Sunday, January 20, 2013

Cyber Relationships: Real or Elaborate Hoax

I've watched the many news stories about the Notre Dame linebacker's dead girlfriend hoax. With each broadcast on each network, more and more pieces of the puzzle were found. Now it looks like the whole thing was perpetrated by a so called friend of Manti Te'o. Nearly four years of a prank gone wrong and this dude never thought to call it off? That's the first thing that popped in my head when learning of all of this, but all the media could focus on was whether or not it was possible for someone to be dating someone for so long without ever meeting them.

Let's take a step back for a moment and look at the whole online FRIENDSHIPS that develop through social media, Yahoo Chat groups, and other forums. There are many more of course including the online gamer community. So many hours are spent in front of computer screens and on smartphones these days. There is very little time to actually go out and meet people the old fashioned way...IN PERSON. These online forums and groups allow people to connect with others before that first often awkward meeting. It allows you go get to know each other a bit and establish a bond that sometimes can take months of date nights to do. All of this from the privacy and safety of your own home.  At least that's the idea.

Unfortunately there are way too many Internet trolls out there and in Manti's case, the troll happened to be right under his nose posing as a friend. There really isn't anything out there preventing someone from setting up a fake account on any of these sites and pretend they are someone they are not. I have four different accounts on Facebook myself but I don't make any of them a secret. Right in the ABOUT sections I tell everyone straight off that Stephanie Ryan is one of my pen names as is Lia Michaels and Tammy Dennings Maggy. Tammy is also known as The Vixen on our blogs. That's not a secret either. I'm not talking about these types of accounts but those of people who are deliberately lying to others in order to manipulate their feelings and sometimes set them up for some kind of fraud.

One of the stories about Manti stated that the friend, posing as the "girlfriend" had even fished around for Manti's checking account routing numbers so "she" could send him some money. Thanks goodness Manti didn't fall for that bit. He could have been taken for more than just his pride in this grand hoax. You all know about the Nigerian prince/princess fishing schemes that go around. Well, these are getting more and more elaborate using online dating sites to prey on people looking for love.

One of my friends was immediately drawn in by this woman who claimed to live in Nigeria. Her story was that she was the child of a British national who married a native Nigerian. The woman told my friend that she had witnessed the villagers kill her father when she was a child and basically that the British government couldn't do anything to get her or her mother out of the country. What a crock! Well that's what I thought when I heard the story, but not my friend. After a few months of chats, emails and phone calls, their friendship grew more and more intimate. She talked of her wish to explore the United States and maybe visit my friend in her travels. He thought that would be fun. She then dug deeper and told him she had feelings for him and wanted to see where that went. Her "mother" even thought it was a great idea for her to get out of Nigeria and have a better life...with MY FRIEND.  It got bad enough that my friend actually sent money to this girl to help secure her ticket to the States.  This person even sent my friend an itinerary of her flights so he would know she was really making the trip.

Are you seeing where I'm going with this?  Wait...there's more. (Here's a LINK that gives more stories like what you are about to read.)

On the very day she was to arrive, she had a near fatal car accident on the way to the airport. My friend found this out because a "doctor" found his number on the girl's cell phone and called him. The girl's "mother" called my friend in a panic about how the cost of the tickets were non-refundable and what were they going to do. She wasn't concerned at all about her daughter on death's door and not expected to make it.  FINALLY this was enough to make my friend realize he was nearly taken for a hell of a lot more than just a little money.  As soon as he told the "mother" that all she had to do was contact the airlines to reticket, the woman became upset and had to go sit by her daughter's bedside. Then a few days later he get's an email from this broad stating she is still in the hospital and can't go home since the bill is still unpaid. She had "begged" her doctor to be able to use his laptop in order to contact "the man I love to let him know I am alive and trying to get to him."

How do I know all of this? Well, the male friend in question above is now my husband. I had to sit back and watch him go through all of this and basically let him figure it out for what it was...fraud.  Many people are not as lucky as he was. Some have sent thousands of dollars to these people thinking they are helping the women/men they love get a better life.

The lesson here is that while you can develop wonderful friendships here online, think hard before you take things to the next level. Make sure you can meet each other in person at some point if that's what you wish to do. DO NOT send anyone any money for them to be able to come see you, get out of jail, pay their hospital bills, etc. While you can develop real feelings for someone based on your correspondence alone, you need to remember that it's only an profound attraction at that point. Until you meet in person and things click, it's all fantasy.

There's nothing wrong with fantasy, but when you start thinking that fantasy world is real you just may be setting yourself up for some gut-wrenching heartbreak. You don't have to agree with me on this. It's just my opinion and lessons I've learned and seen...through my own eyes.

Until next time...

1 comment:

  1. Fantasy is what we write about, Steph. You are right no the money with this article. Hurry up and finish The Do Over so we can learn a bit more about your fantasies!