manti te'o

Catfish This! (Post 34)

Wifesy was the first person to tell me about the Manti Te’o story.  I like to think of myself as a pop culture / news junkie.  One has to only check out my Twitter feed to see that.  However, I somehow bypassed the Te’o story initially.  I think because it was a “sports” story upon first look.  I tend to skim over sports stories until they get to Penn State levels of scandal.  Then I’m really interested.  The Manti Te’o story is that big.  If you don’t know…Te’o is a devout Mormon and a Notre Dame football player.  He’s good, really good, Heisman good, and he will definitely go to the NFL.


manti te'o catfished deadspin article

Click the photo link below for the original piece that broke this story…


Over the last year, Te’o started an online relationship with a girl, Lennay Kekua.  Even though they had never met, Te’o felt emotionally invested in this girl…even calling her “his girlfriend.”  The online relationship lasted until Lennay claimed she was dying of leukemia.  Not long after, she died…or so Te’o believed.


But, that’s not the truth.  The truth is that there was no Lennay Kekua.  It was all an elaborate hoax created by a Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, a young man who hasn’t told his side of the story just yet.


Te’o got catfished.  Plain and simple.


catfish, fake girlfriend, manti te'o

These dudes think I’m a catfish, but I’m actually a Victoria Secret model…


Catfished is the term used when someone is deceived by another party on the internet and they are in a sense, “brought in.”  You hook them, you reel them in, they believe you are who you say you are, that you are sometimes even in a relationship with them and then -whamo- the perpetrator has his or her “catfish.”


We’ve heard about this kind of thing before.  One that immediately comes to mine, the “gay girl in Damascus” blog.  A pretty, lesbian, blogger supposedly “reporting” or “journaling” from Syria during the uprising.  When in reality it was an American, male, blogger blogging up a media firestorm from Edinburgh, Scotland.


Welcome to the hell that is the internet.


Anyone who is savvy enough to blog or to even read blogs will probably NOT get catfished.  However, my heart goes out to those individuals who perhaps use technology, but don’t necessarily understand how it works.  There are real people out there, innocent people, who take things at face value.  I’m guessing they don’t fully understand the shield that internet anonymity provides.


That’s not to say that an avid user of online properties can’t get catfished.  We can.  It’s just more difficult.  So, I’ve decided to list out some stuff that I think can help the web naive among us or the kids out there who think they can’t get punk’d.  A lot of the below are philosophies that I follow, personally.  You may have an entirely different strategy.  My thought is that every which way is valid, as long as it helps keep you safe.  As always, I’d love to hear about your methods in the comments section.


How Not to Get Catfished:


Assume EVERYONE is not who they say they are
I suppose this could break down to, “be suspicious.”  Maybe it’s the New Yorker in me, maybe it’s just some kind of instinct, but more often then not, I think people are only telling half truths online.  I don’t mean everyone is lying.  However, I do think of the internet as more of a virtual resume.  Everyone is trying to put their best foot forward and that could mean coloring the truth from time to time.  That would cover the vast majority of people, this coloring the truth phenomenon.  Then there are others, extremists, who are out right liars and identity stealers.  They are everywhere.  So, my tenet is, “guilty until proven innocent.”  If you operate from there and let people peel back their own layers of authenticity (or lack thereof), you’ll never walk away surprised.


Google, Google, Google
When I’m up for a job, I google the sh*t out of people.  I google the hiring party, I google the recruiter, I google the company, I google what people are saying about the company.  I can’t google enough.  I consider it being prepared.  You can google anything these days – a street address, a phone number, an email address – and if something fishy is going on, you WILL be able to figure it out with a touch of legwork.


zorro the gay blade

Hide behind that mask all you want, Zorro, I googled your ass.


Get Offline Quickly
I like to meet people in person.  Back when I used to internet date, this was especially true.  I don’t need to talk to you on the phone for hours.  I need to see you in person.  En vivo, as the Spanish say, gives human beings so much more to go on.  You can read body language and inflection and accents and the way someone dresses and you can even smell them.  Yes, I just said, “smell them.”  Honestly, think about it – Mr. or Miss Wonderful may take a killer picture and they may also be sparkling on the telephone, but if they smell like old garlic and sweat socks, do you really want to date them?


Run it by a Friend
Sometimes you need to say sh*t out loud.  We live too much of our days in our own heads.  At times, it’s as simple as going, “I said this and he said this…” for a clearer picture to form.  “Oh, he’s lying.  Or something’s not right here,” may be your immediate thought after relaying your exchanges to a friend.  People we trust are in our lives for a reason.  So, when in doubt, phone a friend.


Find Balance
I don’t know what was up with Te’o.  I mean here he is – a king of a winning, football team.  He can get any real, live, girl that he wants.  Yet, he maintains a strictly “talk” only relationship with a woman on the phone?  Why?  Was it more convenient?  Was it seemingly safer?  Hell, I’ve never heard of anyone getting pregnant across a phone line.  (Though I’m sure there are people who have tried.)  Maybe that was his reason.  I think what I’m trying to say is that Te’o could’ve avoided this whole thing if he had taken 5 feckin’ minutes out of football training and said, “Lennay, I insist that you meet me for coffee.”  If he had insisted, he would’ve known.  So, maybe, just maybe we shouldn’t live our entire lives online.  Maybe balance is good.  Maybe real human contact is good.  Maybe it’s often better than forever chattering away screen to screen.


After all, you wouldn’t marry your computer…or would you?



Sweet Mother is updated daily-ish. If you’d like to follow this blog, you can do so by clicking “join” at the top of the page.



Photo creds:

Deadspin-blarney, catfish, zorro


24 thoughts on “Catfish This! (Post 34)

  1. Good points. I do have a couple questions, though: What if you “goole like mad”, but nothing shows up? Some of us paraniod monkies do what we can to leave no internet tracks.

    Also, what if you think someone is really awesome, and you’d like to meet, but they are really poor, and can’t travel across the country to do so?

    I prefer to limit those I give trust to anyway, but that’s ’cause I’m damaged. 😉

    1. “i prefer to limit those i give trust to anyway, but that’s ’cause i’m damaged.’ foster, this both made me laugh and go ‘ouch’ cause of course, i don’t want you to be damaged. but, i’d also say any reasonable adult will have been betrayed by another person at one point and i think that mistrust of an a-hole is a good thing. so, maybe that damage is a protector in some way? i think everyone’s running a three card monty scam most of the time. they usually aren’t, but that’s just the way i’m wired to think. almost everyone has an internet / google trail these days. if they don’t either a) you’re not digging deep enough or b) you definitely need to meet them in person. and if you can’t travel across the country to meet someone you want to… SKYPE. seriously, skype kept my long distance relationship with wifesy very alive in the beginning. it was the next best thing to seeing her every day. we live in a world now where seeing someone even in another country is really easy and cheap to do… xo, sm

      1. There’s also gmail. You know, I have one of those, too. If you’d like, send me an e-mail and I’ll gladly share both of those with you. (I’m trying to trust. 😉 Aren’t you proud of me?)

  2. This story was so confusing to me and like you, I know nothing about sports and don’t care. What I did find very odd is that a mature male didn’t know that “dating” this girl this way, was just, well weird. I agree that most of us do put our best “face” forward on our blogs because if we bitched and moaned about everything that was bothering us, then that wouldn’t be a fun thing to read, now would it? Maybe to some, but I don’t want to be in a Debbie Downer crowd even when I’m having a downer day. I’m rambling, but I still believe there’s more to this story.

    Did he really get fooled? Or is this some kind of publicity thing to generate more interest about him? See how distrustful I’ve become. And I google everything too, becks. And I know that I’m being googled. Still, I think we have an intuition about people, even on this online way of communicating. Haven’t you ever run across something someone has said and just thought, Ew. I’m going to click away now. Yeah, we do have to be on guard, but there still something to be said for that little voice or something that nudges at you — both here and in “real” life.

    1. i think he got fooled. but, i’m so with you… the whole thing is just WEIRD. it’s strange for a grown man on a winning footbal team to have a completely phone-only relationship with a woman. or to think he was. it’s very odd. what’s even more odd is the guy on the other end of the line who kept up this charade. i want to hear his side of things… because pretending to be a girl and to carry on a phone relationship of this magnitude, well, the word odd doesn’t even quite cut it! xoxo, sm

  3. What really jumped out at me was the “tell it to a friend” part. I do that sooo often, and even when there isn’t anyone to hear it! Just saying things out loud allows me to hear and have a different perspective.

    I imagine that, as long as Te’o wasn’t in on the joke, he ignored a lot of major warning signs because he wanted to believe so badly that this person cared about him. Such an odd story.

    1. such an odd story, indeed. back when i dated men, i used to have to tell my friends about situations out loud ALL THE TIME. bc i was clueless, utterly. it got to the point where my male friend started calling it, ‘manslations’ as if he were actually translating the male gender for me. loool. sigh. the te’o thing, i think he was duped, but i still find it bizarre… xo, sm

  4. Perhaps part of this was the Mormon thing, safer never meeting and never being tempted?

    I agree with you on all your points, but with him well he continued to play it out even after he knew the truth. Was he really played?

    1. i think he was afraid to go, ‘ohhhh, i just found out there was no girl…’ because then he’d have to admit it was completely a phone relationship and that he never met her. even he knew that sounded weird. so he panicked and kept it going longer then he should’ve. but, i think he was catfished. i think he thought that relationship was real. now, he might be a closeted homosexual, mind you, in that he’s not even sure of his sexuality yet… but, i do think he got scammed. the een more interesting story to me is the guy that was at the other end of the phone line… xoxox, sm

  5. I had heard whispers about this guy Manti Te’o, sort of like seeing something out of the corner of your eye – but until your blog, still knew nothing about it. I don’t watch college ball and never watch sports news. But I google! I am a cynic and I believe that is quite different from being paranoid. But I trust no one until they prove they are trustworthy..Drives Auntie “M” nuts..And I like your idea of skyping. Sounds like it worked for you. M does it all the time with her relatives that are more than a mile away.
    Great blog! .

    1. i’m with you, he who, trust no one until they prove trustworthy. well said. i don’t know if it’s the new yorker in me or what, but i’ve always looked at most people through squinty, disbelieving eyes until they prove otherwise… looool. much love, sm

  6. Great advice! I think Manti Te’o is nothing more but a reflection of today’s society. How people seem to be more caring and intimate with an unknown person through the internet than with people right in front of them!

  7. I can’t believe you put up a picture from Zorro the Gay Blade…one of my favorite comedies, by the way. Random and awesome. Every now and then I scream out, “THANK GOD FOR SMALL FAVORS!” Oh, and the rest of your post was very interesing.

  8. I began following sports when my sons were little..and I have sorta/kinda followed this one too..and, above all else, my care factor is about zero. Your advice is sound, and somehow I think this young man may have initially been catfished, but perhaps played along far longer than he should have (and for longer than he is leading the public to believe). But whatever – better to meet the people you think you’re interested in before professing love and planning cyber-forevers..

  9. Great post Mum. I’ve always been a listener rather than a talker and that has been a godsend on the net. You can pick up a lot, even from the written word, and I’ve learned to trust my instincts. These days I like just about everyone I meet online but trust, the kind that puts your heart or your life or your bank account on the line… that has to be earned over a very long time. And yes, face to face.

  10. I just can’t get over the common sense component of, as you said, googling the girl. The reason this thing blew up was because the guys at Deadspin opened a search browser, and typed her name. How simple!?

  11. My email signature line is:

    The first rule of Online Gaming, never take a uterus for granted.

    I may be a female gamer, but the odds of that female toon you are flirting with is being played by a female is really low. So low that my current guild assumes that all gamers are male until they find out otherwise.

    I don’t know how many times I get on vent with a group of people and there may be someone new who pops up saying, “oh wow, you are a girl.” Yeah, All the time. I have been since birth.

    The person on the other end may be totally different than what you see. So never trust it. And the more perfect and posed the photo is, the less likely it is real.

    1. Next time you’re online gaming and they act all ‘oh you’re a girl’ just say ‘what are you trying to say???!!!’ then say wait a minute …. Leave it a little while (make rummaging noises) then shout ‘JESUS H CHRIST….. AND I JUST THOUGHT I WAS A BAD AIM’ hahahaha

  12. You could have written this as a warning for me. I have an unfortunate habit of thinking everyone is lovely. I trust far too easy. I just came away from years of being told how ugly I was by my ex and didn’t question it for one minute. I don’t think I’ll be looking for anyone soon. And even if I was although talking online or on phone seems preferable to me at 1st…. I’m incredibly shy and to counteract that I just say ANYTHING that comes to mind incase there’s a dip in the convo… Otherwise known as making a nob of myself. Be a long time anyway.
    I feel sorry for the guy who was fooled the ‘catfish’ whether it was to other people a stupid thing to do… He did it …. He’s no doubt feeling the pain of a split up with the person that didn’t exist because that ‘girl’ was real to him. Suffered enough with that without being told he’s stupid… I’m thinking at this point he already knows so its surplus to requirement and unnecessarily cruel.
    Let’s hope he finds someone real to love and love him back. A happy relationship and not go down the road of judging his intelligence when it came to this unfortunate no doubt painful experience.
    Now I’m gonna order cheeseburger and chips yummy <<< another example of surplus to requirement in my answer there… In my defence the burgers are flame grilled and soooo gooooood lol :0)
    Again I only came to read the blog and you did it again got me thinking. Love the flow of your writings like your speaking not writing. That's difficult to do and it would appear matey that you're a natural :0)

  13. All good points and very practical reminders. So often we lose that practicality and tend to just blindly trust and can find ourselves in trouble.
    I loved the pregnancy by phone line comment. I’m sure people have tried. It’s sad but true. Just look at what poor Manti Te’o believed.

  14. Excellent advice, but I doubt it would have helped Manti Te’o even if he’d read it. It was safer, more romantic and alluring, for him to go with the flow…or he was in on it for whatever reason.
    I have a good friend whose son hides the opposite way; he and three frat brothers believe it is far better to meet, greet and bed quickly–preferably all on the same night–and then never connect or even acknowledge the person again because it’s safer and less hurtful that way.
    Go figure. This generation is either bluffing us all, or living in dream worlds.

  15. So true. Lonely people do desperate things. I didn’t realize that he was Mormon. I thought he was in the closet. Either way I feel bad for the guy. How embarrassing to have your business on public display.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s