A bad catch: when Internet flirtation turns into deception

Brad*, a sophomore at The University of Texas at Austin, is just one of the many victims of “catfishing,” or being romantically deceived online.

"Sometimes, you may have to play dirty to get what you want,” Brad said.

How does a relationship begin through social networking platforms? Well, first moves aren’t exactly easy to make when all you know about the other person is their name and what they may or may not look like, based on their chosen profile picture. However, Brad says that it wasn’t hard to start a relationship with Judith, since she was an attractive woman who added him on Facebook. He said he believes that it’s difficult for most guys to reject a good-looking woman who wants to chase them. 

When speaking with Brad about his short-lived relationship with Judith, it’s easy to realize that the idea of meeting and dating a stranger online is enticing to many people. It’s much easier to take risks and be yourself in the virtual world than it is in reality. You can give yourself a second identity, even going so far as to alter your physical appearance to become the person that you have always wanted to be.

Take the story of University of Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o that has captured headlines in the past few weeks.

After meeting online, Te’o and Lennay Kekua became friends, and eventually entered into a relationship. Long story short, the two had nightly phone conversations until they fell asleep, and Kekua, or rather Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, couldn’t help falling in love with the famous athlete. Tuiasosopo claims to have wanted to confess that he wasn’t the woman Te’o imagined him to be, but there was never an opportune moment for him to do so, which is why he decided to end their relationship by killing Kekua. Tuiasosopo diagnosed her with leukemia, and hoped that Te’o wouldn’t dwell on her and the fabricated relationship. On Dec. 6, three months after Kekua’s supposed deaht on Sept. 12 — the same day Te’o’s grandmother passed away, in fact — Te’o received a call informing him that Kekua and their relationship was a hoax, according to the football star.

Te’o calls himself a victim, seemingly embarrassed that he put his true feelings into this virtual relationship.

Brad did not receive a phone call like Te’o’s, but he figured out that he was a victim of catfishing once Judith failed to turn off Facebook chat’s new location indicator, which activated automatically. Judith claimed to live in Austin, but when Facebook said her messages were sent from Boston, Mass., Brad immediately became suspicious and confronted her. Judith admitted to lying about her location to make their relationship seem more realistic, and Brad never spoke to her again.

Some people may think that online dating saves you from the pain of getting hurt, since you’re behind a computer screen. However, as both Manti Te’o’s and Brad’s cases prove, dating online has consequences of its own.

*Names were changed to preserve anonymity