Catfishing's Less-Dramatic Counterpart, Kittenfishing, Is On The Rise

It can be difficult to spot red flags when dating online. It's much easier for people to be on their best behavior from behind a screen than face to face. App users can outright pretend to be someone else, catfishing innocent victims. And while catfishing is a dating no-no that has been on people's radar for a while, recently, people have been talking about another deceitful dating practice known as "kittenfishing." As you might have guessed from their feline references, kittenfishing is the slightly weaker version of catfishing.

In conversation with NBC News, dating app founder Jonathan Bennet defined kittenfishing as "misrepresenting yourself in a significant way. This could include photos with deceptive angles, lying about numbers (age, height, etc.) ... or anything else that makes you appear radically different than how you would show up in person." Kittenfishing can be intentional or unintentional, obvious or subtle. It's a difficult line to walk when you want to impress someone but also be authentic. However, there are some tips for dealing with it and avoiding accidentally doing it yourself.

How and why people kittenfish

If you've spent a good amount of time on dating apps, you've likely encountered kittenfishing to some extent. According to Bustle, a survey done by Hinge revealed that 38% of male and 24% of female users had been kittenfished. Some cases of kittenfishing can be more severe than others. Maybe someone acted like they love the same band to then reveal they don't know much about it in real-time conversation. Or, maybe they never show their smile on their profile to hide a missing tooth. However extreme, these white lies are an online dating ruse to look out for.

Sharone Weltfried, a licensed clinical psychologist, tells NBC News that people who kittenfish "believe they can win people over in person with their personality, charm, wit, intelligence, sense of humor, etc." This manipulative dating strategy likely comes out of the offender's belief that no one will accept them as they are. However, everyone deserves a partner that appreciates their authentic self. Ultimately, kittenfishing derails both people involved from finding the right match.

How to avoid kittenfish and unintentionally becoming one

While kittenfishing is a little more difficult to catch than catfishing, there are ways you can look out for it. Psychologist Ana Jovanovic tells NBC News that you should be suspicious if you notice inconsistencies, ambiguity, or profiles that appear too perfect. Jovanovic mentions that what you chose to do about this kittenfishing depends on what "the person trying to cover or lie about, how severe is the kittenfishing and how important is this to you?"

Though Hinge's survey showed kittenfishing to be a very common experience, Bustle notes that the same survey showed that only 2% of men and 1% of women reported having done it themselves. This indicates that many people, if not most, are unaware that their profile is misleading. Jovanovic suggested a question to ask yourself to ensure this isn't the case for you: if this person described you based on your profile, would it match how you'd describe yourself? If the answer is no, aim to create a more honest, upfront depiction of yourself. This will save you and your prospective matches energy and time.