Friday, January 18, 2013

What Do Catfish and Football Have to Do With Online Security? Plenty…

This week, the country was swept up in the story that college football sensation Manti Te’o was “catfished” when it was revealed that his girlfriend, who supposedly died of leukemia, didn’t actually die and was not even a real person. College football fans and sympathizers routed Te’o on during the BCS National Championship in January after learning that he had lost his grandmother and his girlfriend within the span of one day.
Beware the Catfish!
Now, it seems that the whole thing was a hoax and that this girlfriend never actually existed. Te’o had an online relationship with this woman and it is not yet clear if he was part of the elaborate scheme or just a victim of someone’s sick games. Either way, the term “catfish” is now certain to become a mainstream word for someone who engages another in a fake relationship online.
The word comes from a documentary called Catfish in which a man thinks he is falling for a woman he met online, but it turns out to be someone else. At the end of the film, it is explained how catfish were used to keep cod active in their tanks while being shipped overseas. This was compared to some people in our lives who might not seem beneficial, but are the ones who challenge us. Catfish is now also a TV show on MTV in which the filmmakers help young people in online relationships discover the true identity of their virtual crushes.
There are questions as to whether or not Catfish the documentary and TV show are real or fake. But one thing is certain either way – Catfish and the Manti Te’o story are wake-up calls for people to take online security more seriously. With the abundance of social networking and photo sharing sites, you never know who you’re really talking to. It’s not difficult to do some research online and discover if things add up or just warrant more questions. As we see in Catfish: The TV Show, it’s pretty easy to reach out to mutual friends and ask about the person, do a Google search or even use free facial recognition software to match photos with social media profiles and accounts.
In this day and age, people need to be savvier about the online world if they’re going to use social media as a way to connect with people who are not part of their inner circles. Some are even calling for universities to educate their athletes on social media so they know how to protect themselves better online, especially as public figures. Assuming that Manti Te’o was “catfished” by this fictional girlfriend, I’m sure he’s embarrassed and extremely hurt. And he’s never going to take someone’s word for it online again. 

Image credit: BFS Man