Falling in Love Online

Several weeks ago the NCAA football world was shaken-and slightly confused-by the Manti Teo fake girlfriend scam. Manti Teo, a star linebacker for Notre Dame, developed a relationship via Facebook with a girl who later turned out to be the invention of another man, Ranaiah Tuiososopo.

The perpetrator of the hoax, Tuiososopo has since come forward and admitted his crimes, becoming the punch line to a series of jokes on Saturday Night Live and The Daily Show, and prompting the FBI and State Department to issue a set of guidelines to protect people from becoming victimized.

If a person with an attractive profile, contacts you, gets close to you, and then starts asking for money to overcome personal tragedies such as illnesses, or for bail, then take the whole situation with a grain of salt.

Of course, this seems like common sense. However many people are victimized by this type of scam every year, though perhaps not nearly as intricate or bizarre as the Teo case. A quick Google search will unearth many cases wherein unsuspecting victims are taken for thousands of dollars by people they meet on the Internet.

Without ever meeting the scammer, a victim will become so trusting that they are willing to divulge account and social security numbers, as well as bankrupt themselves in attempts to help a person they have only ever communicated with over the phone or Internet. In the Western world where people enjoy the freedom of choosing their own partners it seems surprising when they are so willing to fall in love with someone they have never spoken to face to face.

Throughout their article, Internet Relationships and Their Impact on Primary Relationships published in The Cambridge Journal researchers Heather Underwood and Bruce Findlay discuss how relationships form so quickly online, and what that means for real life.

The study’s basic premise is that the anonymity provided by the Internet allows people to feel secure when they open up about their innermost secrets and personal information. Many people in the study claimed to participate in more self disclosure with online romantic interests than they did with people they spoke to face-to-face. People are also more willing to be accepting of one another on the internet where the usual social anxieties are significantly lessened.

So is the problem that people are too trusting online, or is it that we are too judgmental and difficult to interact with offline? Either way, whether in person or online, be careful to whom you give your bank account information.


Illustration by Danielle Burch