Catfishing

Beware the Fake Profile A La Manti Te’O

Can you say ‘catfish?’

Manti Te'o, victim of Catfishing?

I’m not going to say that Manti Te’o is a big, fat liar (that would be illegal) but I will say that his situation is bizarre and something about his situation smells a little fishy…a little like catfish, you might say.

For those of you living under a rock, Manti Teo’ is the Notre Dame linebacker who came under heavy scrutiny from the media last month when he had to explain away the existence of an imaginary girlfriend.

For his part, the football player says that he actually believed Lennay Kekua was real, never imagining she — or her death — was fabricated. They had never actually met, you see. They had been having an “online relationship” only.

But then Kekua “died.” Te’O referenced her as well as his dead grandparents in an interview. It was very emotional, very touching. The world fell in love with Manti Te’O. Until, that is, he received phone calls stating that a) his girlfriend was not deceased and b) she had never existed in the first place.

Te’O, as the legend goes, had been “catfished.”

“Catfish” may just be the best term of 2013. It references a 2010 documentary made about an online romance that was based on a fake person. It was then turned into a spinoff series for MTV devoted to duplicity in online relationships.

Notre Dame’s athletic director Jack Swarbrick attempted to explain Te’o’s victimization by referring to both in a statement, describing “catfishing” as a scam “perpetrated with shocking frequency.”

For his part, Te’o swore to Katie Couric that the pain he felt at the passing of his faux girlfriend was the real deal. “What I went through was real. You know, the feelings, the pain, the sorrow — that was all real, and that’s something that I can’t fake,” he said.

Before I give you some helpful tips and tricks on how to avoid being duped by a social media fraud, I have to wonder at the gullibility of one Mr. Manti Te’o, golden boy, Notre Dame student and Heisman Trophy runner-up.

The man isn’t stupid, contrary to what you might think of football players. He accepted ‘Kekua’s’ Facebook friend request in 2009 and they forged a friendship from there. They spoke incessantly, and records show that he racked up more than 500 hours of phone calls to a person he thought was Kekua, who might have actually been a 22-year-old LA-based MAN named Ronaiah Tuiasosopo.

Oh, what a tangled web!

We can choose to look at this one of two ways: Manti Te’o is the world’s naivest, most gullible, biggest sucker, or he is, just like most of us, someone who genuinely craved loved. Perhaps he’s both. I’m happier believing he was the latter, that he was a true romantic with a big heart. The other part of me can only say: “Really, Manti?”

 

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About the Author: Laura Schreffler is a former New York Daily News columnist who left the world of celebrity behind to focus on what makes her happiest — love and travel. She is the creator of LoveTrekker.com — a website devoted to these two passions that she fondly calls “looking for love in all the right places.” In her spare time she likes to play matchmaker for her friends, dream about her next vacation and gaze at photographs of Taylor Kitsch. For more advice on love, relationships, and happiness, check out http://lovetrekker.com & her book "Internet Dating 101". And follow her here at Happiness Series with her weekly blog about finding love.