Nev Schulman, the creator of MTV’s Catfish, has weighed in on Netflix’s new social media reality show The Circle, saying its use of catfishing “often doesn’t do justice to the original intent and definition of the word that we meant to create.”
“When you remove the actual real-life circumstances and you take a random group of people pretty obviously chosen because of their sort of big, extra personalities, and you put them in a not-real-life situation, interacting with other people in a not-real way, it’s a lot less interesting,” Schulman told PEOPLE in a recent interview.
The Circle, which premiered Jan. 1 on the streaming service, follows eight people competing for $100,00 by creating social media profiles and vying to be the most popular member of the group. While some contestants have chosen to be themselves on the show, others have created profiles from scratch and are pretending to be someone they think the others may find more attractive or compelling.
“It raises an interesting point, which is when we present ourselves to each other, both in real life and even more so on the internet, we make choices, and those choices have real-world consequences,” Schulman said of the show. “Obviously The Circle sort of removes us from the real world, but I think it will get people thinking more than they may already be about how they want to be perceived and how they perceive other people.”
On Schulman’s long-running reality series Catfish, he searches for people who have entered into online relationships via fake profiles, a phenomenon known as catfishing. He told PEOPLE that The Circle projects a two-dimensional view of catfishing situations: “If you look at it more in-depth, a catfish really is a complicated person who, for any number of reasons and personal struggles, has found themselves creating a profile of varying veracity or truths to explore, and interact, and discover themselves,” he said.
Schulman did have some more positive things to say about the show when viewed as a cautionary tale.
“My wife and I were watching it, and we were laughing because in the first episode they have to rate everybody, and it’s all about sort of quickly looking at someone’s profile on their bio and making a snap judgment,” he said. “That’s something we all do. And that is something that, maybe in the future, when we are learning about someone on the internet for the first time, we shouldn’t be so quick to judge them based on the 40 characters or whatever it is that they have to fill their profile. So I think it will get people to reflect a little bit, and that’s always a good thing.”
The first eight episodes of The Circle are currently available to stream on Netflix; the final four will premiere Jan. 15.