EDITORIAL: Internet Relationship Bound To Be Sketchy
Jan 19, 2013 (The Hartford Courant - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Has Oscar Wilde returned as a sportswriter As the story went, Manti Te'o, the Mormon linebacker from Hawaii who led Notre Dame back to football glory, had to overcome the deaths of his grandmother and his girlfriend on the same day last fall to lead his team to victory.
But it now turns out the story was only half-true; the girlfriend never existed. Mr. Te'o says he was the victim of an elaborate Internet hoax; the whole relationship having taken place online. Information is still coming out, so stay tuned. If Mr. Te'o was complicit in the scam; was, say, trying to use it to boost his chances to win the Heisman Trophy (he didn't), then his activities were disgraceful.
But, while anything is possible, this doesn't jibe with his behavior on and off the field over four years. He has impressed people, including many who met him at the Walter Camp Foundation dinner in New Haven nine days ago, as a good and serious young man. If that is so, and he was hosed by a skilled scammer, the story is at least more complicated.
Males in their early 20s are not, as a rule, fully mature and conversant with the ways of the world. That is further complicated for this generation because a lot of them -- men and women -- live on the Internet. They often consider Internet intimates to be "girlfriends" or "boyfriends." The line between the real and the virtual starts to get fuzzy, and that is not a good thing.
Mr. Te'o still has some explaining to do; his story has some gaps. But he and others in Internet relationships should heed the advice of Nev Schulman, the subject of the 2010 movie "Catfish," who himself was conned by an Internet pretender. Mr. Schulman told the Wall Street Journal that Web-starred lovers should do their research, look for red flags and realize that someone who looks too good to be true may be.
Or join the Jaycees, play coed kickball, take a class -- meet people in person. It may be a quaint practice, but at least you'll know they exist.
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