posts I’d have to delete before setting foot in PacSun…

It is concerning to me that kids have to go through this process of finding and creating themselves with a smartphone permanently attached to their hip. Social media has become a window to the world, and rather than developing their own identities, we’re clinging to the identities of others. Everyone wants contoured skin, a million followers, and an A1 aesthetic… but are losing touch with their own reality in the process.

Don’t get me wrong, if anyone is a social media advocate – it’s me. But, I am not blind to its dangers, In fact, I’ve made it my life work to create an anecdote.

Educate

We’re always learning, whether we realize it or not. While scrolling though Instagram, you’re learning about the world. About what people ate for lunch. About protopias. Literally– anything and everything.

This classroom is an interesting one, though. With the exception of posts that are created with the intention of being educational, most users aren’t putting their content out there with the thought, “wow, someone is really going to learn something from this.” But we should. What if everyone on social media stopped and thought for a second, “what can people learn from this?” before hitting that – post – button? Unrealistic, I know. But this can be flipped. What if everyone on social media stopped and thought, “what can I learn from this?” as they are scrolling though online content. This type of open-mindedness and thirst for knowledge can lead to a more fully developed sense of self. Think about thinking. Don’t just get lost in the mindless clatter that social media can be.

Inspire

Perhaps content we see or post isn’t meant to teach a lesson, but instead has the power to spark someone’s imagination. At the core of the platform that I’ve created, Out There Social, my goal is to inspire others to leave their comfort zone. This is the fuel that ignites the fire of everything I capture, ponder, write, and share. This is why I do what I do. This is why I love social media. Because I can reach the masses with messages that are so near and dear to my heart. I left my comfort zone in the dust years ago, and have been virtually screaming from the rooftops for everyone else to do the same.

We must realize the power we have as social media beings. Anything you post online, is seen by someone. It may not be a crowd of millions, but an audience is an audience. You have the conscious choice to decide how you will use this virtual stage. You have the free will to portray yourself to this audience anyway you choose. Your best bet, be yourself. Easier said than done, when most of us have a hard time grasping who we are.

Think of yourself as an online source of inspiration. Use your voice to challenge others to think for themselves. Allow people to walk in your shoes, but give them the freedom to tie their own laces. Close your eyes an imagine your own protopia. Then, get out there and make it happen.

Lessons Learned from Animals on an African Safari

Albert Einstein once said, “look deep into nature and then you will understand everything better.”


If we were to rewind back to the 90’s…

Lil Lauren was adjusting her butterfly hairclips before school, watching Zooventure on Animal Planet. The thought of going on an African safari was a distant dream, but one that has been fueling with desire since I was a little girl. I’ve always loved animals, and wondered what it would be like to experience them in their natural habitat.

My travels have taken me to zoos and aquariums throughout the country– from Omaha’s Henry Doorly to California’s Aquarium of the Pacific. The opportunity to visit a South African National Park was one that I could not possibly pass up!

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During my stay at the Black Rhino Lodge, we went out into Pilanesberg National Park for both morning and evening game drives. Whether the sun had just risen or was turning in for the night, mother nature blessed us with some beautiful views and animal action!


Here are some life lessons I learned from these beautiful (and not so attractive) creatures…

1.

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Does this mud bath make me look fat…? An African Bush Elephant can weigh up to 13,000 lbs! And yet, a herd of 30+ were walking right along side of our jeep at an inaudible pace. I was surprised to learn how easily an elephant can sneak up on you! While you may not hear an elephant stomping towards you, you can certainly feel their majestic presence.

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Before we went out on our first drive, my ranger said – when you get so close to an elephant, you know what a safari is all about. We were a jeep of 10 humans, outnumbered by elephants (and elephant babies!) in the middle of a dirt road. I was a visitor on their turf, as they just went on with their daily business.

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The massive stature of an elephant brings upon a sense of awe. You know what they say, speak softly and carry a big stick. Well, elephants walk softy and carry a big… tusk. Humans could learn a thing or two from these bold creatures. Personally, I have a hard time listening to the loudest person in the room. What they have in volume, they often lack in content. While the elephant in the room may be the most apparent, it will not be the loudest.


2.

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For 40 minutes, we sat and watched a lioness hunt her pray- a group of zebra (which is called a dazzle.. fun fact!). She must have been stalking this group for quite some time before we arrived. The unsuspecting group trotted across the road, like a traveling buffet. The lioness sat, still, within the shadow, with ears back, hiding her stature.

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The lioness sat without movement as the dazzle grazed around her, but she did not pounce. You would think that with this relative closeness, the cat would make her move. But we learned that a hunt is just as dangerous for the predator as it is for the victim. If the lioness were to trip on the rocky surface, she is outnumbered by these powerful zebra that could easily kick her while she’s down (quite literally) to her death. So she waits. And waits, and waits, and waits, until the perfect moment to strike.

And we would have waited with her…. but breakfast was calling our names.


3.

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A rhino’s skin can be as thick as 2 inches! But despite their thick skin, they’re sensitive creatures. Rhinos like this guy in the picture love their mud baths, which help protect their skin from the sun and from bug bites (which are just as irritating for animals as they are for humans). If a rhino is walking along and gets scraped by a thorn in the bush, they’ll feel it!

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As humans, we build up our metaphorical thick skin over time. This coping mechanism allows us to withstand whatever negativity is thrown our way. Those with thick skin are tough, and can withstand criticism much more effectively than those who take everything to heart. But, we must not allow our skin to become so thick that we are completely callous. Even a rhino can feel the scrape of a thorn on its thick skin.


4. 

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The Big 5 gets all of hype! In the bush, we learned about the Ugly 5..

  • Hyenas
  • Marabou Stork
  • Vultures
  • Warthogs
  • & The Wildebeest

Now, Hyenas and Vultures are named on this ugly list not only for their appearance, but for their predatory, scavenging ways.

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The Wildebeest is something the French would call jolie-laide.. or, so ugly it’s cute. You forget about their awkward statue and patchy facial hair when you see them trotting along side their pal, the impala.

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Beauty goes far beyond looks. Don’t let the haters bring you down, Wildebeest. While you may seem a bit disproportionate, or made from “spare parts”, you’re a delightful creature to be around and were put into this world for a reason.

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We’re all felt like the Wildebeest at one point or another. Not as beautifully patterned as the Zebra. Not as graceful as the Cheetah. But, when you learn to love its uniqueness, you can see what a beautiful beast the Wildebeest is!


5. 

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Our ranger, Darrell, spotted this bird in his peripheral while rushing back to the lodge for breakfast. He quickly put the jeep in reverse, and parked us in front of this colorful beauty. Ruffling through his copy of “A Bird Guide”, he opens to the page that exhibits the Lilac Breasted Roller. Although this bird is aesthetically pleasing, its call is quite ugly. In contrast, the melodious calls you often hear, come from the most mundane looking fowl.

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Referred to by Darrell as “the most beautiful bird in Africa”, the Lilac Breasted Roller is also a part of Zulu folklore. Before a couple were to be married, they must be tied together by the elongated tale feathers of this bird. If the knot became untied, they were no longer granted permission to be married. It is rumored that this is where the phrase “tying the knot” came from!


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Visiting Pilanesberg fulfilled all of my wildest dreams, quite literally!

While this may have been my first time on the African continent, I know it will hardly be the last. As a long time animal lover, I’ve always had much respect for these beautiful creatures. But, this trip has opened my eyes to the world of wildlife preservation. Poaching is a terrible reality, and a deadly crime. Drought is another plague that haunts not only the wildlife, but the humans of this environment. We must not take for granted the luxuries we have access too. What we consider to be every day norms is somebody else’s dream.

Albert Einstein was right.

Looking deep within nature helps us to look deep within ourselves. Every one, and every thing, has a story. Whether or not we are open minded enough to learn their story is up to us.