Online dating has pitfalls, rewards

Published: .
Updated: .

The story of star Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o and a hoax involving an imaginary girlfriend has been the topic of conversation since the story broke Wednesday afternoon.

In the age of social media, where Internet encounters, on Facebook, FaceTime and Skype are as common as talking on the phone, many people are asking how an Academic All-American and Heisman Trophy finalist can be so easily fooled and for so long.

IMPD Officer Kurt Spivey spends his days pretending to be someone else online. As part of IMPD's Cybercrime Unit, Spivey creates online identities that he says have to trouble luring predators.

"They have trouble differentiating between digital friend and a true personal acquaintance for a friend," Spivey said.

Spivey would not be surprised if Notre Dame football player Manti T'eo did fall prey to the online girlfriend hoax.

"It's very simple to build a persona and be someone that you are not," Spivey said.

If Te'o is a victim, he wouldn't be alone. MTV has built a whole show around people who pretend to be what they're not online. In what's likely a sign of the times, it's become one of the network's most popular shows.

But not everything online is a hoax waiting to happen. Steve Schenk, a native Canadian, and his wife Jennae met online, got engaged, and have been together for nine years.

"We had phone conversations before we actually found out what each other looked like. I liked her voice," said Steve Schenk.

"I think we just had common interests and then it was, like, 'Hey, what do you look like?'," Jennae Schenk said. "So we sent pictures and, over time, it was, like, 'What's your number? I will call you.'"

Jennae and Steve are not only watching how the Te'o case will play out, they also recommend giving online dating a try, but with a little caution.

"I say it's possible to meet someone online and have a relationship," Jennae said.