The Absurdity of Fake Facebook Girlfriends

If the Catfish phenomenon has proven anything, it's that people are willing to deceive themselves quite a bit in order to believe that something is real.If the Catfish phenomenon has proven anything, it's that people are willing to deceive themselves quite a bit in …By Chiara Atik for HowAboutWe

About three years ago, I got a friend request on Facebook. The girl was pretty, went to Columbia, and we had a few mutual friends in common. But I had no idea who she was.

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Figuring that we had likely met at some party that I was forgetting, I asked my friend Kevin who she was. "Oh, Toni. That's Andrew's fake girlfriend. Toni Moretti.."

Kevin explained (with no hint of sheepishness or hesitation, I might add) that he and his buddy, Andrew, had created Toni in an effort to make Andrew's recent ex-girlfriend wildly jealous. They found a picture of a pretty, up-for-anything-looking girl (it's hard to explain how a picture can convey that someone is "up for anything" without doing something crude, but you should see Toni) on Google, gave her some impressive credentials: Ivy League education, cool-yet-unpretentious taste in music, a political affiliation ("lets just say, obama's wayyyyy too conservative" - quoth Toni on her profile), and an apartment in Park Slope. She might not have been everybody's dream girl, but she was certainly Andrew's.

Once the profile had been created, Andrew (and Kevin! I'm not letting Kevin off the hook!) went about friending a bunch of people, many of whom blithely accepted. I, too, accepted Toni's friend request: I wanted to get a closer look.

When I watch Catfish now, the popular MTV show in which fake online profiles are investigated, I'm often amazed at how complex these forged identities actually are. The fake profiles on TV seem to have hundreds of friends, dozens of photos, and Facebook activity that can be traced back years and years.

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Toni's profile, on the other hand, appeared one fine October day, completely out of the blue. (As if, in 2010, a pretty, popular college student would have abstained from Facebook, only to join upon graduation in order to befriend Andrew - and all of his friends.) Toni's wall activity, for the most part, revolved around Andrew with occasional cameo by Kevin, and one by yours truly. "Ridiculous." I wrote on her wall when I first accepted her friend request, to which she responded, "lol, Chiara, why are you always on my case? I was talked into joining after seeing 'The Social Network.'" To this day, that exchange remains one of her only Facebook interactions.

So she liked Andrew and, apparently, his friends. But no part of her profile suggested any sort of social life outside of Andrew. She only had the one photograph-her profile. Really, her Facebook page didn't suggest any sort of existence, period. If Catfish had existed in 2010, MTV would have turned down The Case of Toni Moretti. She wouldn't have been able to sustain an episode. Too obviously fake.

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Ah, but lucky for Andrew, miracles do happen. Against ANY modicum of reason or common sense, Andrew's ex saw Toni's flirtatious wall posts and got back in touch with him. They didn't get back together - he simply wanted to get her attention and make her jealous. Which is, of course, a pretty petty and unproductive way to spend time after a break-up.

All of this is to say that the new Fake Facebook Girlfriend service recently profiled in the Atlantic is not only morally questionable, it's completely overpriced. Why pay $750 for a service that you can so easily do yourself? Because, as Andrew and Toni proved, if a girl is inclined to get back together with you, the most transparently fake profile could do the trick. And if a girl has no interest in you whatsoever, then even a real Facebook girlfriend won't change her opinion of you.

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"But how could anyone fall for a fake Facebook girlfriend?" you might be asking yourself. Well, if the Catfish phenomenon has proven anything, it's that people are willing to deceive themselves quite a bit in order to believe that something is real, that maybe there IS a hot guy in Tulsa who's in love with you, that of course your beloved ex would quickly take up with a cute Columbia co-ed, that any incongruities can be easily explained. And the people who Catfish do, I think, start to believe that their assumed identity is real, that the person does exist. Because, once you create them, at least on Facebook, they do.

And as for me, every September 9th, I wish Toni Moretti a happy birthday.

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