Since social media got big, I have admittedly participated in my fair share of stupidity. What happened one late night in September was one for the books. I never thought I would be “catfished” as a mom.
The backstory: Like most new moms in this day and age, I am a part of my fair share (aka way too many) of Facebook groups. After my diagnosis of PPD/A (more here!), I joined a group for moms dealing with similar issues. The group does a lot of good, and is a good resource for moms (and partners) to voice what’s going on and offer advice. This particular night I was responding to a thread regarding a PPD documentary that was recommended when another “mom” reached out to me asking to private message. Given the nature of the group, I reluctantly agreed (giving advice and being in a situation where someone is relying on me in such a serious way as this makes me generally uncomfortable). I felt obligated and willing to help since I know what it feels like to really be suffering with PPD.
Come hop on this crazy train
For anonymity purposes we will call her Jane. Jane contacted me on Facebook messenger. After chatting for a while the story she told me was she was anxious, depressed, and 39-weeks pregnant. And ALONE. Feeling sorry for her “situation,” I offered to listen to her story and help her get through. My worst fear was having to go through those final days and labor and delivery
alone, so I wanted to do what I could. The situation however proved to be more “complex” than I had signed up for. She was in “labor!”
She asked to keep in touch. What was I supposed to say? What would you say? I was still buying in to her story. It seemed plausible enough at this point. Unfortunately there are too many mothers out there who go through this alone. While they come out some of the strongest women I have known, it is still scary. We talk till early in the morning. She tells me she’s going to the hospital, is admitted, all the way through getting an epidural. I got so caught up in her story, and trying to give good advice, hours passed and I didn’t even realize.
You can get an idea of how it went from my screenshots. The major red flag was when she texted me the entire time she was getting her water broken and her epidural. I was a little perplexed at her ability to text through “contractions,” they say everyone labors differently, but there is no way I could text though getting the epidural. ZERO chance. I ended the conversation telling her she needed to talk to her nurses.
Vulnerable and exhausted
Now I really watered down the whole experience. It left me afterward exhausted, feeling violated, vulnerable, taken advantage of, etc. I shared some very personal experiences with my labor and delivery, trying to put this person at ease. I felt violated because she sought me out. Exhausted not just from the time spent handling the situation. It sent me in to my own anxious state. The experience made me question my ability to be vulnerable and reach out, especially via a social media platform.
I spoke with several other women who I know she talked to, and everyone had the same reaction. They felt she was not being truthful or authentic. After reaching out to group moderators, it appeared that she had a fake profile. It was all lies.
I never thought I would say this, but as moms, there is a fine line between following that God given desire to help someone in need, and putting too much of ourselves out there. It’s unfair, and isn’t right, but there are those out there who are looking to take advantage. Catfishing isn’t just for relationships anymore folks! You could be Catfished using your favorite group on Facebook.
How do you tell if you might be getting played? This experience led me to do some digging.
- Search the social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, even Myspace) – Is it a real profile with pictures and a reasonable amount of friends? Are there posts?
- Reverse Google Image search – provided you have a photo of this person (or one they’ve posted to their “profile,” upload to the Google machine and search by that image. You will find out any pages that the image is associated with. Any red flags?
- Check details – ask questions that need specific answers. Are there any holes in their story? In my situation I asked for the name of the hospital she was at, and other details about the labor process that only someone who has experienced it would likely know.
- Safeguard yourself – Don’t offer up any important details about yourself (Social Security, address, passwords or account information).
Don’t get Catfished!
I hope my embarrassing experience is something to learn from. While it taught me a lesson on social media safety, it also made me realize that while I was angry with this person, it’s likely she had her own set of issues.
Family Education has a great article on protecting yourself and your children from being Catfished.
Be safe out there friends!