Manti Te’o Was Catfished! How? Why?

 By Nina Atwood

manti-te-oThe big news over the past couple of weeks is Manti Te’o – the elaborate hoax that put him in the media spolight in the most uncomfortable way possible. As the bizarre tale unfolded of how he fell in love with a woman he never met, the revelations seemed stranger than fiction. How could this famed Notre Dame player fall for something so outrageous? Here’s the scoop on how it happened to him, and why you must protect yourself from the risk of dating someone online. (For the Fox 4 story in which I was interviewed about Manti Te’o, click here.)

The Victim

A Catfishing victim doesn’t want to be hurt, but he (or she) may have some built-in issues that make him vulnerable. First, he is typically in a time of great transition such as recovering from a breakup or divorce. In Manti’s case, he was dealing with the transition from being just another player to being the famous player who was in line for the Heisman.

Second, the Catfishing victim is unusually needy, craving affirmation. It’s no wonder because following a loss or in the midst of becoming famous, it’s hard to know who to trust. When trust is broken or shaky, it’s easy to gravitate to someone who appears to have your back, someone who seems to be there for you when you aren’t sure who could ever be there for you again. That feeling of affirmation is so seductive that the victim will grab onto it, even though it is settling for crumbs instead of holding out for the banquet of a good relationship.

Third, the Catfishing victim does not have a good b.s. meter. The average person who dates online becomes suspicious pretty quickly when the other person refuses to Skype, FaceTime or meet. If you are emotionally intelligent, you feel this strong sense of something not being right. But if you are not, you miss those social cues and, like Manti, may enable the ruse to continue.

Fourth, the Catfishing victim is quickly invested in the fiction. Manti wanted desperately to believe that this supposedly beautiful girl who shared his background and faith loved him. He wanted it so much that he became invested in a false relationship, and even lied to his family about meeting her so that they would not interfere in his fantasy. And that’s the problem – needing to believe in a fantasy relationship instead of investing in a real one.

Real relationships can be messy. To have one, you need to learn how to have healthy conflict, make compromises, and give up some of the things you want. You have to learn how to give more than you receive at times, and love someone who is as imperfect as yourself. All of that takes emotional intelligence and maturity. Committed relationships are not for the faint hearted! They are for people who aim for long term contentment rather than instant gratification.

The dopamine high we get from things that are momentarily gratifying leads us toward addiction, and online fantasy relationships are highly addicting. That is what ultimately led to Manti Te’o's downfall – getting addicted to the fantasy. To avoid that in your own life, make sure you deal with these critical areas:

1. Develop emotional intelligence. Learn to tell the difference between fantasy and reality with other people. Have a great b.s. meter to guide you.

2. Be very, very secure in your life as a single person. Good relationships are a bonus, not an entitlement or a need like air and water. Want one, attract a good one, but don’t need one. Cultivate joy in the meantime through contributing in some way that has purpose to you.

3. Tell the truth to friends and family. Manti lied to his family, so they weren’t able to help him discern what was really happening. If you are hiding something from your friends and family, it’s probably harmful to you. Bring them into the picture; ask them what they think about any situations involving online or other connections. Let them be your b.s. meter until you develop one.

Learn how to date safely online by reading my eBook, Intenet Dating for the Savvy Single. You’ll learn the steps to take to move your online connection to a real one as quickly as possible.

Entry Filed under: Advice for Men,Advice for Women,Celebrity Buzz,Dating,Relationships

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