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. Either way, he’s currently involved in one of the biggest social media scandals to rock the world in recent years.
Here is how you can avoid Manti Teo’s situation (on a far less televised scale) happening to YOU.
CHECK OUT THIS EXCERPT ON FAKE FACEBOOK PROFILES FROM MY BOOK, INTERNET DATING 101: IT’S COMPLICATED…BUT IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE
FAKE FACEBOOK PROFILES
Facebook is all about showcasing who you are, what you like and where you’ve been. It’s ba- sically a gigantic scrapbook of what you’ve done in your life. That said, it’s pretty hard to imagine someone creating a fake profile, right? Wrong.
I’m going to start right off the bat here with one of my beloved scenarios. Envision this: you’re on Facebook for the nineteenth time in one day. All of a sudden, you have a friend request from a very sexy gentleman who is totally and completely for- eign to you. He hasn’t written a message, just sent a friend request. Because you aren’t yet “friends,” you can’t see his profile – but you’re flattered as all hell that this model perfect man wants to be your friend.
So you accept. He seems legit, despite having very few photos. Also, it appears to only be wom- en posting on his wall, writing things like, “Hey sexy. That’s a good look for you!” or “Hey lover, hope you’re having a dandy day! Hearts and kiss- es, Candy.”
“He’s a player,” you think dismissively, and go about your business. You forget to put him on a privacy filter because, well, what harm could it do if he saw all of your photos? He thought you were cute enough to friend you in the first place, didn’t he? And he doesn’t even know you, so what could really go wrong?
Bet you don’t know what you did by ignorantly befriending a total stranger, do you? Sorry, love, but you’ve just given your ex-boyfriend (or his jealous new girlfriend) free reign to see who and what you’re doing.
That’s right, the fake profile does exist, and you have been duped – which is a heck of a lot different from being punk’d Ashton Kutcher-style.
These faux profiles are cropping up more and more, and aren’t always considered to be harm- less. A Moroccan man, Fouad Mortada, was sen- tenced to three years in prison and a $1,000 fine af- ter claiming to be a Moroccan prince. English busi- nessman Matthew Firsht won $43,767 in damages against an old school friend who put libelous and unauthorized information about him on Facebook. College students in Cambridge, England were also dismayed to find that their Facebook pal Pedro Amigo was actually their dean, Peter Linehan, who was spying on them after they formed a pro- test group to complain about a change in drinking laws.
It’s frightening how easy it is to create a faux profile. All you need is an email address, which is nearly as easy to procure as air these days. Steal some sexy, fake shots from a model’s portfolio online or something from Google images, and voila! You’re ready to start your voyeuristic new
life. If this freaks you out beyond belief, you need to realize that it could happen to you. I could tell you that you shouldn’t accept every Tom, Dick and Harry that asks to be your buddy, but that could be wasted breath. Some people just like having a lot of Facebook friends; it makes them feel popular. But with all the new privacy settings on Facebook today, it’s very easy to restrict the strangers so being your “friend” will frustratingly get them absolutely nowhere.
You should automatically be putting people you don’t know and/or don’t trust on both re- stricted and limited access as soon as you accept them. This way, they won’t be able to view your photos or your wall posts. Also remember, you can always see the way that any of your friends view your profile, so test it out just to be safe.
Otherwise, be wary of these signs that indi- cate you’re about to become a victim of the fake profile:
1) A model-perfect stranger of the opposite sex (or same sex) is attempting to befriend you.
You have never seen him/her before in your life.
- 2) A celebrity has added you.
- 3) If you do add the person and realize they have three or less photographs up, you’re being taken for a ride.
- 4) Again, if you’ve befriended, quickly take a look at their wall. If it appears that none of their friends have actually met him/her, you should probably delete this new friendship immediately.
- 5) The person in question has a completely public profile and has not been tagged by anyone else.
AN EXPLANATION OF WHY I CREATED A FAKE FACEBOOK PROFILE
“The idea behind creating a fake profile start- ed because of an annoying guy who started to “like” every single one of my girlfriend Tamara’s status updates. If she wrote “I’m going to the gro- cery store” or “I like cats” or even something cli- chéd like, “Live like there’s no tomorrow,” Eric
would like it. I was angry. I would think to myself, “Who is the jerk constantly commenting on my girlfriend’s posts?”
“When I finally asked her about it, she said she didn’t even know who he was. She told me he was a guy who had friended her and she thought she knew him from years past but was wrong. I thought it was weird that she didn’t just delete him if she didn’t know him, and began to get suspicious. Then I saw a text message between the two of them and I knew she had lied to me. I thought, “I need to find out who this guy is, and I want to catch her in a lie.”
“So I created the fake profile, and I was smart about it. When you’re creating a fake profile, you have to invent an email address, so I made up something innocuous. I took a profile photo off of a Russian singles marriage arrangement web- site and made sure the girl was attractive but not ridiculously hot. I gave her an Arizona address, made her from a different country – an expat with a green card. I was vague about the details. When you’re inventing a person, you want to make sure he or she can’t be traced.
“I started to friend businesses first, then build up from there. I figured, if you’re going to get a friend request from someone who has two friends, you’re not going to accept or you’re going to get suspicious. Then I looked at the person I wanted
to become friends with – Eric – and looked at his friends list. I then started friending the companies and businesses he had listed as friends. I began to create the blueprint for a profile by populating my page with general status updates. Then, I friend- ed the friends I thought would accept. When in doubt, go for the people that don’t look very intel- ligent or that look like they’d friend anyone, like a shirtless guy on a motorbike showing off his tat- toos in his profile picture or an attractive girl with 3,000 friends who writes status updates every hour. It really is fascinating how many people ac- cept friend requests from people they don’t know.
“Then came the moment of truth. I had my profile, a couple of weeks of status updates and over 100 friends (under 100 still looks of sketchy). I friend requested Eric, the guy I wanted to spy on, and he accepted. It was almost too easy.
“I found out that my gut intuition was right: Tamara was lying to me and she did know him. She was commenting on and liking his status updates almost as much as he had been liking hers. As it turned out, she was having an affair with a com- pletely different person though at least I was right that she was a liar.
“Incidentally, she did end up dating Eric, or sleeping with him, at least. They’d both upload photographs or check in on Foursquare at the same bar at the same time, though never together.
“I realize that I was a little paranoid in this situation, but I had a gut feeling that something was wrong with my relationship and I wanted to get to the bottom of it. I did question the moral- ity of it. I thought, “Am I doing the right thing?” I still feel a little bad about it, but I would have felt worse if I hadn’t found anything. I would have felt paranoid and poorly about myself as someone who needed to create a fake profile to check up on his girlfriend. I would have thought, “What has this person done to me and my character that has led me to spy?”
“But in hindsight, I’m glad I created that pro- file. I still might’ve been pursuing a relationship that was unhealthy for me. It gave me peace of mind and saved me aggravation.
“The way I see it is this: dating is like a job. If you’re going into an interview at Goldman Sachs, the head of HR isn’t going to say, ‘He’s a good per- son, so let’s hire him.’ They’re going to do back- ground checks because they’re investing a lot of time and money on an employee. Dating is the same kind of thing. I needed to check to make sure my ex was the person she said she was.
“I’ve always prided myself on being a good judge of character. I failed miserably with Tamara. I thought she was a good person; she wasn’t. Never in my life have I been around someone that lies that badly or is that manipulative. So if you have similar suspicions, a fake profile might be a good call, because she won’t be giving you a list of references.
“The most important job anybody is trying out for in a life is that of being someone’s life part- ner. That’s the most important “job interview” you have. Sometimes it just requires doing due diligence.”