Dating in the digital world: “Catfish” host Nev Schulman talks to students about online dating, friends

Emily Schubert

Star of MTV's Catfish, Nev Schulman shared advice on internet friendships and hopeful romantic relationships to students in the Robert M. Smith Student Center ballroom Monday evening

Kristin Karam, Assistant Sports Editor
February 21, 2013

Throughout an unpredictable and endearing presentation, host of MTV’s “Catfish: The TV Show” Nev Schulman brought to light the dangers of social media to a packed crowd of students in the Student Center Ballroom Monday night.

Schulman’s journey began with the “Catfish” documentary, filmed by his brother, Ariel, and business partner, Henry.

“We never knew where it was going to lead, nor did we think it would end up as a feature-length film,” Schulman said. “It wasn’t until the end that we realized something was up and decided to go for it. For me, it was really just living my life and then filming it.”

The success of the film led Schulman to partner up with MTV and launch “Catfish: The TV Show.” The recent Manti Te’o scandal has helped to expand the show’s audience and spark more conversation about social media transparency, according to Schulman.

Schulman said that the good thing about Te’o’s misfortune and his own, is that it’s getting people to talk about online relationships.

“Where’s that line between real life and digital (profiles)?” Schulman asked. “The more we talk about it, the more we’ll be able to understand and define it.”

“Catfish: The TV Show” focuses on people that have entered online relationships and are at turning points of their life. Schulman said that he was strict with the show’s producers about how he wanted the show to feel. He wanted it to be authentic and for his reactions to be genuine, so he removed himself and the crew from the selection process.

“I didn’t want the show to be a typical reality show,” he said. “I said ‘it has to be authentic, I’m not doing anything preset’. The point of the show is a story, not getting the best shot.”

The danger of having the show filmed in this way is that unexpected complications can occur.

When the truth was revealed, tensions quickly escalated, causing Schulman to stop production.

He said he felt disappointed, guilty, humiliated and furious that he had exposed Jasmine to this situation.

Despite the risk, Schulman said the experience has been worth the reward. Viewers are being exposed to the importance of honesty and accountability.

Schulman also stressed the importance of keeping real friendships a priority. Despite his love for social media, he’s learned to draw the line and focus on the people around him.

“Your friends are not the same as your followers,” he said. “A like on Facebook isn’t the same as liking something in real life. Remember the difference and don’t lose sight of developing relationships with friends.”

The confident, beaming host continued to expand on this situation by relating it to the college experience and lifestyle.

He joked around about how college is a great time to ‘get laid’, but was quick to suggest that the crowd shift their focus from the physical side of relationships to the mental side. Schulman used his personal life as an example, admitting that he had taken a vow of abstinence while redefining himself.

“It gave me an opportunity to really figure out who I was,” he said. “I wanted people to connect with me as a human being.”

Shulman said this understanding of himself has helped him see how he wants his online reputation to look. He stressed that nothing can be assumed online and that online interactions and posts have real-world repercussions.

“Trust, but verify,” he said.

Schulman poked fun at an issue most college students are aware of, being naked pictures. He cracked a few jokes but in the midst of the laughter, his message was serious.

“Guys,” Schulman said with a smirk on his face, “don’t send dick pics. Practice a little reserve. You don’t know where the pictures can end up.”

Schulman’s final piece of advice was to take chances and experience life for all it has to offer. He explained that the nerves accompanied with trying new things is what makes it all worth it.

“If you’re not nervous and excited, why are you doing it?” Schulman challenged the crowd to consider. “Take risks because those are the things that have rewards. Be a little crazy and just go for it.”

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