Derek Hunter
Who hasn’t laughed at the revelation that Notre Dame football star Manti Te’o had a “fake” girlfriend? I meant to spend five minutes on the subject on my radio show and ended up doing an hour and then making fun of it randomly throughout all three hours. As funny as it is, and it is pretty funny, it’s also not foreign to me.

A friend of mine (who I won’t name) has fallen for this several times. The hoaxes perpetrated against him eventually evolved to the point of fake woman needing money to get out of some horrible situation that this guy was the only one who “understood.” My friend denies ever sending money, but I suspect otherwise.

He was always secretive about the women he was “talking to” online, but he did show me a bunch of pictures on his phone once in an attempt to “prove” she was real. They were real pictures of a real woman – several pictures – but they were obviously of an unknown model from a catalog. But all the logic in the world wasn’t going to convince this guy of anything he didn’t want to believe. And he wanted to believe.

He’s finally moved into the real world (for him anyway), and is now talking with real women.

But this episode also reminded me of something from my own past, something I hadn’t thought about in nearly 10 years. No, I wasn’t taken by some fraudster online – I was the fraudster.

Fraud isn’t the right word because it conveys a criminal intent, which this wasn’t. Mine was more simply being an immature jerk – bored and wanting to see if something I thought was right.

It was somewhere around 2003 or 2004 – the heyday of MySpace and Live Journal (if those two sites had a kid it would be Facebook) – and I had a girlfriend who was into both. She told me about random people, mostly guys, who were hitting on her in messages and comments through these sites. But they weren’t just hitting on her. They were talking to her with a familiarity that most people wouldn’t even talk to their friends, and certainly not to a woman in a bar for fear of having a drink thrown in their face.

The girlfriend went away, but the curiosity over what would possess someone to contact a stranger online in a way they never would in real life didn’t. This was the time of dial-up Internet and the infancy of text messaging. Most human interaction was face to face or over the phone. Impersonal, anonymous cyber-lives hadn’t yet become common.

I wondered how much someone would tell a complete stranger (one that didn’t exist) simply because they believed the Internet was real.

Derek Hunter

Derek Hunter is Washington, DC based writer, radio host and political strategist. You can also stalk his thoughts 140 characters at a time on Twitter.