Manti Te'o and Looking Down at The Screen Decade
You are missing the point.
Or at least, you are if you're one of the bazillion people following the Manti Te'o story, dutifully trying to determine whether the
Te'o, a Heisman Trophy runner-up, had generated an outpouring of sympathy after he played through pain, turning in a gritty performance that keyed his team to an upset win, right after learning that his girlfriend and grandmother had died within hours of each other. The grandmother was real. But as Deadspin, a sports website, soon discovered, the girlfriend was not.
Te'o, it turned out, had never met Lennay Kekua. He'd seen pictures of a woman, he'd spoken to what he thought was a woman by phone and corresponded with someone online. The "relationship" was virtual. Te'o says now that he was as surprised as anyone to learn Kekua did not exist. He was, he says, the victim of a hoax by an acquaintance, Ronaiah Tuiasosopo. So now, people are debating whether Te'o duped us or was duped himself.
And missing a more fascinating question. What does it say that this story is even possible, that it is even credible a man could have an emotionally intimate "relationship" with a woman who did not exist?
Here, then, in a nutshell, is the great paradox of the communications revolution. It has left us both better connected and yet, farther apart, because actual contact is no longer required. Indeed, we'll likely see more stories like these as texting substitutes for conversation,
Some of us remember a day when she wasn't your girlfriend unless she'd allowed you to hold her hand or steal a kiss. You know, physical contact in an analog world.
But that was then.
One is reminded, in a twisted sense, of the outcry over a 1964 news story out of
If that was a legitimate fear 49 years ago, how much more legitimate is it in 2013, when the streets are filled with people who pass one another yet never see one another, sit next to one another yet never share so much as a nod of acknowledgement, so enrapt are they -- we -- in words and images on tiny screens. Indeed, if the '70s were the Me Decade and the '80s were the Greed Decade, it seems entirely likely historians of the future will remember this as the Screen Decade, the years spent looking down.
So while some people are asking what Te'o knew and when he knew it, some of us simply marvel that we have come into a time when such a story is even possible. Apparently, however, what supposedly happened to Te'o is common enough that it even has a name: catfishing.
It is relatively immaterial whether he lied or not. What is of greater interest is that the story illustrates a sea change in what now constitutes interpersonal relationships. And the new norm cannot help but seem a little odd to those of us who remember when a relationship -- or at least an intimate one -- presupposed that you and the other person had actually met.
Of course, that was the olden days. Now so much of our world is digital -- movies, music, shopping, books -- it's easy to believe everything just works better that way.
But guess what? Not everything does.
Te'o has come clean to Katie Couric, admitting that he lied just a little, but that he had no part in creating the hoax. And he says he learned of the hoax when the real Kekua called him
Manti Te'o and Looking Down at The Screen Decade
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- Nike Co-Founder Now Believes Freeh Report Tarnished Paterno's Reputation
- Big East Eyes Split with 'Catholic 7' before 2014 Season
- Sue Paterno Defends Late Husband in Letter to Penn State Players
- Committee of 14-20 Members to Decide BCS Four-team Football Semifinal
- Judge Rejects NCAA Motion to Stop Anti-Trust Suit Filed by Ex-Players
- Football Schools to Fight for Big East Brand
- Manti Te'o and Looking Down at The Screen Decade
- NCAA Investigates Own Enforcement Program
- Te'o Claims Sorrow For Death of 'Girlfriend' Was Real
- Florida State QBs Coach Joins Miami as Offensive Coordinator
- LSU Gives Les Miles Two-Year Extension, Pay Raise
- Diane O'Meara Speaks About Te'o girlfriend Hoax
- Manti Te'o Breaks His Silence
- Businesses Try to Cash in on Manti Te'o Hoax
- Manti Te'o Denies Having Part in Girlfriend Hoax
- Texas A&M Rewards Kevin Sumlin with Pay Increase
- Oregon Promotes Offensive Coordinator Mark Helfrich to Head Coach
- Virginia Tech Completes Football Coaching Staff Overhaul
- Mississippi Prep Wideout Laquon Treadwell Commits to Ole Miss
- Man Reportedly Confessed Manti Te'o Girlfriend Hoax to Friend
- Chip Kelly leaves Oregon to coach NFL's Eagles
- Heisman Hopeful's Hoax? Notre Dame's Te'o Girlfriend's Death is Fake
- Quarterback Logan Thomas Staying at Virginia Tech
- Standout Prep Defensive End Tim Williams Commits to Alabama
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