The Volokh Conspiracy

Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent

"Strangers on the Internet" Podcast Episode 5: Catfishing Beyond the Tinder Swindler

Why does catfishing happen and how do we stop it?


Many people were fascinated (and horrified) earlier this year when watching the Netflix documentary "The Tinder Swindler", about which I commented here. While the phenomenon of catfishing brings its share of sympathy, victim-blaming continues to abound, and few perpetrators end up bearing the consequences of their actions.

On the fifth episode (Apple Podcasts link here) of our "Strangers on the Internet" podcast–our first-ever guest episode–my co-host Michelle Lange and I spoke to two catfishing victims that saw their lives upended by heartless narcissists. One of them, British former teaching assistant Anna Rowe, wants to see legal change after she and many others became serially abused by (as it happens) a lawyer. Our other guest, Jennifer, is a former academic who had her fourth child with a man whose own employees did not know he was leading a double life for years. We explore questions such as how to detect catfish and what justice and closure look like years down the line.

Bonus: For those interested in further readings regarding love on the Interwebs, here is a roundup of recent articles that caught my attention.

  1. "The Rise of Lonely, Single Men" (Psychology Today) by psychologist Greg Matos, which argues that rising standards for dating are reducing opportunities for straight men and that they need to address their skill deficits to meet healthier relationship expectations.
  2. "'Phantom Touch' and the (Real) Pleasures of Virtual Dating" (NY Times) by Madeleine Aggeler, which discusses the evolution of dating in virtual worlds and transitions to the physical realm.
  3. "Why Desperate Men Are Now Catfishing Women on 'Frustrating' Dating Apps" (NY Post) by Alyson Krueger, which tells the story of straight men who decided to check out their dating app competition by creating female profiles and what they learned (or didn't). Of course, that general idea is far from new and was perhaps most famously implemented by futurist scholar Amy Webb, as she discusses in her quite entertaining book "Data, a Love Story: How I Cracked the Online Dating Code to Meet My Match".