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Dan from The Circle's tale of online humiliation should be a lesson to us all

When bad catfishing happens to good people?

YOU MAY OR may not have been caught up in the reality show furore that was The Circle. 

Source: Channel 4

Hosted by Alice Levine and Maya Jama, The Circle sees players communicate and compete on a specially-designed social media platform called, you guessed it, ‘The Circle’.

Part Black Mirror, part Big Brother, contestants play to be voted the most popular of the group, while trying to avoid.

As the contestants never meet, they can pretty much pretend to be whoever they want to be …

… Which is exactly what eventual winner Alex did.

Source: Channel 4

Alex used pictures of his IRL girlfriend Millie to craft his online persona, Kate – he catfished them, essentially.

_103776198_mbalex---none_a2 Source: Channel 4

In doing so, Kate/Alex beat 14 other contestants to win the £50,000 prize money as well as an extra £25,000 for winning the public’s vote on Monday evening.

However, he broke some hearts along the way – ‘Kate’ forged a friendship with fellow contestant Dan during their time on the show. As you can imagine, Dan was not best pleased when he found out that he’d been duped at the show’s reveal dinner. (You can watch his reaction here).

Speaking to BBC’s 5Live, Dan summed up the experience of online deception and humiliation pretty darn well.

“I thought my friendship with Kate was as close as it could possibly have been without having physically met.

Because of her personality, Kate became more attractive to me. I would definitely have explored something romantic with her.”

He continued: “I was absolutely furious. In my entire life I have never felt so many emotions at the same time. I felt angry, but I was also very upset and extremely embarrassed.

“One of the things that hurt me so badly was that I genuinely wanted Kate to be Kate, and [coming face-to-face with Alex] was kind of like a mirror shattering for me.

All of my dreams of who this person was, and potentially could be to me, completely shattered in that one moment, and I’d been living a lie.”

While he hasn’t ruled out forging a friendship with Alex down the line, he added: “friendship is a strong word. I wouldn’t lie to my friends”. Fair, TBH. 

And although he initially said he’d never use social media again, he’s conceded that that might have been a fib. However, he said the statement came from a position of “not wanting to be taken advantage of ever again”.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4′s The Media Show, the show’s creator Stephen Lambert responded to criticisms of the role catfishing played in the show.

“The Circle is marketed as Black Mirror meets Big Brother meets Catfish,” Stephen explained. “To find a reality show that reflected the good and the bad of social media seemed like an exciting idea”.

Dan and Alex’s (Kate’s?) story is an important one, even beyond the theme of catfishing. Alex never really came across as a bad person, despite his actions, and the toll it took on him as a person was evident. 

“Playing a fake person is very toxic for the mind and I never want to do it again,” he told BBC’s Newsbeat.

Playing pretend – online or off – is an exhausting past time of little benefit to yourself or others.  It makes you feel like shit, and it often makes others feel like shit too. There isn’t £75,000 on the line for any of us.

While being authentic might seem like the scariest thing in the world, it’s always the best option. There’s always someone on the other end of the screen believing in our story – or in Dan’s case, in ourselves.

Some food for thought next time you’re straining for angles …

You can watch The Circle back here.

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