Not since Googling became a thing has a noun-turned-verb entered the public lexicon as prominently as Catfishing. And Nev Schulman couldn’t be happier about it. It’s made his job, chronicled on MTV’s docuseries Catfish, a little easier.
“There’s a whole new element in how we interact with these people because they’ve seen the show,” he says of those who contact him for help investigating possible instances of catfishing. “They know the things they can and should be doing to help themselves, and yet, for any number of reasons, they still need our assistance. So we have an ability now to sort of cut through the fat and really attack the issues without having to explain what we’re doing. It gives us a chance to dig deeper and hit a little harder when it comes to the questions we’re asking and the emotions we’re dealing with.”
Schulman, who hosts the show debuting its second season tonight, also defends his subjects against naysayers, who often wonder how, given the awareness level, people still find themselves in questionable online relationships. “The idea of finding your soul mate, whether it’s online or not, is what people want. And, obviously, for the people on our show, they feel like they have met their soul mate. I think they are willing to ignore and certainly afraid to admit that some of the details of the relationship don’t hold water,” he says.
One of the most famous catfish victims to date is Manti Te’o, the Notre Dame quarterback whose fake-girlfriend revelation made headlines in January. As the authority on catfishing, Schulman says he reached out to the athlete shortly after the controversy began. “I contacted him when the situation was taking place to offer my support and also to help as I was getting so many emails and had received so many emails from people involved in his specific case that were trying to help figure it out. So I was just relaying information to him in an effort to help him figure out what was going on.” In the months that have followed, Schulman said they are now hoping to collaborate on a project down the road. “It’s very much in its early stages,” he said.
But as season 2 begins, Schulman says that there is more than just stories of disappointment on the horizon. “I’m very excited to report that we’ve had some incredible success stories, which I know is something people have been asking for a lot: ‘When are you going to have a show where the people are who they say they are?’ So I’m excited for people to see some of the episodes where that happens to be the case.”