Why smart people keep getting catfished, according to Nev Schulman | #facebookdating | #tinder | #pof


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The 2010s will go down as the decade when digital dating went mainstream — and, in some cases, ran amok. Just ask Nev Schulman, executive producer and co-host of MTV’s “Catfish.” For the past 10 years, he’s dedicated his life to exposing online dating scammers. Ahead of the show’s Season 8 premiere on Jan. 8, he talks to The Post about the toxicity of technology, the universal need to be seen and the beautifully human tendency to forsake good sense for love.

People will do pretty crazy things for love: convert religions, travel around the world, get tattoos. And people will do even crazier things for a love they’ve never met.

Enter Spencer, a decent-looking, hardworking 30-something from Tennessee. Spencer, by all accounts, is a very eligible bachelor. He went to college, was a semi-pro golfer, has a good job and most of his hair.

So why, when you ask Spencer about his current relationship, does he become a bit bashful?

Maybe it’s because they’ve been long distance for over six years. Or because they have never met in person, or even on video chat.

Maybe it’s because Spencer’s girlfriend is Katy Perry.

Yes, you read that correctly: Spencer is Katy Perry’s secret lover. I know you thought Katy was briefly married to Russell Brand and is now dating Orlando Bloom, but throughout all of those “phony, just for show” relationships, she was actually in love with Spencer.

She convinced him that they had to keep their relationship private so the press wouldn’t ruin his anonymity and change his perfect, simple life. Spencer was so committed to Katy, he had his late grandmother’s emerald reset on an engagement ring he planned on giving her when they finally met face-to-face.

Spoiler alert: It wasn’t really Katy Perry.

This story, like many others — including my own — is why I make the show “Catfish.”

It started in 2007, when I got a MySpace message from an 8-year-old girl in Michigan named Abby who had seen my dance photography website and wanted my permission to use some of the photos as the subject of her paintings. I was charmed, of course, and replied enthusiastically. The next message I received was from Abby’s mom, explaining how mortified she was that Abby had messaged me, but thanking me for being so kind.

A friendship developed between us, and pretty soon I was getting packages in the mail from Abby with the artwork, which was quite good for an 8-year-old. As time went on, I became Facebook friends with all of Abby’s family and friends, including her older half sister, Megan: a gorgeous, long-haired, horseback-riding singer/songwriter. I was, of course, smitten. Oh yeah, and Megan was also a virgin. Ha.

But after nine months of plans to meet followed by dramatic excuses, I grew suspicious. So I decided to go to Michigan unannounced and see for myself what was really going on. Well, Abby wasn’t painting the artwork and Megan wasn’t a beautiful 19-year-old virgin.

My brother Rel and friend Henry chronicled the experience and turned it into the documentary “Catfish,” which premiered 10 years ago next month.

At the time, everyone thought my story was unbelievable. But I quickly learned that I was not alone. The emails started flooding in, and before I knew it, I was inundated with requests to help others discover the identity of their online loves. So we decided to make a show, and nine years later, here I am.

A lot has changed in the last 10 years: how we use technology, how we view ourselves and how we interact with each other. Most profoundly, the way we look for love has gone almost completely digital, with carefully crafted bios, painstakingly selected profile pictures and often slightly (or hugely) exaggerated elements of our lives to make ourselves seem more appealing. Everyone is guilty.

We all have our own TV show now. We edit the way the world sees us, and never in a completely objective way.

On the one hand, it’s fantastic. People who have been ignored or dismissed as shy all their lives can finally express themselves and be seen. On the other hand, it’s a complete disaster. We’ve leaned into self-obsession, and revealed our penchant to lie and manipulate when we don’t have to deal with the consequences face-to-face.

I’ve seen a lot this past decade, ushering people like Spencer through the most dramatic, confusing and often heartbreaking experiences of their lives. But I’ve also learned that we all have one simple thing in common: the desire to feel valued. Sure, love is the word most often used to describe what we want, but the foundation of love is recognition and reciprocation. If someone is thinking about you and wants to know how you are, it confirms that you matter and exist.

Sadly, for far too many people, “Do I matter?” is a question that crosses their minds every day. For them, a “have a great day” or a “goodnight” text can be the only proof they matter.

People are often shocked when they learn that I’m still making “Catfish.”

“How do people still fall for this stuff?” they always ask.

My answer always comes in the form of a question: “Do you play the lottery?”

More often than not, the answer is yes. So I point out the unbelievably low odds they ever have of winning — yet, week after week, they spend their hard-earned dollars playing the same numbers over and over.

Why? Because there is a tiny chance that maybe one day they could hit the jackpot. In the lottery of life, as corny as it sounds, love will always be the jackpot.

There is some good news, though. Lots of people do find love online, and not everyone is a catfish. So don’t give up. Just make sure they can FaceTime.


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