Columnist comments on Manti Te’o hoax, Catfish show

by Emma Klebe ’13
Many people may have heard of the recent scandal involving Notre Dame linebacker, Manti Te’o, who was tricked into believing he was dating a Stanford student. In reality, his so-called “girlfriend” was a crazed male fan sending lies from behind his computer screen.

According to ESPN, Te’o didn’t discover the truth behind the hoax until his “girlfriend” supposedly died of leukemia. Te’o then received a call stating his online “girlfriend” was in fact still alive. From there the story began to unravel and the online news website, Deadspin, uncovered who Te’o’s real “girlfriend” was.

Of course, the scandal is somewhat of an embarrassing situation for Te’o, not to mention the press who were led to believe and even reported on his “girlfriend.” Not only did the scandal cause me to think about the naivety of the victim, but I now question the validity of the press.

Whether or not Te’o was a part of the hoax and knew his “girlfriend” was fake, the press obviously didn’t do enough research into the relationship. A quick background check on the girl or reaching out for an in-person interview with her or her family could have uncovered the truth months earlier. Though many may blame Te’o and his own gullibility, the fault of the press and its failure to fully dig for the truth has been ignored.

After hearing about Te’o’s story, I immediately thought of the new MTV reality show, Catfish. Each hour episode tapes the story of an online dater hoping to meet their long-time love who they have been talking to soley through media. In most cases, the person one has fallen in love with ends up not being anyone close to who they said they were. Often, the online daters have been lying to the other person about numerous aspects of their lives. Daters on the show have created an entirely different identity using others’ photos, fabricating personal information, and in rare cases even lying about their sex. Relating Te’o’s relationship to the victims on Catfish allows me to better see his side of the story. There are crazy people out there, people who would do anything in order to find love. It shocks me to think that someone would be willing to go to the measures of using another random person’s photos to identify with, finding companies that they can say they work at and worst of all, lying about their sex. Not only do those lies represent an extreme form of insecurity and confusion, they take a lot of time and effort for a person to develop. This is not only a creepy and disturbing pasttime, but it must take a lot of work on their part.

After watching Catfish, and digging deeper into Te’o story, there are a few conclusions I can draw when it comes to online dating. The first is, I personally never plan on doing it. The idea of talking to someone and learning about their life only to discover everything is a lie does not sound like the best way to find a soulmate.

Even though I am hesitant to the idea of online dating, I don’t completely advise everyone to stay away from it. I may not be a love guru or completely qualified to give dating advice, but there are a few obvious things I’ve learned from Catfish and Te’o’s story to look out for. First, I would highly advise meeting in person with the other person early on in your relationship. This way no time is wasted on getting to know someone who isn’t actually who they say they are. If some one is acting sketchy (a.k.a. repeatedly coming up with excuses not to meet in person, talk on the phone, or skype) then wake up and smell the roses-they are most likely lying! Apart from the aspect of online posers, there still are cases of dating successes. Like those eHarmony commercials say, people can meet online and end up married; it can happen. Just remember to be on the cautious side or you could end up like Manti Te’o.