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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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