On Catfish and Body Image


I love Catfish. The TV show, that is. (I might also love the barbed water-dweller pictured above, but I’ve not tried it, so I can’t very well speak on the subject.) What started as the documentary movie a few years back became the hit MTV show last year, and is now in the midst of its second season. If you live under a rock, it’s basically about people who pretend to be someone else online and then engage in digital relationships. Host and creator Nev Schulman helps victims find out who the real people are behind these fake internet personas. The backstories get pretty crazy to say the least, but there’s one underlying theme that I’ve come to see in most of the episodes.

The “catfishes” — those who are pretending to be someone else — seem to be doing so almost entirely because of how they look. In many cases, it’s a bigger guy or gal who is afraid to show their techno-admirer what they really look like. And ya know what… it works. These folks who don’t like who they are pretend to be what society deems attractive, and they inevitably have more “dating” success, even if it’s just online. It’s clearly not a physical relationship (well, sometimes it is via texting and chatting on the phone and what not), which means that people are opening upĀ emotionally to these fake super models more than they would to an unattractive person right next to them. This says a hell of a lot about the state of the society we live in.

We’ve become so obsessed — obsessed is the word I want to use, and it’s a powerful one; don’t diminish the meaning of that word here — with body image that we can barely function as relational humans with people who don’t fit our concept of attractive.

In the show, once the truth has come to light, the victim is often astounded that they could have had such a deep relationship with someone who isn’t necessarily up to their physical standards. They come away saying that they won’t judge people as quickly anymore based on outer appearances. It’s sad that it takes this kind of experience to learn that lesson. Alas, I’m sure it’s a lesson that we could — that we should — all learn.

This is not a problem that we’re unaware of. We know that the people who entertain us on the screen or are featured in glossy pages are not accurate depictions of what the majority of people look like. And yet we can’t get over those images. Our brain gets it, to some degree, but we can’t make the actual connection that allows us to accept our bodies. Sure, we need to be healthy and strive to be fit, but to what degree? Does a guy need six-pack abs to be attractive? Damn right, if I’m listening to what’s thrown my way on a daily basis.

For whatever reason, a stupid TV show has visually made me aware of this problem to a degree that I wasn’t before. In the end, people just want to be loved for who they are. And who’s in control of that? ME. I am in complete control of how I treat people, and I’m fairly certain it too often has something to do with how someone looks.

Here’s to trying something different. Will you join me?

In Praise of a Labor Day Reset

This is the wikimedia commons photo of the day, and I like it. I'll let you be creative and find a relation to Labor Day.

This is the wikimedia commons photo of the day, and I like it. I’ll let you be creative and find a relation to Labor Day.

In most cultures around the world, we have this giant personal reset button known as New Years. We take time to set goals, declare that we’ll be better people, accomplish great things…and then promptly blow it by March. Okay, maybe that’s just my experience, but I feel like it’s probably a fairly universal one. I’m totally in favor of the idea — it’s uber-beneficial to have a time set aside to reset and reflect and think about the coming year. In the last couple weeks, however, I’ve come to think that New Years is just a bad time to do so.

The holidays are generally a stressful time already. There’s a lot of family around (sometimes out of obligation), there’s a lot of event planning, there’s a lot of spending — you get the idea. To throw in time for thoughtful reflection and goal setting in the midst of that may actually hamper that process a little bit. I get that it’s built right into our calendar, but I suggest a different approach; one that I’ll be trying for the first time.

Labor Day is approaching in just under a week. It’s a long weekend that is often comprised of vacations and relaxing grill-outs with the people we care about. Our attitude about this season just fits better with the idea of a personal reset. Summer is often considered (even in the business world) to be a time when things slow down a little. Half days on Fridays are more common, less night/weekend work happens, and projects generally aren’t as harried. The higher ups take vacations, and workplace libations become more common.

Much of this is simply because of the school year calendar — parents want to take advantage of the kids’ time off. And obviously warm weather helps that cause. As a result, the adults (even those without kids) inevitably get onto that schedule. When it’s time to get back to school in the fall, we’re all probably a bit laid back, and we need to get into gear for fall and winter. As we make that transition in business and with our families, why not do so personally as well?

This year, I’m trying a Labor Day reset. Instead of having a large laundry list of categorized goals like I often do, I’m going to focus on three big ideas for the next year. They’re fairly broad, which is not often the case with good goal-setting, but I’m motivated enough by them that I don’t think it will be an issue. We’ll see. This is all an experiment for me, but one that I look forward to and I think will have some success. For whatever reason, I just felt the need to shake it up a little bit.

Next year, I’ll report back with my findings. If you’re lucky, I may even share my three big goals in the next couple weeks. We’ll have to see about that, though.

What do you say about the idea of a Labor Day reset? I’d love to hear your thoughts!