A new thriller has hit TV airways, and crime scenes are not involved.
MTV’s “Catfish: The TV Show” — the spinoff of the 2010 documentary “Catfish,” about Nev Schulman’s journey to find his online love — follows Schulman and documentary filmmaker Max Joseph as they help people discover if the virtual matches the reality.
As “Catfish: The TV Show” returns from its winter hiatus, Joseph chats about entering the world of online love, red flags and getting “catfish”-ed.
You weren’t in “Catfish,” so how did you get involved in “Catfish: The TV Show”?
I’ve been friends with Nev’s older brother Rel (one of the filmmakers in “Catfish”) since we were 15, and Nev was always hanging around with us — so we’ve been friends for a long time.
I had a short film at Sundance Film Festival, “Let’s Harvest the Organs of Death Row Inmates,” when “Catfish” premiered. A year and a half later, Nev was in talks with MTV, and he called me to ask if I’d be in the show with him. It was just the pilot — and who knows what’s going to happen with pilots — so it started as just a fun thing to do.
The people on the show seem to fit the stereotype of why you shouldn’t Internet date — people who don’t match their online photos, women pretending to be men, people who are dangerously overweight . . .
This is not Internet dating.
If it’s not Internet dating, how do these interactions turn romantic?
Meeting and dating started on a physical level. You would see someone out, and you had to have the confidence to approach them and hope you fell in love. Now it’s sometimes the opposite. You fall in love with them, then you meet — the physical becomes secondary.
What tools do you use to find things that people in the relationships don’t?
We don’t use LexisNexis or anything, we go online and Google. One of the new things Nev taught me was how to Google Image search. You take an image, and it searches for matches. It only works about 30 percent of the time.
So are people just not doing their research?
Each episode, you see a few minutes of us on our computers, but what you don’t see is that the investigative scene is six or seven hours long. We call friends, schools and jobs to make sure they know them, went there or worked there.You wouldn’t expect a person to sit at their computer for seven hours to investigate a person they’re dating.
(Writer’s note: In the second episode, Joseph and Schulman travel to the District to help Trina meet her year-long love, Scorpio, a 27-year-old exotic dancer with “six-pack abs.” Scorpio turns out to be Lee, 34, a no-abs-having non-dancer.)
What red flags should people look for when they start these relationships?
● If the person is cagey about doing a video chat.
● Career red flag: Model. Really model slash anything not related to modeling. It's always a model.
● A tricky red flag is when the people around them or the person has a serious illness or tragedy. You don’t want to ask too many questions, so you give them a wider range to work with.
● If the person doesn’t want to meet up.
● If it’s too good to be true. . . . What’s great about the Internet is you can let the fantasy run free.
● Facebook pages: If they have less than 100 friends, or if you read the posts and it’s people talking at them, “Oh, you’re so pretty,” but never a back and forth.
● Photos: Friends aren’t tagged and all the photos are of them without a shirt on.
This all sounds like common sense . . .
Nev points this out all time: It’s not like you met this person on a dating site, it starts as a friendship and gradually becomes a thing. If they hit you with all the lies at once, you would catch on.
Plus, I think everyone exaggerates a little when they are getting to know someone. You don’t want to call them out when you might be hiding something about yourself.
Everyone knows that people lie on the Internet, so how do they get in these situations?
It plays into your vanity. You could be catfishing me right now. I want to believe The Washington Post is interested in talking with me, so I didn’t do any research on you before this interview.
I’m not catfishing you. But what advice do you give to help people avoid being catfished?
It’s virtual contraception.You should do a certain amount of researching — 10 minutes or so is enough — on any person you’re getting involved with, to protect yourself.
Nev is very open about his online relationship that started it all. Have you ever online dated?
No, but I really do believe Internet dating is a revolution in meeting the person for you. I know lots of people who’ve done it, and it’s 50/50 on people who meet spouses and people who have horror stories.
Each episode changes the people’s lives for better or worse. How has the show changed yours?
Oddly, things are the same. When I walk out on the street, I don’t get stopped, I’m still making films, I’m still in a relationship — until I open my computer. I mostly experience the fame virtually, which speaks to the age we’re in.
“Catfish: The TV Show” airs Mondays at 10 p.m. on MTV .