An Exploration of Attitudes of Young People Towards Catfish Impersonating and Feigning Illness on Social Media

Authors: Taylor, J., Pulman, A. and Tickle, O.

Editors: Benson, V.

Publisher: Academic Press

ISBN: 9780323884549


Incidences of catfish impersonating (the act of luring others into online relationships using false identities) and Munchausen by Internet (feigning illness on social media) are frequently discussed in the popular media but rarely researched. This chapter will review recent research and discuss psychological theories applied to explain online identity deception. Our research collected incidences of and attitudes toward these two types of online deception and participants’ views regarding legislation. A pilot study collected qualitative data to help develop questions for the subsequent quantitative study; it is this latter study that is the main focus of this chapter. 198 participants completed a 19-item online survey. Data were analysed within five categories relating to identity deception: (i) vigilance; (ii) personal experiences; (iii) awareness; (iv) perceived motivations for deception, and (v) legal views. High levels of exposure to and knowledge of both types of deception were shown. Participants felt the duty of care regarding legislation rested more with social media providers than at a national level; interestingly few participants felt the onus was on individuals to realise this was a risk of using social media. In conclusion, incidences of impersonation and feigning illness online will continue to increase and are probably being under-reported globally. Further research is planned which will use an observational method to analyse the discussions and user perceptions held on Twitter regarding these types of online deception.

Source: Manual