As sports website Deadspin's expose of Notre Dame football star Manti Te’o's fictional girlfriend continues to reverberate, the term "catfish" continually pops up.
Te'o, a Heisman nominee, told various news outlets in September that girlfriend Lennay Kekua passed away from leukemia. However, Deadspin revealed in an investigative piece on Wednesday that Kekua never existed and Te'o may have made her up himself.
As more information comes out about the hoax, "catfish" is repeatedly mentioned in news stories, leaving many wondering what the association is.
The reference is to a 2010 documentary about Nev Schulman, a young man who developed a relationship with a woman he met on Facebook and who was later found to be lying about her identity, using fake photos and inventing a persona.
In the documentary, Schulman discovers that online girlfriend Megan, who appeared to be in her 20s, is in fact a middle-aged mother using another woman's photo. The woman eventually admitted that she was diagnosed with schizophrenia.
“Catfish” spawned a television series on MTV of which Schulman is the executive producer. Schulman receives hundreds of inquiries a day from people in online relationships who want to know the truth about their partners. He brings online daters together and exposes their relationships, many of which involve people who use crafted identities.
The term “catfish” is now associated with people who have been duped the same way Schulman was.
In an age where social media and online chatting have replaced an arguably large part of in-person social interactions, Te’o is claiming to be a victim of a "catfish"-esque trap.
Te'o came forth with a statement yesterday saying he was a victim of an online hoax. Notre Dame Athletic Director John Swarbrick confirmed Te'o's story, saying the university hired investigators and they ensured that Te'o and someone named Lennay Kekua spoke constantly.
Some have supported the football player, while others felt deceived that the football star may have lied to so many outlets, others posited the lie was intended to gain sympathy so he could win the coveted Heisman award.
As a result of all the speculation, Schulman tweeted on Wednesday evening that he was conducting his own investigation and that he already spoke with the woman whose photo was falsely used as Kekua.
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