Catfish hunters

Manti Te'o saga offers glimpse of seamier side of the Internet

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At best, Manti Te’o is a hopelessly new-fashioned romantic – unbelievably easily taken in by a supposed Internet suitor who apparently never even existed.

At worst, the Notre Dame linebacker-superstar was a knowing participant in an elaborate and cynical hoax on a trusting public, garnering sympathy and publicity for himself from coast to coast for having lost an “online” girlfriend to leukemia, coincidentally the same day his very real grandmother died last year.

The muddy truth may also be somewhere in-between.

The bizarre mystery tied the sports world in knots late this week, even overshadowing Lance Armstrong’s tepid mea culpa for being a world-class cheat.

Most of us wondered: How could Te’o have not known that his alleged Internet girlfriend, known as Lennay Kekua, didn’t even exist? How could he have considered someone he never met to be the “love of his life” as he put it? Why did he continue to pretend she was real even after learning she was not? Who did this and why?

We figure the truth will come out. Regardless, this whole episode is a peek into the deep and turbid waters of an Internet muck most of us would never step foot in. It’s an opaque, swirling world in which professed deep “relationships” and “romances” are breezily formed with virtual strangers – literally – and where trust and disbelief are suspended in a murky mix of loneliness, lust and longing.

There’s even a hit show on cable network MTV that puts a spotlight on that world. Called Catfish – a term the show’s creators were inspired to coin for the shadowy perpetrators of fake online identities – the show tells the stories of the pitiable souls who, as Te’o claims to be, are taken in by the fake flames of the tangled web. In one episode, a young woman is certain she’s about to meet her betrothed for the first time – and it turns out to be another young woman who was masquerading online as a male-model Romeo.

How lonely must some lives be, how galactically naïve these people must be, to fall prey to such callous hoaxes. How heartless and thoughtless must the unfeeling perpetrators be. How easy to forget there’s a human being on the other end of a keyboard.

In some ways, this is worse than the financial scammers out there; they’re only after our money. The catfish are breaking hearts and crushing spirits.

Perhaps this is the brave new world of courtship. A New York Times story documents that many 20-somethings today don’t date so much as hook up – loosely inviting each other to be at the same public place at a fairly indeterminate time. If an evening, or relationship, develops, so be it!

You have to wonder whether social skills can long last, and whether the phones are now smarter than us.

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Riverman1 01/19/13 - 07:52 am
Internet Connections Are Not Going Away

The fact is Internet connections are not going away. They are a way of life now. It has people reading, writing and typing like never before even if an occasional LOL or ROLF is thrown in. Use some Catfish Charlie (that's bait to you nonfishermen) to catch the catfishers.

americafirst 01/19/13 - 10:46 am
The latest the sports media

The latest the sports media is telling us now is that Te'o was truly duped and is a victim because Te'o told ESPN so. The media failed horribly in promoting this false story that elevated a good but not great player to super star status and now they are failing again and are promoting him as a victim. We will probably never know the real truth.

bubbasauce 01/19/13 - 11:06 am
This is the media's fault for

This is the media's fault for running with this bleeding heart stort. I really get tired of watching shows, for instance American Idol that puts a sad story out there for each contestant wanting you to feel sorry for them from the start. Honestly I do not need to know everyone's story so I can feel sorry for them while they perform. Again I say this is the liberal media fault. They do want to change the world, and not for better!

soapy_725 01/19/13 - 11:07 am
He is from the rarified air of Hawaii.

His friends say he is a compulsive star of his own "Quiero mi quinces" in real life. Never enough attention. Inferiority complex? When the best you can do is lie on your back and look at the girlfriend of the opposing quarterback on the jumbo tron, enough said.

Miss Alabama USA turned out to be the star of the BCS Championship. Georgia and Alabama had already decided the true championship of NCAA Football 2012.

Media making news instead of reporting facts. Hyping a game that was not competitive, but very lucrative. It is all about the Benjamin's

What is the difference between Notre Dame and Fruit Loop Cereal? One belongs in a bowl.

Darby 01/19/13 - 12:45 pm
Manti Te’o... not the sharpest tool in the shed...

but probably a better than average football player. Although if you watched the BCS title game, you might wonder if there was a little hype going on there as well.

palmetto1008 01/19/13 - 02:14 pm
Not Obamaphone, Dichotomy.

Not Obamaphone, Dichotomy. It would be a "Bushaphone."

KSL 01/19/13 - 03:24 pm

But much, much expanded under Obama, as have been foodstamps, SS disability, extended unemployment. Let's not forget the Dream Act. The list goes on.

Darby 01/19/13 - 03:55 pm
It would be a "Bushaphone."...

Not really. The Bush idea was to provide a system whereby the poorest of the poor would have access to emergency services such as 911.

As with all they touch, the "progressives" have turned the phone situation into a gargantuan taxpayer funded rip-off.

This and other frauds like it have brought us step by step to the sixteen trillion dollar debt precipice. And the Democrats keep piling it on with no end in sight.

But there is an end, as predicted in the old axiom about the "straw that broke the camels back". That "straw" is coming sooner rather than later.

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