I am not the online dating type of girl.
So when someone I hadn’t talked to in years messaged me on Facebook, telling me he “didn’t peg me for the OKC type,” I was completely baffled. My first thought was basketball, so I quickly racked my brain to see if I had anything on my Facebook that said anything about the NBA team. I don’t know anything about basketball, so this was not likely. I was sitting at the bar at an Asian fusion restaurant back home in Jacksonville, Florida, wasting time before actually meandering down the road to the beer bar I was supposed to be at that Friday night. I almost ignored the message, because I figured the sender was confused, but the phrase “didn’t peg you” really got to me.
I finally messaged a curt “Excuse me?”. Eight minutes later, he replied. “Well then if it’s not you then here,” and then he sent me a link.
OKC wasn’t Oklahoma City Thunder, OKC was OKCupid, the free dating site, which boasts 12 million users. My stomach dropped. I quickly clicked on the link, and sure enough, there was a photo of me holding my uncle’s dog in Arizona, smiling in a bikini top and pigtails.
“My” username was OwlnMinerva, I was 23, and living in Jacksonville, Florida. The age was right, and I lived in Jacksonville until about a month and a half before I moved to Atlanta. Some of the information was accurate enough that I was horrified. Someone out there was using me to catfish others, and there were people out there that potentially thought that this OwlnMinerva was me, Annie Black.
Catfish-Annie (which I’ve started calling her) was a massage therapist who really loves America, plays piano, and enjoys writing. She couldn’t live without her best friend, pop rocks, her dog, or coffee. On Friday nights she liked to hang out in Riverside. Most of this information was false. Some of it, however, hit too close to home for me to just laugh it off. This was a Friday night, and sure enough, I was in Riverside—the hip, historic neighborhood I had lived in for two years before I moved to Atlanta. I am a writer, and an avid coffee drinker. I have very close relationships with my best friends. These are all semi-generic, but they knew my age and my neighborhood. Whoever created Catfish-Annie probably knew who I was in real life.
I frantically interrupted the conversation at the bar next to me, where a close friend and an acquaintance were in the middle of lackluster chattering. The close friend, a boy who has used OKCupid in the past, thought it was hilarious. The acquaintance, a girl who is dating a good friend, thought it was creepy, but said, “You should be flattered! Someone out there wants to be you!”
She had a point, but I was too creeped out to even acknowledge it. On some level, it WAS funny. But at the same time, I couldn’t help thinking about my photos being used to lure people in, potentially people I wouldn’t want to run into if they saw me out and about. Catfish-Annie was bisexual, looking for men and women for casual sex or relationships. Real-life Annie is heterosexual, is pretty content being single for the time being and would probably slap someone who approached her for casual sex.
Catfish-Annie needed to be deleted.
I left the Asian fusion restaurant, and said hi to my friends at the beer bar down the road, told them I’d be back soon, and ran home.
There, I sat cross-legged on my bed in my old bedroom at my parents’ house, thinking of what to do. I screenshotted images from the dating profile and posted them on Facebook, asking my 1,600+ friends to help me out. No surprise, everyone thought it was creepily entertaining. The most common response was some kind of allusion to the MTV show Catfish. “Call Nev and Max!” I will admit, I did look up the show to see if there was a way I could get in contact with them to see if they could use their super sleuth skills and figure out who was doing this. It was a naïve attempt, but I was desperate.
People suggested I email their copyright department, but that required more work than I expected. Exasperated and overwhelmed, I gave up for the time being, headed back to the beer bar, and Catfish-Annie was the conversation of the night.
Two days later, back in Atlanta, still annoyed by Catfish-Annie but trying to ignore it, a kid I went to highschool with messaged me on Facebook. “Well I came across the fake profile and they actually legit liked me lmao,” he said. With that he included a screenshot, and sure enough, Catfish-Annie had liked this boy. That was the last straw for me.
I emailed OKCupid and demanded it get taken down. Being very impatient, I figured out how to make my own profile, but posed as a boy (and used a friends’ photo with permission) so I could find this OwlnMinerva and try to message them. Apparently, Catfish-Annie was popular. Her message box was too full for me to try to figure out who it was really, unless I wanted to pay $1. Her message box was full of people who were attracted to the girl in the photos, which in turn meant her message box was full of people who were attracted to my photos. I wanted to vomit. There were strangers out there, some probably thinking lewd thoughts, trying to talk to Catfish-Annie, the casual sex-wanting girl who can’t live without pop rocks. I had reached my limit. I reported the page several times, saying it was a fake profile, and went to bed, hoping this would be over soon.
This morning at work, drinking my first cup of coffee, I got an email from Adam at OKCupid, saying OwlnMinerva had been banned from the site. I was elated at the news, but unfortunately, this is happening every day in the realm of online dating. It’s scary to think that in reality, anyone can use what you post online. I once had a media advisor tell me that nothing is private on social media, even if it says it is. I used to think he was just being paranoid, but now I know that’s true.
If you’re one of the 12 million people using OKCupid, or are a user of another dating site, be wary of who you are talking to. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against people who use online dating properly. I have several friends and even family members who have used it successfully, with healthy relationships ending in marriage or cohabiting. Just please, be careful. And if someone tells you that they found your photos on a dating site, don’t brush it off like I almost did. It’s not fair to you, or to any of the poor people out there who think the creep they are really talking to is you.