Could I be a catfish? Deafness and MTV’s Catfish

For those new to MTV’s Catfish, people write into the show to find out about ‘their one true love’ or someone they have been talking to online but are unsure about.

 Intrepid host Nev (pronounced Neev) and a revolving co-host (miss you, Max!) investigate and are on the case to find out about these relationships!

As a young pre-teen, (1996 represent) I adored the Internet. Apart from feeding my pure and total obsession with X-Files and David Duchovny (yes, I printed off that teacup picture, shhh) it meant I could find likeminded people to talk to. And talk to them, I did. Originally only allowed on for one single hour (oh boy….), I eventually spent my precious hour joining email groups, message boards, chat rooms, bless you AOL.

The Internet led to me making amazing friendships, some of which I still treasure today! I very rarely told people I was deaf as it rarely came up in conversation, this was before mobile phones were popular (yesiamold) and due to the vast slowness of the internet compared to now and living overseas, it was considered de rigueur to have talk show appearances transcribed or written up to share with other fans, so I never missed out on much and never felt my deafness hindered me or held me back in my online friendships, it just wasn’t a factor.

There’s a whole different internet landscape now, with podcasts, stories, snaps and tik toks (I miss you, Vine) becoming the norm and it feels like deaf people and equal accessibility is being pushed aside. Surely as technology advances, it should be making everything more accessible and not less? But that’s another post for another day.

Catfish is a fun show and throws up real questions about connecting with others, and how much can you really connect with them if you don’t speak on the phone with them or video chat or leave voice notes? One mantra on the show is that if they don’t talk on the phone, then the other person has something bad to hide. They pretty much say this in each episode and it always leaves me throwing my hands up in frustration.

Why do they not consider that Deaf people may be on the other side of the screen, they may not feel secure enough in their own identity to admit it or if they really like the person, they don’t want to lose them through preconceptions of what a deaf person would be like, or through someone telling them they’re not worth the effort in communicating with (yes, that happened to me and that hurt!).

In fact, in its seventh season, in over 125 episodes, how have Catfish never showed a deaf person involved in the show? They pride themselves on bringing attention to causes that they rallied behind, minorities, sexuality and gender rights, civil rights, etc but not disabilities? I can only think of two people on the show I saw in a wheelchair, one just gave directions from a porch and the other was in it for getting revenge on a girl because she didn’t pay back a sum of money he gave her.

The Internet is the disabled person’s playground, we can be who we want to be, be interested in what we like, talk for hours about our favourite topics, it means our disability isn’t the first thing that people see or connect with when we engage with them, it’s our personalities… unless you’ve got some amazing thirst traps on your Instagram, then they like what they see too! I know that is the whole premise of the show, people pretending to be someone else but what if you’re not pretending to be someone else, you are you, just not disclosing your deafness at that moment in time and then it never is the right moment? I think that could be an interesting angle for Catfish to take on.

It could be another “Catfish First!” that has been their whole premise for the seventh season and yet with increasing Deaf talent on screens, I’m surprised they haven’t reached out to Nyle DiMarco, Lauren Ridloff, Angel Theory or Chellaman. I think Nev’s energy would gel really well with Jessica Flores aka LimeMoney too. These people would be perfect for the show’s audience and hopefully give some insight on being deaf, romantic entanglements and connecting with people online. 

Who do you think would be a good co-host on the show? Have you found your deafness has affected your online dating?