You’ve Been Catfished!

College football star Manti Te’o was in the news for his alleged victimization in an online relationship hoax. For two years, Te’o believed he was in a monogamous relationship with Stanford student Lennay Kekua. This relationship, however, was an elaborate hoax created by Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, who was pretending to be Lennay. While Te’o and Lennay never met in person, they did have extensive conversations on the phone and via email. This hoax was leaked to sports and media news outlets, and it was eventually revealed that there was no Lennay Kekua.

Te’o is not alone. One in five relationships begins on an online dating site, and that’s not counting romances that bloom via Facebook, Yelp, Twitter and during gameplay of popular games such as World of Warcraft. The Manti Te’o story also isn’t the first instance of false impersonating online. MTV recently debuted the reality TV show Catfish (a person who engages someone in a fake relationship online), which highlights a different “couple” each week who met online but have yet to meet face-to-face.

The objective of this lesson is to introduce students to the implications of online writing and the ways our writing reflects certain images of ourselves to capture different people. This lesson will also allow students to think critically about why and how they evaluate people, what sort of snap judgments they make, and how they read into situations without even realizing it.


Some media may contain mature content. Discretion is advised when viewing with students.

Lesson Plan

Students should watch the videos provided and discuss the validity of online relationships.

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Lesson tags: Creative Writing, Eighth, Ninth, Seventh, Social Networking, Social Studies, Television, Tenth

Michelle Bar

Michelle Bar Michelle is our resident social media guru, a trending fashion blogger and has a background in education policy, philanthropy and community development. Michelle received her Masters in Urban Policy Analysis and Management from The New School (no relation), and has gone on to work in the community with CBO’s such as Search and Care, an agency that provides social services in the NYC area. Here she assisted with fundraising and developing their social media platforms.