Reading Between the (Head)Lines

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Manti Te'o: A Psychological Analysis

What happened to Manti Te'o could happen to anybody in the Internet age. Here's why. Read More

What constitutes a romantic relationship?

Perhaps the best thing to come out of the Manti Te'o mess is the conversation about what constitutes a romantic relationship.

Manti Te'o is a football player and student. He also is a devote Mormon. The Mormon community puts tremendous pressure on its young people to couple up and marry early. With everything that was going on in this young man's life, I could see how finding the time and the mental capacity to have a real face-to-face human romantic relationship would have been next to impossible. This fake phone and text relationship supplied Mr. Te'o somebody with whom to talk, made him feel secure and intimate, satisfied the pressure of his religious community and gave a wonderful background to tantalize his adoring fans and NFL recruiters.

It still wasn't a real relationship though.

With all the pressures on young people today and the avenue to have a cyber relationship, I can see why young adults are migrating toward non-relationships. Non-relationships are easy and fill a need. Let's not fool ourselves, the world is swiftly cultivating a new generation of risk-averse introverts.

The NFL, while perhaps

The NFL, while perhaps cloistered in some aspects, as the doctor says, "rarified," does in no way preclude face-to-face interaction. The contrary, same as musicians, There is an endless parade of opportunities running at athletes any given day, no matter how dedicated they are, and few of them shun the interaction. It would take a certain personality to cloister oneself within the confines of the internet with so much open opportunity for socializing with interesting people, through whom they could meet other interesting people.

I feel bad for anyone who gets deceived on the internet, but I cannot imagine a person not having enough common sense to weigh the evidence along the way -- and yet lots of people do this every day, choosing not to see the possibility of deception. There are everyday people who get a sick satisfaction from being able to fool someone, a real sense of power -- and yet, what have they really accomplished? Then there is countless fakery with men posing as women sending some woman's photo to someone trying to either get sexual satisfaction or plain old looking for an opportunity to make money some way. There are women sending their own nude photos to strangers hoping it will somehow profit them, thousands of them. And yet, I haven't spoken to one man yet who will admit that all those random hits they get to their Twitter of pretty naked women are actually pros looking to profit.

So a large portion of the population has chosen to submerge themself in wishful thinking, the way I see it, and find it more comforting than the cold reality of putting yourself out there to meet someone face to face, I suppose. Sad. What anecdotes will they have to sustain themselves one day?

If he grew up as a Mormon

He may not have grown up attached to a gadget. He *may* have simply been used to associating with others raised the way he was raised, and it wouldn't occur to him to deceive anyone in such a way. Lacking street smarts is a good way to phrase it, baffling gullibility is another.

The number of people that prefer digital to face-to-face interaction doesn't surprise me. One thing I notice about digital interaction...I actually get to finish my sentence. You may not read it, but I do get to finish it before you cut me off and jabber over me as if my words have no importance. I've pretty much stopped talking to people in the real world, despite missing it, because I never get to say anything anyway.

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Dale Archer, M.D., is a clinical psychiatrist and author of The New York Times bestseller, Better Than Normal: How What Makes You Different Can Make You Exceptional.

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