Saturday, January 19, 2013

Notre Dame Linebacker Manti Te'o's Hoax Could Happen to Any of Us

In the early l970’s, ping pong diplomacy was coined to describe the thawing of United States and Chinese relations when there was an exchange between table tennis players between these two enemies.  This exchange paved the way for Richard Nixon’s visit to Beijing.

After the diplomacy, Americans became aware of ping-pong being a competitive sport---albeit a bit ludicrous to most casual table tennis players. 

Well, anyway, when I attended the University of Akron in the years 1972-1976, the student newspaper reported on the University’s winning Table Tennis Team.  This table tennis team was the one bright spot in the University and made the front pages of the student newspaper with the details of the team’s great performances.  

But, the team was a fake team and did not exist!  The entire University and more particularly the student newspaper was a victim of a hoax. 

Source of from Akron Beacon Journal Archives:By Mark J. Price Beacon Journal staff writer

By today’s standards, the hoax was harmless and took on a life of its own.   There had to have been some red-faced student editors at the newspaper who probably could not believe that they had been successfully played.

But this hoax made only Ohio news and in the scheme no one was hurt and the three men who created the imaginary team have gone on to have successful lives!

As a college student of the 1970s, I had to do my own research at the library.  Now, students locate information on the internet and use the information as part of their research paper.    People have taken on the idea that if it is on the internet it has to be true.  

On Twitter, there are false tweets started about people dying.   Soon Twitter is flooded with the false tweets and when the “dead” person announces that he or she is alive---the entire social community knows that they were played.

But there are harmful scams out there and real people do get hurt either financially or have their reputations destroyed by the spread of malicious and untrue rumors about them.  More frequently we read about the Facebook bullies who have allegedly driven people to suicide by spreading rumors about them.

The National Enquirer and other rags like them have made much of their money printing salacious gossip about celebrities.   Those of us who are not celebrities can read the articles with gusto (or glance at the newspaper headlines while standing at the checkout at a grocery store).   We because the articles are not about us that is okay---because we are not celebrities.

However, when gossip is posted about us non-celebrity folks on Facebook, Twitter or whatever is popular at the time we are shocked and hurt because we worry that people will actually believe the untruths.

So the story about Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o’s falling in love with a “fake” girlfriend and then grieving her death is unbelievable, sad, and funny at the same time.

Unbelievable and funny that supposedly a bright young man fell in love with a girl he never had met.   Sad, if true, that Manti Te'o actually thought the young lady really existed and mourned her death.

Source of Photograph: Los Angeles Times

 The story of Manti Te'o is probably no different than the long-distance historical relationships people have developed with pen pals who live out of state or overseas.  There are stories about these long distance pen pals finally meeting and either they get married or just shake their head in disbelief that the person was certainly not who they portrayed themselves to be in the letters.

The difference was that the prank took on a life of its own when Manti Te’o announced to his teammates that his “girlfriend” had died.   And that story became very public largely fueled by the press who wanted to portray the young football player as such an athlete that he would still play ball even when his girlfriend had died.

Probably what is more disturbing, is that the Notre Dame school officials learned of the prank before the championship ball game and kept silence about the hoax so Manti Te'o and the team would not be distracted.   Their knowledge was deliberately deceptive and they deserve some thrashings with a Notre Dame rosary.  These true idiots had little confidence about the emotional intelligence of the adult young men who were playing the game and they continued the hoax on Manti Te'o ‘s teammates along with the young linebacker continuing the hoax.

I don’t understand internet dating and fortunately don’t have to engage in it to look for my better half.

But perhaps, and it is sad, that with the evolution of the social media and mobile phone apps there will be an ever increasing number of hoaxes and lies which just take off and have a life of their own. 

Today’s younger generation and even my own generation do not really question the absurdity of calling people we network with Facebook or Twitter as friends, falling in love with them without meeting them, and spilling out the most intimate details of our lives for the entire world to read about.  

So the saga of Manti Te`o could have easily happened to anyone of us.    

One of the best advertisements about not trusting all that you read on the internet is the State Farm Insurance commercial which warns about believing everything on the internet: 

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