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3 Online Words Of The Year: Catphishing, Ghosting, Doxing

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  Teri Lapping  —  Grammar Tips
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What Are Catphishing, Ghosting, and Doxing?


The Internet provides us with an unparalleled amount of information and opportunities. Hand in hand with digital technologies are new dangers, and there is new vocabulary that has been invented to describe these dangers:

“Catphishing,” “Ghosting,” and “Doxing” all describe potentially harmful phenomenon that exist today on the Internet.


What Is “Catphishing” (Catfishing)?

“Catphishing” is a combination of the words “catfish” and “phishing” and refers to the situation when a person scams another person online by using a fake identity and luring them into a relationship.

“Catphishing” can be devastating for the victim, who is led to believe that he or she is involved in an emotionally loving and supportive relationship, only to discover over time that they are being manipulated. 

“Catphishing” is a phenomenon that exists almost exclusively online: Tinder, Facebook, WhatsApp, and other social media apps are often sites where “catphishing” takes place. 


Why Do People “Catphish”?

People “catphish” for a variety of reasons:

The ”catphisher” might be seeking to use the victim for monetary gain.

The “catphisher” might have low self-confidence and is unable to enter into a truthful relationship where his or her real identity is revealed. 

The “catphisher” sees “catphishing” as a form of entertainment, a game. When the victim becomes emotionally attached, the game is over.

The “catphisher” steals the victim’s personal information, revealing photos and videos, or digital contact information with the intention of blackmailing the victim for financial gain.

The “catphisher” is a cyberbully who wants to harass members of a certain gender, religion, or political group.

The “catphisher” is stalking or spying on someone they already know, trying to catch them cheating.

The “catphisher” is experimenting with their gender identity, pretending to be someone online that they are too insecure or fearful to be in real life.    


Signs That You Are Being “Catphished”

Ask yourself the following questions if you feel that you might be getting “catphished:

Does your romantic interest only share personal details that are vague and secretive?

Does your romantic interest have a realistic social media presence, or are their online photos blurred, unrealistic, or too good to be true?

Does your romantic interest make insistent requests for money, pictures, or information?

Does your romantic interest communicate often by texts but refuse to have voice calls or video calls?
 
Does your romantic interest text you at all hours, claiming to be in a different area of the country with a differing time zone?


How Should You React to A “Catphisher”?

Trust your instincts. If this person seems too good to be true, they usually are too good to be true!

Do not share your financial information; if you have already given it to the “catphisher,” contact your credit card or bank as soon as possible to report a theft.

Block all communication. 

Report this “catphisher” to the social media app where you first met.



What Is “Ghosting”?

“Ghosting” is when someone vanishes, like a ghost, from someone else’s life.  For example: “After she didn’t text him for two weeks, he understood that she had ghosted him.”

Although the word is usually used to refer to a romantic attachment, it can actually be used to describe any relationship where communication and contact stops abruptly and without explanation or warning. 

“Ghosting” often happens on social media, where it is easier to simply disappear quietly from sight, unfriending, blocking, and unfollowing. Attempts to communicate on any platform are usually met with silence.


The History of “Ghosting”

Although this concept is well known and its use is widely accepted today, the term “ghosting” has been around since the ‘90s. It was originally coined to refer to the act of leaving without goodbyes. Later, the connotation of escaping was added to the meaning of the term. Much more recently, with the onset of online dating, the term has become closely associated with digital relationships, where “ghosting” is easy. 


Why Do People “Ghost”?

“Ghosting” is the easiest way to end a relationship without having to deal with the emotional reaction of the other person.

“Ghosting” can be a passive-aggressive way of leaving a relationship.


How Does it Feel to be “Ghosted”?

It can be emotionally abusive to be “ghosted,” causing feelings of inadequacy, rejection, low self-esteem, depression, shame, and grief.

The “ghosted” person is often left feeling confused, wondering why they were left and what this indicated about them; the “ghosted” person often feels that they are to blame for their abandonment. 

The “ghosted” person does not get a sense of closure, which leaves them feeling vulnerable, possibly unable to move forward into future relationships in the hope that the “ghost” will return. 

To create closure in this situation, the “ghosted” can send a message to the “ghost,” ending the relationship concretely, clearly, and verbally.


Can “Ghosting” Be Positive?

If you are in an emotionally abusive or physically dangerous relationship with another person, it is important to protect yourself. “Ghosting” can be a healthy way of leaving a situation while avoiding a potentially harmful confrontation.



What is “Doxing”?

“Doxing” (doxxing) comes from the word “docs” or “documents” and is the act of collecting personal, hard to obtain information, and making it public on the Internet. “Doxing” is usually accomplished by way of hacking. There is often a criminal intention.

“Doxing” is a violation of privacy.
  
The exposed information can be used for purposes of revenge, harassment, intimidation, and bribery. Personal images can be used for online shaming. 

The information can be used to impersonate the victim for monetary purposes, to control their financial situation, or to break into online financial accounts, dating apps, email, Facebook, and other social media. 


What Can Be Done About “Doxing”?

As the incidences of “doxing” on the Internet have risen in the past years, services and technologies have been invented to provide protection. 

For example, there are internet companies who provide cybersecurity and anti-doxing services, as well as various online guidance services who help navigate the repercussions of “doxing” after it has occurred. 

Although clearly criminal in nature, there are rarely convictions in the case of “doxing.” 

Currently, there are two federal laws in the United States that deal with this issue: 
 
1. The Interstate Communications Statute, which states that only overt threats to injure or kidnap can be prosecuted. 

2. The Interstate Stalking Statute, which is rarely enforced. 


Final Thoughts

it is important to become familiar with the meaning of these words: they are not just examples of modern slang. 

If we understand the concepts of “Catphishing,” “Ghosting,” and “Doxing” - where do they surface and when do they occur - we will be in a better position to prevent the occurrence of these online types of victimization and exploitation.  

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