Alex Jacobs, 20, a local lifeguard, has watched MTV’s “Catfish” before. But he never thought he’d be on it.
“Catfish” is a show on MTV that exposes people who create a fake identity on social media to romance and deceive potential mates. Host Nev Schulman created the show after he was catfished many years ago.
In late June, Jacobs received a text from an MTV producer saying that someone was using his photos to catfish a woman in North Dakota.
“I thought I was being catfished. I thought it was a scam,” Jacobs said while on a break from his lifeguard side gig at Granite Pool in South Richmond.
Jacobs is tall and has an athletic physique from years of competitive swimming. He grew up in Richmond, attended Trinity Episcopal High School and graduated from Thomas Jefferson High School. He spent his summer as a manager at Southampton Pool and is currently enrolled at J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College, where he’s studying business administration.
But unbeknownst to him, over the past few months, someone had been using pictures from his Instagram and Facebook accounts to create a fake account under Jacobs’ name.
On a vacation at the beach with his family, Jacobs got the call that “Catfish” host Schulman wanted to talk to him on TV. With the beach in the background, Jacobs appeared on the show and chatted with Schulman and another host, Kamie Crawford. They told him about the woman named Kirsten who’d been friended by someone using Jacobs’ name and photos. But Jacob had never met or heard of Kirsten before.
“Honestly, before this, I thought that show was fake. It showed me that show is not fake at all,” Jacobs said.
Since appearing on the show, not much has changed in Jacobs’ life, except perhaps an increased apprehension on social media. He hasn’t been posting many new photos to his Instagram or Facebook accounts.
When the show aired last week, he gained almost 300 new followers and received a bunch of flirty messages.
“Somebody I’d never met would slide into my DMs and be like, ‘Hey handsome,’” he said, referring to direct messages on social media. “My girlfriend wasn’t too happy about that.”
Jacobs appeared on “Catfish,” season 8, episode 15, which originally aired on MTV on Sept. 2.