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West Side Stories

A Tosa resident for almost 20 years, Karen is a mom and freelance writer, addicted to playing tennis. When not on the tennis court, she spends the fall and winter in the stands at Green Bay Packer and Marquette basketball games.

Karen is the author of “Grab a Bite,” a dining out column and the former community columnist for the Wauwatosa NOW newspaper.

My Own Little Catfish Story

Blogging, Personal, Technology, The Online World

Catfish - someone who pretends to be someone they're not using Facebook or other social media to create false identities, particularly to pursue deceptive online romances.

True confession - I live a lot of my life online. I don't like to say that because it sounds creepy and unseemly and kind of embarrassing. But I feel like, for the purposes of this blogpost, I should be completely transparent. I have a Facebook account and I'm very active on it. (Although I limit myself to looking at it first thing in the morning...for my own good.) I also have a Twitter account...and I'm very active on that. At last count, I've tweeted over 16,000 times. Not bragging. A little ashamed. I apparently have a lot to say.

Besides Facebook and Twitter, I also have a couple of blogs...and a column that is posted online. In other words, there's a lot of me out there on the internet....for good or for bad.

Although I do exercise caution, I happen to think there are good things about Twitter and Facebook. Since I don't watch television news, I get a lot of breaking news from Twitter. Since my kids are currently living outside Wisconsin, I get a snippet of their worlds and feel a little more connected.

I've also "met" some really, really nice people online - some of whom I've never met in person. There, I said it. I admit to having "online relationships" although none of them is of a romantic nature. (I'm happily married, thank you very much.) 

If you hadn't heard the term "catfish" prior to this past week, you probably have now. I instantly knew what catfish was because I had seen the movie a couple of years ago. It's quite eye-opening and if the sad exploits of Notre Dame football player Manti Te'o have interested you, the movie will help put that in perspective. This week, we found out that Te'o's girlfriend, who had died early this season, didn't exist at all. It is still yet to be determined whether Te'o was duped or is the duper.

In any case, it just so happens that today, I finally met one of my "online friends." (That still sounds super creepy.) Rochelle is awesome and I've liked her ever since we connected via a site for which we both blogged, as well as Twitter and Facebook. We share the same warped sense of humor and snarky way of looking at life. We've even joked that we're basically sisters...but we still had never met.

So, we messaged the woman who connected us - our former editor, Jeanne - and set up a lunch date. Then the Manti Te'o story blew up and I couldn't help but draw a few comparisons. I even sent Rochelle a private message on Facebook:

"Looking forward to tomorrow at 11:30. Although, now that I think of it, who knows if this alleged "Rochelle" will show up. I've never met her. Could she be a large white man who disguises himself as a witty, attractive African American woman who has an obsession with Jon Hamm and Abraham Lincoln? Perhaps I too have been "catfished." We will see, won't we?"

She "LOL-ed" and we had a good time joking about it. But I have to tell you, I was a little nervous. You see, I'm a writer...or at least I try to be a writer...and I'm way more interesting in the passive context of the written word than I am in person. What if we didn't connect as well in person as we do online? What if it's awkward and uncomfortable? 

Well, all that worry was for naught. Rochelle is just as charming, maybe more so, in person, as she is online. I don't think we stopped talking for 90 minutes...and laughing...we laughed a lot. The three of us - Rochelle, Jeanne and I - had a great lunch and promised to do it again soon.

One of the things that we talked about at lunch was how we were all trying not to bury ourselves in our smartphones when we're out in public. We see so many people do it, to the exclusion of those around them. We all vowed to try harder not to be one of "those" people.

I'm so glad I finally met Rochelle (there's picture proof above) and now can, without reservation, call her my friend. I always felt a little creepy referring to people I'd never personally met as "friends," something that apparently, and sadly, never deterred Manti Te'o. Although I feel so much more comfortable hidden behind my computer keyboard, I know I need to step away from the electronics more often and live more in the real world.

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