Dating online: Are you guilty of the dating app sin of kittenfishing?

Dating online: Are you guilty of the dating app sin of kittenfishing?

Sometimes it feels as though dating online has become a veritable minefield - like it's getting harder and harder to make a lasting connection with someone, even though the prevalence of dating apps means that it's now easier than ever to meet new people. Why has dating become such a chore? The answer is Kittenfishing - a new dating app phenomenon that's damaging our chances of happiness.

Paradoxically, in some cases the vast amount of choice that dating apps give us is as much of a hinderance as it is an advantage - meaning dating online has got incredibly competitive. Think about it: how do you distinguish yourself from the crowd? How do you make yourself look more attractive compared to the countless other men and women floating around out there?

Unless you're a supermodel who has five PHDs, a seven figure salary and speaks 10 languages, you're always going to be in someone else's shadow. So how do you overcome this issue? You can either be sincere about yourself and hope the right person comes around eventually. Or you could hedge your bets and big yourself up; using hyperbole and self-aggrandisement to make yourself seem that little bit more eligible.

A couple at a cafe, drinking tea and eating cake, while they hold hands. Credit: StockSnap

The term kittenfishing is derived from the far more commonly-used phrase "catfishing". For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, catfishing involves someone on an app, social media platform or forum creating an alter-ego which they use to fool other people. Distinct from trolls, who often adopt alternate personas in order to annoy other people, catfishing is usually perpetrated with a romantic or sexual aim in mind.

The term was first coined in the eponymous 2010 documentary Catfish, directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, in which a young man gradually discovered that a woman he met online was not who she seemed. Kittenfishing, by contrast, is as mild as its diminutive name suggests. But it's still causing big problems.


Rather than pretend to be someone else entirely, kittenfishing involves someone pretending to be the best possible version of themselves when dating online. They might exaggerate their importance or overstate their achievements so as to charm potential suitors. This person will soon turn out to be a mundane middle manager earning the same wage as the rest of us. Not the end of the world, but pretty insulting when you've been taken in by all the fabrication, and have had the proverbial wool pulled over your eyes.

Some people even report being catfished by someone's purported personality; and claim that many people are less witty, erudite or charming in real life than they were over the internet. However, this could just be a case of people letting their imaginations run away with them; imagining a far more attractive prospective mate than the one they actually have to interact with.

The term Kittenfishing was first coined by data analysts working for the dating app Hinge, who described is as "the phenomenon of well-intentioned dating app users presenting themselves in an unrealistically positive light. A kittenfisher’s profile is often comprised of photos that are outdated, heavily-filtered, or strategically angled, text that has been ghost-written by a particularly witty friend, and height that has been rounded by more than two inches."

A man and a woman having coffee, while using a laptop, phone and tablet at the same time. Credit: StockSnap

Sound like a lot of hot air? Well these same analysts have the data to back up their claim. Hinge took a survey of some of its users in June of 2017, with the intention of finding out what kind of lies or exaggerations are considered commonplace in the dating app community. A whopping 38 per cent of men report being kittenfished, and 24 per cent of women, while only two per cent of men and one per cent of women owned up to kittenfishing someone else. One woman surveyed stated: "My date listed himself as three inches taller than he was ... I’m fine with short guys, and wasn’t upset. That said, I think his insecurities were part of why things didn’t work out."

Another male user stated his date was "10 years older and probably 75 pounds heavier than the profile and photos showed." He continues: "I arrived and parked 15 minutes early. When I texted her I was there, I almost instantaneously got a reply asking, ‘Is that you in the black truck?’ I started looking around for who I’m meeting, and all of a sudden my passenger door opens and someone I don’t recognise gets in. For a second I was unsure if It was I was being robbed or kitten-fished."

A man holding a red circle with the world 'BAE' written on it, in front of a woman's face. Credit: StockSnap

I'm sure we're all guilty of kittenfishing to some extent. Few people go into a first date with a warts-and-all summary of their life and we all want to present a good side of ourselves to the people we're attracted to. But I think that the former account seems to get to the root of the problem. More often than not, kittenfishing seems to reveal people's insecurities - it belies a person who is so unhappy with themselves that they feel a need to boast - and hide the parts of their personality they're ashamed of. Ultimately, you can't love someone who doesn't love themselves. So if you suspect that you're being kittenfished, maybe do a little digging and see if they are who they say they are. And if all else fails, just tell the to quit the BS.