“Hey, this is Nev Schulman from Catfish,” is definitely an alarming statement to hear when answering your phone. That's why I panicked for a split second after saying "hello," until I remembered I was interviewing the MTV star, not getting the phone call all online tricksters must dread. Once I recovered from the shock, I was able to speak with Catfish host Nev about the four seasons of the show thus far: who stuck out to him, who left him with a million questions, and his go-to advice on how not to be catfish-ed. "People have to recognize it in themselves. It almost falls on the hopeful," Nev tells me about being tricked by online friends and dates. So maybe being catfish-ed is a lot more complicated than you'd think.
Also complicated is the trajectory of the show itself, as Nev explains, "In a weird way, the last three years have been a crazy roller coaster ride blur." However, when I ask him to name one unforgettable moment that stands out from the past few years, he is able to call one catfish to mind. "Whether I would or wouldn't forget it, the moment that everybody seems to want to remind me of and talk about is when I threw that kid's phone in the river." He's referring, of course, to Kidd Cole, and if you haven't caught the Season 3 episode "Lucille & Kidd Cole," I highly recommend it.
"There's so many moments. I never would have expected that would have become, strangely, my hero moment from Season 3," Nev says.
Nev, who is preparing for a charity auction for Leave Out Violence (in which a lock of his chest hair is up for grabs), also tells me about another couple that sticks out from the rest. "I've always been confused about Rod and Ebony," Nev says of the Season 1 couple. "It seemed like such a sweet, straight-forward story about a guy who was a little confused with how he got involved with this person online. But he had amazingly, even in his community and with his friends, accepted that this girl that he thought he was dating actually is a transgender [woman]. He was so brave to explain to his friends, 'I'm dating a transgender woman,' and help them understand what that meant."
"Then we got there, it turned out to [be a cisgender] woman, and all of a sudden he wasn't interested. It was very confusing. I still don't understand why Ebony was telling a lie to begin with." There were additional factors involved in the relationship, like Ebony giving Rod money, leading to one of the most confusing Catfish episodes of all time, which unfortunately didn't end on a very good note. "I thought that could be a really happy ending, but it got all messed up," Nev says.
Catfish (the TV show) is actually the brainchild of Catfish (the movie), which follows Nev as he learns he is actually being tricked by a woman he had been speaking to online, leading him to coin the term "catfish." When I say that his own story has started a revolution of honest conversations and exposed deceit, Nev humbly responds, "I never assumed that that would be my role for some period of time on this planet."
"Everybody has experiences, makes mistakes, learns lessons, screws up. If you're willing to be open and honest and transparent about your experience, you immediately put yourself in a position to help people," Nev says. He certainly has helped people, even though he does say he is surprised that people continue to be catfish-ed. "I keep hoping that eventually two things will happen: websites making it harder to create fake accounts and people being more diligent on requesting proof or information from the people they're talking to." But how can we Internet users begin to make that happen? Nev has some tips on spotting a catfish.
The first that I think of is someone refusing to video chat, however Nev explains, "It's easy to say no video chat...No one really likes to do it...myself included." He then jokes that the "I'm in the studio" excuse is a red flag, before saying there are "a million little things" to look for when talking to someone online. Excuses like a broken camera phone, no service, or even someone who says they're busy working all the time should give you pause.
"Make sure you're not letting yourself get wrapped up in something because it's what you want, rather than being sensible and being responsible about it," Nev warns. To get some more tips from the Catfish star and his co-host Max Joseph in person, you can enter for a chance to hang out them on GoRaff.com/Nev4Love. And of course, get ready for more cautionary tales when Catfish returns in July with new episodes.