Most likely you’ve heard the news of college football player Manti Te’o and the hoax involving his online girlfriend. Te’o, a linebacker for Notre Dame, reported several months ago that his girlfriend and grandmother had died within hours of each other. The girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, a 22-year-old Stanford University student, died of leukemia.
This heartbreaking interest story was covered by multiple news outlets, until the sports website, Deadspin, published a piece raising questions about the existence of Te’o’s girlfriend.
According to Deadspin, “Manti Te’o and Lennay Kekua did not meet at Stanford in 2009. The real beginning of their relationship apparently occurred on Twitter.”
This breaking-news story had people further questioning whether Te’o himself had orchestrated the lie to gain publicity?
In a Notre Dame athletics news conference, director Jack Swarbrick swore Teo’s innocence saying there was no way Te’o knew his girlfriend was hoax because the relationship was conducted strictly online and on the phone.
Huh? How can you call someone your girlfriend, when you’ve never met?
Te’o tried to clear things up by explaining that he lied to his father about meeting Kekua because he was embarrassed to tell his family he was in love with a woman he’d never met.
“I even knew that it was crazy that I was with somebody that I didn’t meet,” he told ESPN. “And that alone, people find out that this girl who died I was so invested in, and I didn’t meet her as well.”
So this begs the question, why would you invest yourself in a relationship, for nearly a year, with a woman you’ve never met?
Deadspin revealed that there were no records of Lennay Kekua’s death, in fact, there were no records of her ever existing.
When this story broke Te’o released a statement:
“This is incredibly embarrassing to talk about, but over an extended period of time, I developed an emotional relationship with a woman I met online. We maintained what I thought to be an authentic relationship by communicating frequently online and on the phone, and I grew to care deeply about her. To realize that I was the victim of what was apparently someone’s sick joke and constant lies was, and is, painful and humiliating. It further pains me that the grief I felt and the sympathies expressed to me at the time of my grandmother’s death in September were in any way deepened by what I believed to be another significant loss in my life. … In retrospect, I obviously should have been much more cautious. If anything good comes of this, I hope it is that others will be far more guarded when they engage with people online than I was. …”
Whether we believe Te’o’s story or not, this just proves that relationships are not meant to be developed solely over the internet. Online dating sites serve as a tool for helping members meet their match, but the website is, in fact, just a tool. It should be common sense that any serious relationship is meant to develop in real life.
If you’ve had regular communication with a person and things seem to be headed on the right track, then you should invite them to continue the conversation with a phone call.
We can learn from Te’o’s mistake, that you shouldn’t let the phone calls and emails go on too long before meeting. One can give away one’s heart through all the phone calls and emails, but then end up disappointed if there is no attraction at the first face-to-face meeting … or to find out that the person doesn’t even exist.
Learn the best practices of using an online dating service by downloading our FREE Online Dating Guide For Catholics.