Manti Te'o: How Are We Still Getting Catfished?

woman shocked at computer
Contributor
Heartbreak

If you're like me, and you heard the words "Manti Te'o" 48 hours ago, you probably would've said, "What’s that you said about Manatees?" Not even kidding. But now Te'o is everywhere, thanks to the girlfriend-that-never-was and the sob story surrounding his faux relationship.

Here's the abridged version: Te'o is a senior at the University of Notre Dame whom happens to be really good at football; so good, in fact, that he was in the running to win the Heisman Trophy this year. His outstanding playing on the field made him a piece of human interest off the field, which led to him openly discussing his long-distance girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, a Stanford student who had a full roster of sob stories for Te'o to share: serious car accident, diagnosed with Leukemia, etc. In late 2012, news breaks that Te'o's grandmother and his beloved girlfriend passed away within six hours of one another — a serious blow for Te'o and an enormous opportunity for "perseverance through tragedy" media coverage throughout his senior season.

However, yesterday Deadspin broke some shocking news: SHE NEVER EXISTED. Amidst the back-and-forth that is now coming by way of statements from Te'o and the University of Notre Dame, we can gather that: 1. the supposed relationship existed entirely online and 2. someone apparently created Kekua's identity using photos from a real woman’s social media account. Sound familiar? Yes, it sure does. Here’s why: Catfish.

Even more interesting to consider, now that we've got the details down, is how someone can still be getting "Catfished" in 2013. The film, released in 2010, brought to life the idea of falling in love with a "person" who, in actuality, doesn’t exist; rather, the identity was created. Now MTV has turned it into a television show, spotlighting people who had been lured in by online love only to find that on the other side of the screen awaits a completely different person. What’s going on here people?

I think it's safe to assume that we all know how to use Google, and have likely run a search or two on potential love interests in the past year, if not the past week. It's easy enough to create a Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and email address under a false identity, but deeper search results are harder to come by. A little bit of digging might have shown that aside from social media, records of Kekua don't exist — not at Stanford, not anywhere.

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Even worse, Te'o claimed to have known Kekua for more than a year; if their connection really was authentic and deep, wouldn't an in-person meeting be appropriate? Therein lies the issue in Catfish-like situations (one party is adamant about face-to-face while the other is evasive). But even a Skype session can verify that the person on the other end of the computer is, in fact, whom they claim to be. And if the refusal to do even that exists, the suspicion should arise.

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Of course, theories have emerged since the story broke: that Te'o did it for publicity, that he might be gay and used Kekua as a coverup, etc. Whatever the true explanation might be, I find it hard to believe that a big football star — let alone any of these Joe Schmoe’s MTV comes across — can be duped by a Catfish situation today.

Why do you think people are still getting Catfished today?