Okay, so if you haven’t heard about the Internet hoax involving the Notre Dame linebacker and Heisman Trophy finalist Manti Te’o , then you just haven’t been in America or you haven’t been paying attention.
Here is a brief synopsis of the “scandal”. Manti fell for a girl he met online named Lennay. He never actually met her in “real life” but he considered her his girlfriend. Then last September, Lennay “died” on the same day as Manti’s real grandmother really died. This apparently led to Manti playing inspired college football for the Irish in a season dedicated to his recently departed loved ones.
Of course, the media jumped all over this story and soon everyone who follows college sports knew about it. Then in early December Manti got a call from someone claiming to be Lennay. At this point, bright college boy that he is, Manti figured out that he’d been a victim of an Internet hoax. However, for some reason this didn’t stop him from continuing to refer to his “dead girlfriend” weeks later at the Heisman announcement ceremony in TV interviews.
Eventually, it came out that the nitwit behind the hoax was a Southern California knucklehead named Ronaiah Tuiasosopo. What possessed him to create the elaborate scheme to fool a big-time football player, probably only he knows, but clearly he had too much time on his hands.
Ronaiah created the Lennay hoax that Manti fell hard for by stealing the images of his former high school classmate Diane O’Meara that were posted on her Facebook page and then chatting up the poor guy via online social networks and disguising his voice on phone calls.
Diane was totally oblivious to that fact that her photos were being used to punk Manti, whom she did not know and had never heard of before the scandal broke. When the hoax was discovered, Diane was suddenly thrust into the national spotlight, leading to her being chased by remote TV news crews and an interview on the Today Show where she explained her side of the story.
It’s a Totally-Ridiculous-Only-in-America-in-the-Internet-Age kind of event. Let’s not waste any time berating these young people – all involved were in their early 20s – for their follies but let’s use this as a teachable moment for everyone. There are lots of lessons here. Here’s one for each of the participants in this twisted cyber- triangle:
1. Diane O’Meara – Know Who Your Friends Are!
At the risk of being accused of “blaming the victim,” Miss O’Meara, you could have avoided a lot of unwanted attention and aggravation by limiting your Facebook friends to only those whom you really know and want in your life. Just because you went to school with someone, doesn’t mean you should give the individual access to your life (digital or otherwise). Please review my Fearless Web blog titled: Trust Me, Darling, You Don’t Have 800 Real Friends and then start de-friending.
2. Manti Te’o – The Internet is a Virtual (Not Real) World!
Manti, you need to understand that the virtual world of the Internet is quite different from the real world. You can certainly have virtual relationships, but please don’t be confused into thinking that these are anything like the real thing. Telling everyone that you have a girlfriend but you’ve never been in the same physical room with her, much less kissed her, well, that’s like saying you have an invisible best friend who is a giant rabbit named Harvey.
3. Ronaiah Tuiasosopo - Get a Real Life!
Ronaiah, I too was the president of my high school drama club and can appreciate a good prank, but c’mon, dude. I’m sure you thought your little practical joke would be a fun for a few days and no one would get hurt, but you kept it going for months that included a 1000 phone calls to Manti. Don’t you have better things do with your time than making a famous athlete look like an idiot and disrupting the life of your high school classmate who barely knows you? But I guess you will have a lot to talk about at that high school reunion in a few years.
I work for Trend Micro and the opinions expressed here are my own.
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