Think about what it is to fall in love with someone who does not really exist — someone whose physical body has never intruded on your relationship with them, who has gone to ridiculous, contorted lengths to mold their “personality” to fit your needs and desires. A common refrain among romantic catfishees is that they’ve “never felt a connection like this before,” and of course they haven’t, because there’s nothing quite like dating an echo chamber. It’s no coincidence that most of the victims on the show are in the midst of difficult or transitional periods in their lives when they start up these online relationships — they’ve lost loved ones, been evicted or fired, fallen behind in school. These are horrible, hard things to deal with, and grief is difficult to see around. In times when life forces us to change or adapt, most of us find ourselves craving distraction and reassurance. We want to feel loved and we want to feel heard, and we want to forget why we need those things in the first place. Think about the last time you had an outsized crush on someone you barely knew. Sometimes you want to fall in love, but not with a real person, because real people are imperfect and their imperfection is a terror. They say dumb things, they work terrible hours at jobs they hate, they come from fucked-up families and watch TV shows you don’t like and fart in front of you. You need to make room for them in your own life, and sometimes you don’t have that room to spare. A real human is an anchor, but a catfish is a blank screen.