I’m not the kind of girl who gets catfished. At least, I didn’t think I was. I was the kind of girl who binge-watched Catfish on Friday nights, shoved potato chips in her mouth, and pitied the poor suckers who were too oblivious and in denial to recognize the very obvious red flags that their Internet lovers were raising. I, unfortunately, turned into one of those suckers.
        Like all great catfish encounters, mine began innocently when a Tinder match, Oliver, messaged me complimenting me on one of the pieces of art I had on my profile. I never took Tinder very seriously, only going on when I needed to kill time and never actually meeting up with anyone I matched with. I almost didn’t even respond to his message, as I was beginning to lose interest in making small-talk with boys I knew I’d never actually meet.
        Oliver’s profile said that he was 20 and lived about a half hour away from me. His pictures were all mirror selfies of him with his impeccable hair and head-to-toe American Apparel outfits- essentially, he embodied the pretty-boy look that I normally didn’t go for. Despite all of these factors, we began talking more and more to the point where we were talking from the moment we woke up to the moment we fell asleep every single day.
        Unlike the average catfish, Oliver shared as much of his life with me as I did him. He told me about how he had moved here from Italy four years ago and how he had had trouble at the universities he’d been to over the past few years, how he had a twin brother named Matteo and how his friend Melody was living with him and his family at the moment because she had been living with an abusive boyfriend before then.
        Oliver was sweet, caring, goofy, intelligent- really just a perfect human being in my eyes. Did I mention that he was filthy rich, gorgeous, and Italian, too? He’d send me long emails when I’d least expect it and randomly tell me he loved me in the middle of our conversations. And although we had never skyped or even talked on the phone, I was somehow blinded enough by his perfection to begin falling for him.
        Another unusual aspect of him as a catfish was that he was constantly making plans for us, making it seem as if our relationship legitimately had a future. He told me how he’d come to my graduation and my graduation party, how he’d visit me when I went away to school in the fall, and even how he’d take me on a cruise when I was on winter vacation.
        Since he lived so close by, we were always making plans to hang out, however something would always come up last minute- he overslept, he got called into work, etc. The most noteworthy part of these excuses was this whole situation with his mom. Long story short, Oliver apparently worked in a high school, and since I was still in high school, his mom didn’t want him hanging out with me until I had officially graduated. When she found out that we had plans to do exactly that, she apparently freaked out on him, took his phone away from him, and wouldn’t let him leave the house for the next couple days.
        Saying all of this right now makes it seem so obviously ridiculous, that how could I not think something fishy was up (no pun intended), but in the way that everything occurred and that he relayed it to me, it all seemed perfectly fine.
        Our relationship went on like this for a little under two months. Everything came to a head a few days ago when my friend Emma sent me a screenshot of a tweet with pictures of Oliver.
        At first I thought they were just taken from his Tumblr account, but when Emma asked the girl who created the tweet where she got the pictures from, the girl directed her to an Instagram account that had over 36,000 followers and- what do you know- all of Oliver’s pictures. I soon discovered that any picture “Oliver” had ever sent me had come from this person’s Instagram or Twitter.
        When I confronted Oliver about it, he never texted me back, and despite the countless texts I’ve sent him since then trying to get him to talk to me, I haven’t gotten a single response.
Like I said in the beginning, I thought I wasn’t the girl who would ever fall for a catfish. But that’s a pretty presumptuous thing to say. If anything, I’ve learned from this experience that situations like this can happen to literally anyone. There is no social class, education level, or degree of intelligence that situations like this don’t affect.
        I felt so embarrassed when I first had to admit to my friends that Oliver wasn’t real, however after reading countless blog and website posts written by people who experienced this same exact thing, I know that it wasn’t my fault. Yes, I should have been a bit more wary of the red flags, but in the end, an innocent Tinder message escalated into a deep bond far too quick for me to have been thinking critically.
       I’ll probably never know who it was that I was actually talking to, or to what degree everything they were telling me was true, but like every stupid decision I’ve ever made in my life, I’m taking my mistakes from the past and learning from them. So, moral of the story is: 
        1. If he won’t call or skype you, it’s probably too good to be true. 
        2. If you live close to each other but he won’t hang out, it’s probably too good to be true.  
        3. If he looks like an Italian model, it’s probably too good to be true.