If you’re like me (and I know I am), you may not pay all that much attention to sports. However, lately it seems almost impossible to ignore the story of Manti Te’o, the Notre Dame linebacker and Heisman trophy candidate who was propelled to infamy when the dramatic, too-good-to-be-true story of the death of his girlfriend proved to be a complete fabrication.
Now, while the jury still seems to be out on whether Te’o was duped by Internet pranksters or helped create the fictional persona in order to boost his visibility and garner the sympathy vote for the Heisman… but ultimately it does highlight just how much the Internet has redefined the definition and nature of our relationships with other people. We have connections and friendships – genuine, meaningful ones – with people we may never have interacted with in the flesh but speak to in a variety of mediums on a daily basis… and therein lies the potential for deceit. The old New Yorker cartoon that “nobody on the Internet knows you’re a dog” applies equally to “On the Internet, nobody knows if you’re real or not”.
Many, many people from all walks of life have been suckered into deceptive “relationships”, either with people who disguise their identities in order to seem more appealing or who create new personas out of whole cloth. If you want to avoid getting catfished – named after the popular documentary1, you need to know how to spot a faker.
- which, ironically enough may itself be faked [↩]