Our favourite pair say they've met some people who've tested their faith in humanity as they return for series 3


by Jess Commons |
Published on

They're back! Nev Schulman and Max Joseph, the self-styled internet vigilantes return tonight for a third series of Catfish: The TV Show. ICYMI so far, the whole thing started a few years back when Nev fell in love with a woman on the internet, who turned out to be not exactly who she said she was – more middle-aged housewife than young singer/songwriter. The whole thing was filmed for a documentary by Nev's brother Ariel and, out of the ashes of Nev's broken heart, the concept of a 'Catfish' was born.

Since then, Nev (who made peace with his catfish Angela) has started a TV show with his pal Max Joseph (whose chiselled jaw and sarcastic wit have left us nodding appreciatively at our TVs on more than one occasion), which aims to help people in online relationships get to the bottom of who it really is they're talking to.

Up until now, the cases the duo have investigated have mainly been relatively harmless; insecure teenagers hiding behind fake profiles of attractive people because they fear people wouldn't give them the time of day if they knew who they really were. More often than not, Nev manages to talk the two through the lies and the 'catfish' and the 'hopeful' end up on friendly terms. This season, however, things are set to get a lot darker. We spoke to Max Joseph about dealing with scammers, cyber-bullies and very dangerous people.

The Debrief: So this series of Catfish isn't just about teenage romances anymore, right?

Max Joseph: Yeah, we started investigating stories that involved super fans that have gone too far, cyber-bullying and one person who catfished an entire town. Another story involves a catfish scam artist, who has scammed a number of people in one part of the US out of thousands of dollars. Even more worrying, there were a number of catfish this season who said their motivation was just that it was a fun game for them to play. Which is the scariest motivation possible.

In the future, we'll look back on this moment in time and say: ‘Wow, remember when there were no regulatory laws on the internet, when it was kind of like the Wild West’

DB: That’s really creepy. Are people harder to fool now?

Max: We have a lot of people tell us that because of our show they've discovered that the person they had been talking to was a catfish. People are a lot more cautious in general and so that’s probably taken out a number of potential catfish. That just leaves the really sinister catfish; the ones who are really good at it, the ones who evolve and adapt and beat the catfish tests that people are now putting other people through online. The ones who remain are bigger and more sophisticated.

DB: Wow, dark. Is this going to test the eternal optimism of Nev?

Max: Oh yeah. I think you’re going to witness a transformation on Nev’s part. He claims to be just as optimistic as he always was, but I’ve seen him become a lot more cynical and sceptical this season. We’ve just met a lot of people who have really tested our faith in humanity. There were some really scary people we encountered that I wouldn’t want to meet again because they are really dangerous. They get a kick out of turning the world upside down in a way that’s not playful or cute. It's simply out of a joy of hurting other people and they don’t seem to understand they're doing it – and that’s a little frightening.

DB: But I guess with internet laws being what they are they technically aren't doing anything illegal?

Max: There have been a number of episodes this season where the 'hopeful' actually went to the police first because their situation had got so bad, but the police can’t do anything. So then they came to us. We’re technically like the Ghostbusters in the sense that we are the only people officially kind of doing this thing. I think in the future we'll look back on this moment in time and say: ‘Wow, remember when there were no regulatory laws on the internet, when it was kind of like the Wild West and catfish were free to deceive anyone that they wanted?’

DB: You guys are like the pioneering vigilante police of the internet.

Max: Yeah, Nev likes to call us Jew Detectives.

DB: Ha ha, like True Detective? Does he enjoy that one?

Max: Yeah, he smiles every time he says that one, like he just came up with the best thing ever. It didn’t help that all season we were watching House Of Cards and True Detective, so we were absorbing all these really sinister, dark stories whilst at the same time investigating these real-life sinister dark stories.

Anything you put on the internet can be brought up for the rest of your life. That is the important thing to keep in mind

DB: Do you reckon all the newer social media outlets have just spurred people on?

Max: Yeah. A lot of fans have started following my family on Instagram and my parents are a lot less sceptical than I am. Especially my dad. Some of my fans have followed him on Instagram and now he’s become friends with them and he invited them to the live after-show we had and I was like: ‘Dad, you don’t know these people!’ and he’s like: ‘No, no I know that they’re OK, I can tell.’ Luckily, they did turn out to be OK, but I do worry!

DB: Have you got any advice about the impact social media can have on people's lives?

Max: Just know that anything you do can and will be used against you for the rest of your life. Anything you put on the internet can be brought up for the rest of your life. That is the important thing to keep in mind. And as one of your countrymen, Banksy so brilliantly pointed out; in the future we won’t all have 15 minutes of fame, it’ll be 15 minutes of anonymity.

Catfish starts tonight on MTV at 9PM.

Follow Jess on Twitter @jess_commons

Picture: MTV

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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