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Commentary: Manti Te’o fake girlfriend hoax ‘Catfished’ us all

Courtesy of MCT

I’m kind of ashamed to admit that I watch a show on MTV.
But I think “Catfish” is really interesting.
On the show, host Nev Schulman, who was himself duped by an online “girlfriend,” helps people in online-only relationships meet their significant other in-person for the first time. And it never seems to go as planned.
It makes for entertaining television, but I also think it’s sad, especially when I think about how much these people had invested in these relationships only to find out it wasn’t what they thought.
While watching the show, I think it’s easy to see that there’s obviously something wrong in these relationships. I don’t know if these people are blinded by love, if they’re in denial or what. Personally, I would never be in an online-only relationship for reasons that are demonstrated on the show – people lie, and it’s even easier to lie online.
Despite this lack of personal experience with and failure to condone online-only relationships, I find “Catfish” fascinating.
The show became even more relevant last week when it was revealed that Notre Dame star linebacker Manti Te’o’s girlfriend, who had supposedly died in September around the same time as his grandmother, never existed.
It was all apparently an elaborate hoax allegedly perpetrated by a man named Ronaiah Tuiasosopo for unknown reasons. Friday, news also broke that Tuiasosopo’s cousin, Tino Tuiasosopo, was the voice of Te’o’s “girlfriend,” Lennay Kekua.
Te’o admitted that he had never met Kekua in person. The “Catfish” comparisons started as soon as the story broke.
In an interview with Katie Couric, which aired Thursday, Te’o also admitted he’d lied to the media by maintaining the story even after he found out it was a hoax.
I can see why he lied. I can only imagine how embarrassing it would be to admit a situation like that to my family and friends, let alone the entire public. But that doesn’t mean I think it’s OK.
Te’o has given his side of the story, but it’s hard for me to decide what to think about this situation because I don’t know the whole story – no one does.
To me, one of the most interesting aspects of “Catfish” is the person’s motive for creating a fake online profile. In Te’o’s case, the reason behind the hoax, behind the creation of Lennay Kekua, is still missing.
On the show, motives have ranged from revenge spun out of control to loneliness. Often the situation becomes bigger than the person expected, and I think that’s what happened here.
When Te’o was led to believe that his girlfriend died, we were all led to believe the same thing.
There is still a lot of uncertainty surrounding the situation, but one thing is sure: while Manti Te’o is certainly a victim, he’s not the only one.
In a way, we all got “Catfished.”


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