Nev Schulman Takes on a Virtual Season of Catfish: The TV Show

Nev Schulman Takes on a Virtual Season of Catfish: The TV Show

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Nev Schulman: I do. I think about it every time I film an episode, because it gives me a lot of satisfaction to know that the experiences that the people are having on the show might just be the thing that changes the direction of their lives for the better. I always encourage people at the end of each show that when faced with what feels like a heartbreaking and unsatisfying result, to think about the fact that this experience might change their lives. Someone might see it and reach out to them, or any number of things might come of it, and just to keep yourself open; don’t shut down. Let this be sort of an opening of a door and invite new things into your life and see what happens.

Allison Kugel: I like that. What kind of feelings come up when you have to break the news to someone, who thinks they’re in love, that the person they’re in love with is not on the level?

Nev Schulman: I have developed a combination of maturity and experience that I would liken to when a doctor has to tell someone that a family member is very ill or might pass away. No one wants to hear that, and it’s not good news. But it’s necessary and I think giving someone the truth, no matter how undesirable, is always beneficial. I wish I didn’t have to do that, but at the same time I think there is an expectation and understanding of people on our show, that for them to need to go to this extent and put themselves out there in this way to get this person to finally reveal themselves, they probably aren’t going to get what they are hoping for. I’m really just delivering what they have been avoiding, and probably intentionally avoiding, for a long time. I think they really just want the truth and they know it might not be what they want, but they’re relieved to get it.  

Allison Kugel: How do you feel about the thrill of the detective work and chasing after the truth? Do you get excited by that aspect of it?  

Nev Schulman: It is really fun. It’s frustrating because sometimes you really don’t get a lot, and you have to kind of rethink your initial strategies and go back and see if you missed something. I don’t know what it is about these remote episodes, but we spent more time looking through comments this season. I think because more people had been home and were actively on social media, people were commenting more. There was more social media content to sift through and pull from on people’s pages. That part has been really interesting and fun and led to a lot more breaks in stories and clues than with previously seasons of the show.  

Allison Kugel: Have you ever, personally, misled or concealed information from somebody you were interested in romantically for fear of rejection?  

Nev Schulman: The first answer that comes to mind is yes, but probably in regard to the tramp stamp that I used to have on my lower back.  

Allison Kugel: (Laugh)

Nev Schulman: In high school I got this dumb tattoo that I thought was really cool, but quickly realized that it wasn’t, after I had already committed to it. I used to kind of hide it for as long as I could when it came to dating girls because I wasn’t sure how they might react. But I don’t have that problem anymore. I had it removed and feel much better about myself (laughs).

Allison Kugel: Okay, that’s pretty harmless… and funny. What is your current relationship with social media these days?  

Nev Schulman: I would say it’s neutral. I haven’t been posting very much. I really have to actively convince myself that I should be posting, because it doesn’t feel like there is much that I can do right now other than support social and political movements I believe in. I think for that function it is invaluable, but I feel very insignificant as an individual up against the current issues that are far more important than myself. Now that I have my kids and my job, I’m happy in my life. I think the more content you are the less you need social media to fill whatever void it might be filling for you.  

Allison Kugel: I would agree.

Nev Schulman: I still find that I like to scroll on Instagram, and I do follow accounts that inspire me, whether it’s design accounts for home decoration or architecture. I also love old cars, so I follow stuff on some accounts that post cool cars for sale and I muse about whether I should buy one. It’s a nice distraction, but with all of the conflict and misinformation out there, my general feeling is that if we significantly eliminated social media, we might all be better off. But then again, there are such great social changes happening as a direct result of the community that exists through the internet, so it’s really a double-edged sword for me.  

Allison Kugel: What kind of impact do you think Catfish: The TV Show and your MTV platform is having on adolescents and young adults who watch the show and follow you? 

Nev Schulman: I can only hope and speak to the sort of things people have said to me, directly. I hope the show is having a positive effect on people, both young and old, because the thing that was most highlighted for me after the documentary, Catfish, in terms of what people said to me was how surprised and relieved and impressed they were in terms of how we handle things. People specifically liked the way we handled the situation with my relationship with Angela, the woman who catfished me. We handled it with so much compassion and understanding. We gave her an opportunity to tell her story, and we took the time to understand, although it’s not an excuse, the reasons and motivation that led to the lies she created. I think the show, if it does nothing else, gives people a much-needed respite from the constant judging and cancelling and teasing and bullying that takes place in everyday life. It shows people that even when someone does something that warrants being scolded or yelled at or cancelled, you can still be compassionate. You can take the time to sit down and engage with them in a mature way, and give them the opportunity to explain themselves. You can, both, learn from them and teach them, and hopefully they can learn from their mistakes and everyone leaves feeling better. It’s hard to find things these days where you feel better after you experience them. I hope that is the enduring legacy of the show; how we can all be a little more compassionate with each other and with ourselves.  

Allison Kugel: How did you know you were in love with your wife, Laura, and how did it differ from your relationship with Angela, the woman who catfished you more than a decade ago? 

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