5 Lessons Learned from the movie Catfish
So, after getting hooked big time by the trailer, my wife and I took the plunge and joined the first day rush by seeing the sold out showing of Catfish downtown last night. As you may or may not know, the main premise of the movie involves a relationship developed online via Facebook. Since so many of our students use the social media application, this movie will surely attract a large number of viewers despite playing second fiddle to the other Facebook movie about the app's founders. Although mildly disappointed in the end, I felt the movie was interesting enough to justify writing about a few lessons learned from Catfish. Please note that although I won't be necessarily diving into the plot of the movie, you may be able to discern key elements (aka Spoilers) of the movie from the following. Consider yourself warned...
1) All you need to start a Facebook account is an email address.
This means that it's very easy to establish a new identity. Always wanted to be a football jock or cheerleader captain? Here's a chance to reinvent yourself. Since no other true authentication takes place, one should remain cautious with who they become friends with, and what anonymous users are allowed to view their page. I'd be curious to see if there are any "copycat" Facebook families created after Catfish.
2) Ctrl-C and Crtl-V = copy/paste
We live a copy/paste generation. Every time I offer instruction on Google Docs (often with Presentations), I try to remind students or tell their teachers to remind their students about copyright and fair use. Our students are becoming overly reliant on how easy it is to download an image or cut/paste the link for use without considering attribution.
3) There are probably pictures of you out there, and plenty where you don't know they are.
Unless you are constantly aware of when people take your photographs, you're most likely the subject or co-subject in many pictures. Tagging puts a name to the face, as does Google Images. Combine pictures with lesson #2, and you've got an easy way to attach your photo anywhere at any time. I just read a disturbing article about a woman whose picture was taken, posted, and despite her request to have it removed, ended up being the victim of some immature and irresponsible behavior.
4) Search is not just your friend, but everyone else's friend.
Think about how easy it is to perform a google search. Now, think about how easy it is to perform a google search on you. Here, let me know google that for you. See? As critics of Catfish point out, Nev and his cronies should have been able to figure this one out as well, and there are legitimate theories that they did know all along thus suggesting the question of whether Catfish is a project of exploitation as opposed to a true documentary. The lesson remains that the Internet is a very wide open place that Google (and other search engines) do a very good job of trying to make very small. Unless you're trying to hide, it's often very easy to be found.
5) A movie trailer can be misleading.
This one goes out to anyone thinking that Catfish will be some horror flick (this year's Paranormal Activity), or even a "Hitchcock-like" thriller (Really, Financial Times?). I knew going in that this was not going to be the case, but I have to admit that my own personal build-up was largely due to the well edited trailer that does make it seem like you've got some Blair Witch stuff going on. Well done with the scary music coming in at 1:25 when they enter Michigan. Thus, before you get duped, do know that the movie is more an exploration (and possibly exploitation) of a Facebook friendship that contains additional lessons for students, parents, and all of us living in the Web 2.0 world.