The Manti Te’o Story Part 2: What Factors Contributed to Manti Te’o being Catfished

The Information Age

The Information age is characterized by the shift from traditional industry that the industrial revolution brought through industrialization, to an economy based on the information computerization. Today, in the year 2013 we are in the Information age and the Internet is taking over and not only affecting all of our lives, but completely shaping every aspect of it. The people who have been most affected by the Internet are Generation Y and Z which are characterized by those who were born from the years 1977 to 2012. This group of people which includes myself have seen the evolution of the internet go from strictly computers to to almost every hand held device you can access on a daily basis. You cannot find a group of high school or college students without seeing at least one of them looking down at their phone and talking to someone who is not currently present. The internet has changed the way we communicate with each other and the average age a person gets their first cell phone today is currently 8 years old with 75% of today’s teens having cell phones. Between the ages of eight and eighteen, the average person spends about seven and a half hours on the Internet per day up from less than six just five years ago. The Internet has influenced the way we communicate with each other in more than one way, today we can communicate where ever we want, with who ever we want, when ever we want and faster than ever before. Smart phones are the combination of the Internet and cell phones and today 57% of kids aged 13 to 17 have a smart phone. Text messaging has enabled us to communicate with our friends and family in places where it is not appropriate to have out loud conversations. Text messaging has also affected how we talk to people, as most people do not text message the same way they would speak in person. One in three teens now send more than 100 texts per day. Today, 88% of all cell phone users use text messaging. This enables you to communicate with someone without ever having to see them or even hear their voice. Text messaging is a much less personal form of communicating than talking on the phone or in person. The upcoming generation is more extremely savvy and less teenagers are actually speaking face-to-face than ever before. However, this generation’s persistent absence of face to face interaction makes it problematic for them to read body language and understand when someone is lying. They’re not trained to pick up on visual cues or even the implications in a tone of voice. As much as their computer savvy has given them unprecedented access to networks and information, there’s little sophistication in how to process the bombardment of human interaction data when it occurs. This makes them a very vulnerable group.

It is nearly impossible today to see a group of teenagers or college kids hanging out without at least one of them being on their cell phone.

In the Information Age, cell phones are being increasingly used for purposes other than strictly phone calls.

Social Networking/Online Dating

Social Networking originally began with speaking to people on AIM using screen names to instantly message them or speak in chat rooms with people with similar interests. This later lead to online dating websites where you can meet people over the internet and talk to them and set up dates. Social Networking websites have evolved drastically from this and it is one of the fastest growing industries in America. Today 90% of teens use some form of social networking. The two most popular forms of social networking today are Facebook and Twitter. Facebook and Twitter along with other social networking sites combine various ways to communicate with other people creating a community that takes place entirely on their website. All you need to do is become “friends” with someone on Facebook or follow each other on Twitter and you can see all of their pictures, personal information, comments, and posts that they put on their pages. On Facebook the ways to communicate are by “liking” or commenting on their posts or pictures on, writing on their Facebook Timeline, “poking” them, or messaging them which is basically instant messaging. On Twitter you can communicate with people by “favoriting” their tweets, direct messaging them, tweeting at them or re-tweeting one of their posts. This can all be done without ever having to meet the individual in person. Non-private profiles can be viewed by anyone, but people who chose to remain private can control who see’s what information. Much like text messaging, speaking to someone on one of these Social Networking sites is a lot less personal than in person and effects the how you talk to people because most people talk differently over the internet than in person. Today social networking sites have gone mobile and can now be accessed anywhere there is Internet connection by use of smart phone. Facebook and Twitter have mobile applications and aps specifically designed for cell phones. You can search for people on both of Facebook and Twitter by use of the Facebook’s friend finder and Twitter’s connect feature. These social networking sites are a way to meet people and form relationships over the Internet. This, combined with the increased cell phone usage has taken almost all the personal social connection out of relationships and has allowed people to find out a large amount of information about other people without having to meet them. Many people include their phone numbers on their Facebook pages too so that can also be accessed.

Social Networking sites like Facebook and Twitter allow people to connect without ever having to physically meet.

The “Catfishing” Phenomenon

Given the vast amount of communication that is no longer taking place in person and growing amount of people using social networking to form relationships, it is not surprising that many people are using fake pictures and information to fool others and pretend to be someone that they are not. The recent boom of social networking has lead to a “catfishing” phenomenom which is very popular especially with teenagers and college students. Catfishing is the phenomenon of internet predators that fabricate online identities and entire social circles to trick people into emotional/romantic relationships. This is becoming more and more popular as people realize that they can very easily pretend to be someone else and trick someone into liking them or even falling in love with them. Catfishing combines the use of several social networking sites and other mobile devices to talk and form relationships with people without ever meeting them in person. It is very easy to make a fake profile on Facebook or Twitter using other people’s photos than your own and posting information posing as someone else. These “catfishers” simply have to find someone they want to talk to (could be someone they know or someone they don’t know) using the social networking sites person finder feature, request to friend them or follow them, and then message them posing as someone else. If the other person has never met the catfisher in person, they have no way to know that it is not the actual person in the pictures they are speaking to. Catfishers generally message multiple people. The main reason people “catfish” or make fake profiles is because they are unhappy with their own physical appearance or who they are and don’t feel comfortable messaging someone as themselves. Many times they fish for compliments and accept them as if they are the actual person they are pretending to be. Most catfishers have problems psychologically. Full online relationships are sometimes started without ever meeting face to face and this became apparent when the documentary entitled “Catfish The Movie” was release in theaters in 2010. This movie starred a man named Nev Schulman who was a victim of being catfished by a woman pretending to be multiple people and feeding him lies. The movie was such a hit that MTV gave Nev his own TV show in 2012 where he helps individuals out who are going through a similar process of having an online relationship, but never meeting the person face to face. In most of these situations the person who they are having this fabricated relationship with are not who they were claiming to be and were hiding behind multiple lies. Some of these relationships lasted up to 10 years without ever meeting in person. This is what happened to Manti Te’o who was catfished by Ronaiah Tuiasosopo.

Catfish the TV Show first aired in 2012 and brings to light how many people are being duped by predators and fake accounts.

Manti like so many others was duped by a fake Twitter account by a “catfish”.

Manti Te’o’s Background Effect/Psychological Factors

There were many factors that played a part in Manti Te’o being “catfished” and one of them was his background growing up in Hawaii. Manti was born and raised in Laie, Hawaii. The town he lived in housed a satellite campus of Brigham Young University. At 21 years old, Manti Te’o is typical of a generation who has grown up in front of their cell phones and computers, where intense, electronic social interaction has become their reality. This had a profound effect on his level of social awareness and emotional intelligence. Te’o was victim to an age where people can easily create a fake social network account and trick someone into thinking they are someone else. He rose to fame very early as a football star in Hawaii so he never really lived a normal life growing up. Manti has been socially isolated with little opportunity to meet a nice, normal girl in the flesh and was the perfect target for the predator. Manti’s religion also played a large role in why he was duped so easily. Manti Te’o and his family are Mormon LDS (Church of the Latter-Day Saints) and Manti grew up in a strict Mormon home. The Mormon religion plays a large role in young Mormon’s lives. Young men and women raised within the LDS church are counseled to wait until age 16 to begin dating. Dates often occur in-group settings, with the emphasis on exclusive relationships generally delayed until the early college years. Mormon young people are much like the majority culture. Unlike in many mainstream religions, a sexual relationship before marriage is unacceptable in the Mormon faith. Young members who fail to abide by the law of chastity lose entry into the temple, home to the most sacred of LDS ceremonies. This immutable moral code can make life complicated for young Mormons living in an increasingly sexualized culture. It is not hard to see the benefits of an online relationship for someone in Te’o’s position. The voice on the other end of the telephone line offered emotional support but reduced temptations. This girl could be his biggest fan without becoming his biggest distraction. A relationship conducted over the phone and Internet could also move at a pace suitable for a shy Mormon young man.Te’o was quoted as saying “Faith is believing in something that you most likely can’t see.” When Manti did finally find out that Lennay was not real, he was understandably extremely embarrassed. In his shock and disappointment, he prolonged the narrative, because for months, in his mind, the relationship was very real. Te’o was quoted saying: “I did not know who to turn to. I did not know who to tell. I did not know who to trust,” Te’o said. “It was a big thing for me, and I was scared. That’s the truth. I was just scared, and I didn’t know what to do.” Take the fact that Te’o could never live an average life with his Mormon faith and the information age that he grew up into account and this made him very vulnerable. It’s not so surprising that a young, handsome, All American college football star like Manti was able to be catfished.


The Mormon religion dictates much of young men like Manti Te’o’s lives.




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