Your Internet girlfriend doesn’t exist: Here’s how to avoid getting ‘Catfished’ like Te’o

Teo CatfishHad enough of the Manti Te’o story this week? Well too bad, because I sure as hell haven’t! If you’ve avoided all forms of Internet, television, print media, and humans who speak for the past few days, you may not have heard that the most heartwarming sports story of the year was a complete lie. Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o never had a girlfriend who died the same day as his grandmother. He never had a girlfriend. Because she wasn’t real.

Te’o got Catfished. He got Catfished hard.

The reference here, of course, is to the 2010 documentary Catfish. The film follows Yaniv “Nev” Schulman as he attempts to meet with Megan, a girl he has on online relationship with. “Megan” turns out to be the creation of a woman named Angela Pierce who was running various Facebook accounts to interact with Schulman and pretend Megan was real.

Of course, the difference with the Te’o story is that, at least it would appear, he Catfished himself. His motives aren’t clear, but what is obvious is that he’s had a pretty difficult time keeping a straight story about his fake online girlfriend. He’s trying to play the victim and getting stuck in the various holes of his own story. If you want to get really weird, the creators of Catfish the documentary were accused of faking the entire film, too. So, in that case, we’ve come full circle.

Is your brain melting out of your ears yet?

Regardless of who Catfished who or whose girlfriend is real or living in Canada and we met at summer camp and she was totally here last weekend you guys just missed her I swear, the point is that it’s become far too easy to fabricate an entire person.

But hey, it’s 2013 folks, which means there are a variety of ways we can keep ourselves from getting Catfished. Before you buy a plane ticket to meet that new guy or send a bouquet of “I’m sorry for your loss” flowers to your newly-deceased love interest’s family, do just the tiniest amount of Internet sleuthing and maybe save yourself some trouble (and heartache).

Google Search by Image

This should be your first move if you’re getting into any sort of online relationship whose authenticity you’d like to verify. Do you have a LinkedIn photo of a potential boss who seems odd? Or one from Facebook of a girl who keeps blowing off those in-person meet ups? Then clarity could be yours oh-so-easily.

search by imageAll you have to do is download a picture to your desktop and upload it into Search by Image or copy and paste the image’s URL, and boom: resolution. If the same photo is tying them back to someone with a different name, it’s pretty clear you’ve been played. Or if it matches up to some 80 odd images of a Shutterstock model… need I explain further?

It’s really easy to grab someone else’s photos and tie them to an entirely made up name; Googling that made-up name isn’t going to be very helpful. But pictures are a little harder to lie with. If that image is leading back to another person’s Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, or Facebook page, then consider the red flags raised.

Video chat

Go ahead. Get that “duh” and huge eye roll out of your system. Okay, can we proceed? Yes, it should be obvious that a Skype call or Google Hangout is the first step in protecting yourself from getting Catfished (can we call it “getting Te’oed” yet?). The football player apparently never made that connection, instead conducting an entire year-long relationship over Twitter, Facebook, texts, and phone calls. Not buying it.

But where Te’o failed, you don’t have to. If you have a smartphone or nearly any desktop or laptop computer, you are equipped for video chat. And if your potential paramour or whomever makes excuses, you should probably start preparing yourself for a letdown.

Facebook Timeline

As much as you might hate Timeline (and you probably do), the robust life-collection the new format offers can aid your investigation. The Timeline automatically has an event marker for each user showing when they joined Facebook.

Of course there are no hard and fast rules for when and how and why people choose to join Facebook, but exercise a little common sense. If someone tells you he was in a frat in college and constantly talks about his buddies, that fact that he didn’t have a Facebook page until last week doesn’t make a ton of sense. In fact, if you “met” someone recently and they also only recently joined Facebook, that could indicate they uh… aren’t real.

year joined facebook

Also, while you’re on Facebook, take a look for these things:

  • Is the person alone in most of his or her pictures?
  • Are people tagged in his or her photos?
  • Have people written on his or her page?
  • Does he or she have a lot of friends?

Yes, no, no, and no? It’s not looking good..

Background checks

Maybe it’s gotten to this point. You’ve Googled and Facebooked this person until you can Google and Facebook no more. While there might be enough to make you raise an eyebrow, you still aren’t totally willing to write them off as a figment of some weirdo’s imagination (a weirdo who really wants to mess with you). Now, it’s time to turn to the background check.

There are a handful of sites you can use: PeopleFinders, OpenBook, ZabaSearch, and WhitePages will all return various amounts of information based on the data you have to start with. Generally, you’ll be able to verify age and location, but for more details, you’ll have to pony up some cash.

So Manti, if you’re somewhere out there reading this, grappling with the confusion of your fake girlfriend (or trying to figure out how in the hell you’re going to try and get away with this), just know that next time, there are ways to not get Catfished. Or Te’oed. It’s 2013, everyone. You have very few excuses for this sort of nonsense anymore.

Oh, and Te’o, just fess up.

Social Media

This event topped Facebook’s biggest moments of the year — again

As the year comes to a close, Facebook is looking back on what users discussed most over the last year. For two years in a row, International Women's Day topped the list. So what else is on the list?

Everything about 'Red Dead Online', including its new microtransaction store

Red Dead Online will gradually rolled out to Red Dead Redemption 2 players via a beta. We've got all the details about the beta's suite of competitive and cooperative modes, as well as what to expect going forward.
Movies & TV

Celebrate the 25th anniversary of ‘The X-Files’ with the show’s 10 best episodes

The X-Files premiered 25 years ago, so here are the 10 best episodes of the award-winning sci-fi series. From alien-abduction drama to hilarious satires, these are the best episodes from all 11 seasons of the hit series.

Trash at 'Super Smash Bros. Ultimate'? Use this guide to train up and get good

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is the biggest game in the entire series, and it can be overwhelming for newcomers not used to the universe-colliding fighting game. Here's what you need to know when you're starting.
Movies & TV

'Stranger Things' season 3 teaser reveals the new episodes' titles

With a sophomore season as strong as its first, Stranger Things is now moving on to season 3. Here's everything we've learned so far about the Netflix series' upcoming third season.
Social Media

This band owns Twitter, according to list of top accounts and tweets for 2018

What was the biggest buzz on Twitter in 2018? Twitter's 2018 Year in Review highlights the biggest tweets, accounts, and hashtags. The most-tweeted celebrities, movies, TV shows, athletes, politicians and more in Twitter's 2018 trends.
Social Media

What do yodeling and Kylie Jenner have in common? YouTube’s top 2018 videos

In a true nod to the variety found on YouTube, the platform's top 10 list of videos from 2018 range from celebrities to sports, from perfectly tossing a picture frame on the wall to a kid yodeling in aisle 12 at Walmart.
Home Theater

It took Tom Cruise to raise awareness of this troublesome TV setting

Tom Cruise, in an unexpected PSA tweet, asks you to turn off motion interpolation on your TV, but stops short of how to do it. Here's more on the topic, along with links to a guide on how to rid your TV of the dreaded "soap opera effect."

Make a GIF of your favorite YouTube video with these great tools

Making a GIF from a YouTube video is easier today than ever, but choosing the right tool for the job isn't always so simple. In this guide, we'll teach you how to make a GIF from a YouTube video with our two favorite online tools.

Amazon scouted airport locations for its cashier-free Amazon Go stores

Representatives of Amazon Go checkout-free retail stores connected with officials at Los Angeles and San Jose airports in June to discuss the possibility of cashier-free grab-and-go locations in busy terminals.
Social Media

Snapchat facial recognition could soon power a new portrait mode, code suggests

Digging into Snapchat's code suggests a handful of upcoming camera features, including a portrait mode. The feature appears to use facial recognition A.I. to blur the background. The code also suggests an updated camera interface.

Google+ continues to sink with a second massive data breach. Abandon ship now

Google+ was scheduled to shut its doors in August 2019, but the second security breach in only a few months has caused the company to move its plan forward a few months. It might be a good idea to delete your account sooner than later.
Social Media

Walkie-talkie voice messaging finally comes to Instagram

In its latest grab from messaging apps, Instagram now lets you send walkie-talkie style voice messages. Apps such as Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Snapchat, and iMessage have offered the feature for some time.
Social Media

‘YouTube Rewind 2018’ is about to become its most disliked video ever

YouTube is about to achieve a record it really doesn't want — that of "most-disliked video." Yes, its annual recap of featuring popular YouTubers has gone down really badly this year.