Felix Inuk Birgfellner Nielsen, Rawan Chreide, Liv Nylander Nielsen, Christina Kjergaard & Rasha Sylvia El Hanafi

Student thesis: Basic Project


This project deals with the effects of the online disinhibition effect, as outlined by John Suler's cyberpsychological theory, on the behaviour of subjects who engage in so-called ‘catfishing’ on the internet. Our empirical focus is the documentary film Catfishing – en Facebook-affære (2010), in which the New York photographer Nev Schulman documents his online relationship with a family situated in Michigan. The relationship turns out to be a case of catfishing; the Facebook-profiles Nev engages with are all fabricated by a woman named Angela. It is through this documentary that we establish the definition of the catfishing phenomenon. In our analysis of the documentary we employ John Suler's theory the online disinhibition effect, as well as Joshua Meyrowitz’ thoughts on frontstage and backstage performance. After this follows a discussion about the concrete effects of online disinhibition on the behaviour of the documentary subjects. This leads us to the conclusion that, while deception in communication has always taken place, online social media offers us a wealth of opportunities for engaging in disinhibited behaviour and presenting ourselves in certain ways in order to deceive and mislead others. Ultimately, factors such as the speed at which the communication takes place online, as well as the lack of apparent consequences, make the effects of online disinhibition particularly pronounced in our catfishing case, in which Angela manages to deceive Nev and lead him on for eight months.

EducationsBasic - Bachelor Study Programme in Humanities, (Bachelor Programme) Basic
Publication date18 Dec 2018
Number of pages66
SupervisorsKatrine Sommer Boysen