Ask Brian: I think my friend's girlfriend of six months is a catfish
Our no-nonsense agony uncle gets straight to the point of your most pressing issues.
One of my close friends has been cyber dating a girl for about six months now, but they've never met.
There's six of us in our group, we've remained close friends since school and this would be his first major girlfriend.
She lives a few hours away from our town, but every time she's meant to come and meet us something always comes up at the last minute.
My friend went to meet her a few weeks ago to spend the weekend with her, and that put all our minds at rest.
Me and his sister are close friends, and I later found out from her that he spent that weekend at home. She obviously gave him another excuse and he was too embarrassed to tell us.
We all think he's being catfished, and I'm being pressured by my other friends to bring it up with him. They think because I'm closer to his family and a female that he might take it better from me than one of the lads.
What should I do? I'm terrified that he might stop speaking to me, or that maybe this online girl is real and I could be costing him a relationship by meddling. I'd hate to see him get made a fool of.
It really does sound like your friend is being catfished.
For those reading unaware of the term, it's when somebody on an online dating site sets up a profile with images they have stolen from someone else.
It's the cyber dating equivalent of identity theft.
Usually this is because the person in reality bares no resemblance to their fake online persona.
So if he thinks he's talking to a fit, attractive woman in her mid 20s - he's probably talking to an overweight, balding, middle-aged man still living at home with his mam.
It's not a Norma Jeane he's talking to, it's a Norman Bates.
The weekend he pretended to be away seeing her would be the clincher for me here - he must smell a rat as well, and is probably too embarrassed to admit it.
But is it really your place to intervene? I'm not so sure.
If this had been going on for a year or two an intervention might be needed, but six months is still a very early stage in any relationship, cyber or real-world.
He was probably speaking to her for a few months before things go 'cyber serious' - things develop a lot more slowly online than in the real world.
If his girlfriend is a catfish - and all the warning signs are there - he will most likely reach the same conclusion in his own time.
He will feel embarrassed and let down, and knowing all his friends know about his humiliation will only make it worse.
I understand your desire to be there for your friend, however you can best do this when the inevitable happens and he needs his friends.
I'd imagine he'll tell you things fizzled out - not that his girlfriend's real name was Bruce who split his time between trolling people on Twitter and pretending to be a 24-year-old woman.
Stay out of it for now and be there for him when things go south.
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