This week’s episode of the MTV show “Catfish,” a reality series about online dating, featured Port Jefferson resident Catherine Monteleone.
About two years ago, Monteleone, 19, had struck up a flirtation with Graham Marsh, a man she had met on Instagram, she said. Over time, Monteleone became concerned that Marsh, 18 was a “catfish” — a person pretending to be someone else or misrepresenting himself online — since the two had never met in person or communicated via video chat.
Monteleone, currently a sophomore at Suffolk Community College, decided in December to contact the producers of “Catfish” for help.
Newsday’s Rachel Uda spoke with Monteleone after the episode aired to discuss her experience on the show and what it was like being a sudden celebrity after it aired.
Q: Why did you decide to apply to be on the show?
A: I had been talking to this guy for going on two years now. We had met online through Instagram and I had messaged him on Twitter. He was one of the first guys I’ve ever loved. He was my rock through a lot of tough situations in my life. But the only issue was that I could never successfully video chat with him, so I questioned him obviously and wondered if he could have been a catfish.
Q: What was filming the episode like?
A: The producers reached out to me in May and we started filming in June. We filmed for about five hours a day for five days. And I spent that whole time with [show hosts] Nev [Schulman] and Max [Joseph], who were really just the nicest guys. It honestly is very true to life. What you see is pretty much how it happened.
Q: What was it like watching yourself on television for the first time?
A: My dad was having a ball. You have no idea. He rented out a room at a Dave and Buster’s in Islandia and invited people to come and watch. He even ordered fondue. Meanwhile, I was about to have a panic attack the entire time. Because it was the first time I saw the episode. So, every time you cringed watching it, I cringed.
Q: Have people on the street recognized you from seeing you on the show?
A: I went to the doctor today to get something done for my ankle and the nurse recognized me. And she goes, ‘Were you on ‘Catfish’ last night? I knew it was you because I love your hair.”
And a little girl came up to me earlier today and asked to take a picture with me. She said I was inspiring. It was really sweet.
Q: What has the response to your episode been like on social media?
A: People will not stop messaging me. On Facebook, I have over 170 friend requests and haven’t accepted any of them because I’d like to keep my page private and just for my friends and family, though I really have nothing to hide. On Instagram, I had about 1,400 followers and now I’m already up to 2,500.
As far as comments go, there’s been a lot of positive response and a lot of nasty responses. My friends have all been really supportive. And strangers have started using the hashtag #justiceforcatherine or #teamcatherine, #teamgraham. People have been messaging me, saying that I have a sweet heart. But I’ve seen a lot of nasty comments calling me insecure or saying it’s awkward to watch me, or people who are criticizing me for talking to boys online.
Q: After having this experience are you still open to meeting people online you’d want to start a relationship with? Do you have any advice for people who think they may have been “catfished?”
A: I’m not against online dating. It’s just something that everybody in our generation is doing now.
I would just say be careful who you follow. There’s nothing wrong with following a hot guy on Instagram. People do it all the time, but really dig into their accounts because there are so many fake profiles out there. And if you have any doubts, trust your instincts. I didn’t trust my instincts enough and that’s where I messed up.