To an entire generation of social media addicts, the term “catfish” may now refer more familiarly to a person who cultivates online relationships under a false identity than to a freshwater animal that’s particularly delicious when coated in cornmeal and fried. In fairness, we have not tried frying the other type of catfish.
On MTV’s Catfish, hosts Nev Schulman (who starred in a 2010 documentary of the same name, about his own experiences with a catfish) and Max Joseph help unite star-crossed lovers who’ve never met—and, often, never videochatted, or even spoken on the phone—and investigate whether the mysterious object of their subject’s affections is in fact the person he or she claims to be.
We crunched the numbers on all 57 episodes of Catfish, which airs its fifth-season premiere on Wednesday at 10 p.m. ET. Here’s everything the reality series has taught us about catfishing, catfishes, and their targets.
73% of catfishes passed off photos of another person (or of multiple people) as themselves.
69% used a name other than their own.
64% of catfishes have been female.
53% of catfish victims have been female.
25% lied about their occupation. (No, they’re not really models.)
24% pretended to be the opposite sex online. More than two-thirds of these catfishes have been women.
15% of the online relationships featured on Catfish have been same-sex couples.
15% of catfishes knew their targets in real life.
11% of Catfish episodes ended with the couple still interested in pursuing a romantic relationship.
11% involved some degree of mutual catfishing and dishonesty on the part of the “victim.”
11% of the supposed catfishes did not lie to their online significant others—that we know of.
11% lied about where they live.
9% pretended to be a different race.
7% of Catfish investigations have involved a celebrity (or “celebrity”). Actress Tracie Thoms probed a fan’s strange behavior, and Nappy Roots’ R. Prophet sought out a woman he had become romantically involved with online. Both former Miss Teen USA Kari Ann Peniche and rapper Bow Wow were impersonated by catfishes.
5% of catfishes did not disclose or actively misled their targets about their transgender status. One catfish, episode nine’s Ebony, falsely claimed to be trans.
4% sent deceivingly outdated or digitally altered photos of themselves.
4% of catfish victims remained in denial about their catfish’s real identity even after the catfish—in an attempt to come clean—had sent their target photos of their drivers’ licenses. Seriously: this happens in two different episodes.
In three episodes of Catfish, the relationship investigated was non-romantic. One of those was between a celebrity (Thoms) and a fan, another was a business relationship gone bad, and another was a case of social media identity theft.
In two episodes, no catfishing actually took place—the subjects lied to producers. Whitney and Bre (episode 45) pretended they had never video-chatted in order to obtain a free plane ticket to visit one another; Hundra (episode 55) fabricated an entire relationship to stage her public coming out on television. (Because these two episodes were based on false pretenses, we didn’t include them in calculating the rest of our numbers.)
Exactly one catfish had the gall to apply for the show pretending to be his victim: Isaak (episode 40), who was essentially stalking Courtney.