BT Young Scientist of the Year

Sunday 21 September 2014

Men more likely to fall for Facebook ‘catfish’

A TRIO of young science students from Cork have found that males are more likely to engage with a ‘catfish’ profile on Facebook.

A catfish is someone who pretends to be someone they're not - using Facebook or other social media to create false identities, particularly to pursue deceptive online romances.

Kate Noonan (16), Karen O’Regan (15) and Emma McMahon (15) from St. Mary’s High School were curious about the number of young people who would engage in an online relationship without ever meeting the person.

The girls handed out surveys in their school and a boys’ school nearby asking questions such as ‘‘do you think all social network sites are safe and reliable?’’

The majority of people answered no to the latter along with, ‘‘would you accept a friend request from someone you don’t know?’’

To test this out, the group created two fake Facebook profiles, one female catfish page and one male catfish page.

‘‘We friend requested 200 people from each page and out of 200 people from the female’s page, 147 were accepted.

‘‘Of the 147 people that accepted, the majority of them were male,’’ Karen said.

The students then messaged all the new friends to see how many would reply and the majority of the 90 people who replied were male.

The students’ male catfish page was shut down after a day.

From left, Kate Noonan (16), Karen O’Regan (15) and Emma McMahon (15) from St. Mary’s High School

‘‘We suspect it was a female page that reported us to Facebook because we were reported as a catfish page,’’ Emma said.

‘‘Before the page was shut down we managed to add 146 people off the page and [from this number] 77 people accepted,’’ she added.

The majority of these accepted friends were female but only 29 replied when messaged.

The group concluded that catfishing is a danger to online society with an average of 63 per cent of people accepting a friend request from a stranger and 49 per cent of those messaging back.

Catfish was one of the most searched for terms this year according to a report published by search giant Google in December.

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