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Feb. 15, 2013
CONTACT: K.E. Schwab

Filmmaker Schulman spotlights social media 'cat-fish' issue

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - In the world of social media a "cat-fish" is a person who pretends to be someone they're not and uses social media to create a false identity, particularly to pursue deceitful online romances. Filmmaker Nev Schulman will explain the massively-popular phenomena while discussing his documentary and MTV "Catfish" show when he visits Slippery Rock University Feb. 18.

Schulman's University Program Board-sponsored lecture is at 7 p.m. in the Smith Student Center Ballroom. Doors will open at 6 p.m. The lecture is free for SRU students; $5 for the general public.

Schulman is behind the documentary and "Catfish: The Show," known for its slogan, "It was love at first type, but will it be love at first sight?"

Rogue Pictures and Relativity Media released the documentary "Catfish" in 2010, based on Schulman's TV show. The show tackles the mystery and misconceptions of dating using digital technologies. Social media and online dating services have created the opportunity for people to connect with anyone across the world, which presents the chance for people to develop relationships with strangers.

The issue has recently been back in the news with the revelations that Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o had been a longtime victim of a "cyber girlfriend" hoax.

Thomas Flynn, SRU professor of communication, and Douglas Strahler, an SRU communication instructor, are co-authors of a chapter in the soon-to-be-released book "Regulating Social Media."

Their chapter, "Transparency, Misrepresentation and Social Media," explores whether or not social media have created more transparency for individuals, companies and government. The authors focus on the misrepresentation of identity and reputation and provide an intelligent discussion of transparency, including involuntary transparency, misrepresentation and even registered avatars.

Their work also provides a survey of cases, including one involving Tony La Russa, former Major League Baseball manager and infielder, as an example of misrepresentation from a social media venue. La Russa sued Twitter in 2009 over a fake page established under his name. He claimed he "suffered significant emotional distress [and] damage to reputation" because of the profile. The fake profile made several "distasteful references."

Twitter policy prohibits users from impersonation directly, adding users "may not impersonate others through the Twitter service in a manner that does or is intended to mislead, confuse, or deceive others." It is unclear if the case has settled.

In the MTV show, "Catfish," Schulman, who was previously a victim of an online love drama uses his personal experiences, documentarian skills, and ability to detect and sense situations to find the truth within real online relationship stories. Students find the show unpredictable. According to an MTV survey of adults 18-24 years old; one in four has online dated; one in two "a friend" who does it; and, in the past three years, traffic to top 10 online dating sites has tripled.

Those planning to attend the SRU lecture are asked to use their Twitter account to Tweet @SRUPB with #AskNevFeb18 to enter questions into the program's topic list.

Schulman is a New York City photographer and filmmaker. His photography has appeared in magazines and newspapers, including Vogue, The New York Times, Lucky, New York magazine, the New York Sun and Dance Magazine.

A reality thriller documentary, "Catfish" is a roller-coaster story of love, trickery and charm within a maze of online scheming. The film was produced by Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Andrew Jarecki, with Brett Ratner as executive producer.

Slippery Rock University is Pennsylvania's premier public residential university. Slippery Rock University provides students with a comprehensive learning experience that intentionally combines academic instruction with enhanced educational and learning opportunities that make a positive difference in their lives.