By Tom Blake
Manti Te’o, the University of Notre Dame linebacker, and runner-up in college football’s Heisman Trophy voting last December, will likely be a first-round pick in the upcoming NFL draft. What an exciting time for this young man.
Unfortunately, his football prowess has been overshadowed in the last few weeks as a result of an online, long-distance romance with a coed from Stanford University that turned out to be a hoax.
Te’o probably doesn’t realize or appreciate that he’s done a big favor for singles of all ages by getting caught up in a romance scam that became headline news around the globe.
In the beginning, my guess is all this youngster wanted was a girlfriend he could confide in, fall in love with and maybe someday marry. But the girlfriend didn’t exist. Some dude played a joke on him and the world heard about it.
What happened to Te’o has happened to lots of lonely older singles. The culprit seems to be loneliness, which can cloud thinking. Singles meet someone online and slowly, over time, start to believe the person on the other end is the love of their life. And while Te’o's situation drew the spotlight, hopeful and naïve singles age 50 and up are the ones who get caught up in online romance scams the most.
Long-distance relationships are a natural outgrowth of Internet dating. Singles meet online and then spend hours, weeks, months, and even years communicating, sharing secrets and fantasies, establishing trust, exchanging photos, building hope and planning a life together.
The problem often grows from merely having an online friend to falling in love with—not with a person, but with an image—someone the single has never met in person, someone he or she thinks they know, but doesn’t because there has never been a face-to-face meeting. Chemistry cannot exist and compatibility cannot be judged without an in-person meeting.
Eventually, an event or a suspicion may make a single realize that the person on the other end of the telephone or computer isn’t who he or she says they are. They might ask for money, or keep making excuses why a face-to-face meeting isn’t possible. The lonely person discovers the scam and her world—or his, like Te’o—comes crashing down. It’s sad, and it doesn’t have to happen.
Mature singles who meet online must be diligent. They should use Skype to see the other person, insist on face-to-face meetings as soon as possible, trust their instincts and listen to the advice of friends and family members. Background checks are important as well.
Online romances can waste a great deal of a single’s time. Wouldn’t South County singles be better off to attend an age 50 plus singles meet and greet event at Tutor and Spunky’s Deli in Dana Point, where they can meet potential mates in person?
The events are held the second and fourth Thursday of each month, from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. There is no cover charge. The next event is February 14, Valentine’s Day. For details, visit www.tutorandspunkys.com.
Tom Blake is a Dana Point business owner and San Clemente resident who has authored books on middle-aged dating. See his website at www.findingloveafter50.com.