Right now a lot of people are talking about the Notre Dame football player, Manti Te'o, who was apparently the victim of a hoax. According to the story, he had a "girlfriend" that he was involved with for more than two or three years. But then he found out that she died, and he shared his story with the press; everyone felt sorry for him, and he got a lot of publicity.
But then it came out that the girlfriend never existed. What's more, he never met her. Apparently some guy tricked Te'o into thinking that he was e-mailing and talking on the telephone to a beautiful woman that he'd never seen in person.
At first I was skeptical. I wondered whether the football player just made up this whole story to get attention for himself (if he really wanted publicity, he should have just auditioned to be the next Bachelor or dated one of the Kardashians. Then everyone would be talking about him, though not in a good way.). Not to mention that Te'o now admits that he made up stories about how he did meet her in person, though he never did. But now I can't help wondering if he really was the victim of a hoax.
I also couldn't help wondering how anyone could communicate with someone for that long without meeting her in person. There's actually a show on MTV called Catfish, that originated from a film about a guy who was also fooled into thinking that the online friend he'd communicated with didn't exist. According to Wikipedia (which as everyone knows is a totally reliable source), a "catfish" is a person who creates fake profiles in order to get attention (and in some cases, "love") from other people. I think that people who deceive others like that must be very lonely...and also very manipulative and selfish.
I've been writing to several of you fellow bloggers ever since I started blogging, even though I've never met any of you. And I do feel like bloggers can make good connections with each other in that way. But it's one thing to develop an online friendship; I think it's something else altogether to develop an online romantic relationship. My question is this: is it possible to have a romantic relationship with someone you've never met?
I'd have to say no. Like I said in my last post, I believe that the best way to find out if you truly have chemistry with someone is to meet him in person. When I did the online dating thing, most of the guys that I met arranged to meet in person after the third or fourth e-mail.
There was one guy who I did spend several months communicating with. He always had an excuse for why we couldn't meet in person. Finally we set up a date, but he didn't show up (he had another lame excuse for that). Was I mad? Let's just say I reacted in the same way that I would if Starbucks suddenly shut down, or if I found out that the Kardashians had moved into my building. (Oh, dear God! The horror!) Maybe I shouldn't have given him another chance, but I did. When we did meet in person, he turned out to be about ten years older and thirty pounds heavier than he looked in his profile pictures. I hoped that his personality would make up for it. It didn't. The date was so bad that when we took a walk by the lake, I contemplated jumping into it and swimming away from him. (I thought if I just ran away he might catch up with me.)
There was another guy that I've mentioned before. He sent me ten or twelve e-mails over the course of a month. Every time I brought up the idea of meeting in person, he came up with another excuse for why he couldn't. After a while, he stopped e-mailing me, and he didn't respond to my e-mail. It made me wonder why he pulled a disappearing act. Was he not who he said he was? Was he in a relationship with someone else? Was he one of those self-centered guys who enjoy getting attention from women on online dating sites and leading them on, but chicken out (or change their minds, when really in all likelihood they may have just been "browsing") when it's time to meet them in person? Was there any way that I could find out where he lived, so that I could order fifty boxes of tampons and have them sent to him, or perhaps send a messenger over there to throw his laptop out the window?
I don't think that you can fall in love with someone you've never met. It's like obsessive fans who claim to be in love with Ryan Gosling or Robert Pattinson (though I do think Ryan is cute). They have this idea in their heads of what that person is like (and an idea that the movie star will fall in love with them at first sight), an idea which may not match up at all with reality. Not to mention you can present yourself as being a completely different person online. (Side note: Don't worry, I haven't done that. I really am a neurotic workaholic, and I really do obsess over everything. I also believe that going on vacation would freak me out even more than I would freak out if Starbucks shut down.)
I think it's important to meet the person you're interested in. When you communicate with other people online, you can figure out what you want to say beforehand. You can go back and revise what you've written. But offline, there is no delete button. You could still pretend to be someone you're not when you meet in person, but even body language can be very revealing.
So if Te'o really is the victim of a hoax, then I feel a little sorry for him. But I also think that he should have insisted on meeting the girl in person sooner, rather than carry on a "relationship" for years. He claims he tried to meet her, but the "girl" made up excuses or kept canceling the dates. Those excuses and cancellations should have been red flags to him, and it shouldn't have taken him so long to find out the truth. (I admit that it took me a while to figure out that those two guys weren't necessarily who they said they were, but it didn't take me years to figure it out. I also didn't consider myself as being in a relationship with them just because we'd been communicating online.)
What do you think? Do you think that it's possible to fall in love with someone you've never met? What do you think of people who spend months and months communicating with someone online and over the phone without ever meeting them in person? I've heard them say that it's still a relationship, and that they are in love and have a deep connection with each other. Do you think it's possible to have a relationship that way? (Side note: It's not the same thing as couples who have long-distance relationships, because at least they have already met and spent time together in person.)
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