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Don’t let online bait from a catfish break your heart this Valentine’s Day

Tim Chitwood
Tim Chitwood

Suddenly a litigious agribusiness is not around when you need one, for Valentine’s Day.

Have you heard of a “catfish?” A “catfish” is someone who creates a fake online profile for Facebook or a dating site such as Tinder and scams people looking for love in all the wrong places.

And giving “catfish” that connotation is slandering our fish farming industry.

One warning sign of an online catfish is the usual, as for any scam: If the profile for he or she or whoever looks too good to be true, it’s probably a con artist or a Russian bot.

In online romance, a fake dream date might claim to be a neurosurgeon, photographed posing next to a new Mercedes in front of a mansion, but is that really his photo, or is it just a magazine ad you don’t recognize because you’re online all the time and don’t read magazines?

The catfish bait may not be supermodel neurosurgeons standing by expensive cars outside mansions, which should make you wonder why they need a online dating site.

The dating bait could be sympathy, as illustrated by the 1978 National Lampoon comedy “Animal House,” in which the character called “Otter” checks the obits before showing up at a dead coed’s dorm pretending to be her fiance there for a date.

Likewise, the catfish may claim he just needs to talk to someone. And to not be alone tonight. And to get an account number for bus fare so he can come meet you, from Seattle. Or Atlanta, if you’re short on cash.

“Many Catfish create elaborate stories to play on your sympathy, especially in the lead up to asking for money,” reports eharmony.com, which warns also to look out for catfish Facebook profiles that list no friends, and for suitors who make excuses neither to meet you in person nor send you a selfie.

I don’t know why a catfish, a bottom-feeder trolling for trash, would be the metaphor for romantic scamming, but this insidious noodling cannot be allowed to damage our family catfish farms when the market for a Valentine’s Day entree is so competitive.

I have been to the Piggly Wiggly, just prior to Valentine’s Day, and I have seen heart-shaped steaks for sale there.

So, look at it like this: You go to the grocery to get something for a romantic Valentine’s Day dinner, and you’ve got a choice between heart-shaped beef or sneaky catfish. Which are you going to choose? It’s a no-brainer.

Catfish aren’t the only animals making Valentine’s Day news, this year: Some zoos are soliciting ex-lovers’ names to apply to cockroaches fed to meerkats in online videos.

Here in Columbus, we don’t have any meerkats to feed cockroaches to. But for a future Oxbow Meadows Environmental Learning Center fundraiser, we could feed dead rats to alligators, if that’s still their usual fare, and pitch it like this:

“Want to see a YouTube video of a gator eating a dead rat named for your ex? Call us today! Make reservations early, this Valentine’s Day, because we have to thaw the rat and drag the dormant alligator over to the heater to warm it up while we yell ‘Eat something! You’re all scales and bones!’”

To battle the online catfish stereotype, we need aggressive catfish farm marketing: “Fins Farms. We choose only the finest catfish to raise in climate controlled ponds guaranteed Wi-Fi free! Fins Farms – who needs other fish to fry?”

So just remember, this Valentine’s Day, that a “catfish” is bad, if it’s a fake online profile, but catfish otherwise is a clean, healthy meal without the fat and cholesterol found in heart-shaped meat.

Don’t bite at every piece of hooked bait dangled from an online dating site, or let someone drive a steak through your heart.

Tim Chitwood is from Seale, Ala., and started as a police beat reporter with the Ledger-Enquirer in 1982. He since has covered Columbus’ serial killings and other homicides, following some from the scene of the crime to trial verdicts and ensuing appeals. He also has been a Ledger-Enquirer humor columnist since 1987. He’s a graduate of Auburn University, and started out working for the weekly Phenix Citizen in Phenix City, Ala.
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