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Why did Notre Dame's athletic director bring up 'Catfish'?

10:27 AM, Jan 17, 2013   |    comments
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"I would refer all of you, if you're not already familiar with it, with both the documentary called Catfish, the MTV show which is a derivative of that documentary and the sort of associated things you'll find online and otherwise about Catfish or 'catfishing,'" Swarbrick said.

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"It is a scam that follows the exact arc of this. And it's perpetrated with shocking frequency, for me, shocking as an older guy who's not as versed in the online world. It is just as this one. An initial casual engagement, a developing relationship online, a subsequent trauma - traffic accident, illness - and then, a death."

So what is Catfish? First, the documentary:

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The 2010 film, directed by Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost, followed a man, Nev Schulman, through his online relationship with a woman he never actually met. Eventually, Schulman discovered that his "girlfriend" had been lying all along, and that her real personality and background were cobbled together from the person (or people) she wanted to be. It's confusing.

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In November 2012, MTV began airing a show based on the documentary, also called Catfish. It follows the same lines: The host (Nev Schulman, actually) investigates online profiles on an individual's behalf to see if their online girlfriends or boyfriends are who they say they are.

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So what is "catfishing," the term Swarbrick used to describe what happened to Te'o in his relationship with Lennay Kekua?

In short, it's the process of developing a fake online persona with the express purpose of deceiving a love-struck significant other. (To what end, especially with Te'o, remains unclear.) In Te'o's case, the people behind Lennay Kekua were participating in "catfishing." 

Here's how Schulman defined the show on MTV.com:

"To think about the definition of 'Catfish,' it's really anybody that is willing to take a risk, push the envelope, leave their comfort zone. The people who reach out to me are in many ways Catfish because they're looking to take a chance, take a risk, and then there's always a chance the other person we haven't met could also be doing the same thing. [They] might not be being totally honest: We don't know until we get there and we find out."
Schulman also announced on his Twitter account Wednesday night that he would be looking into Te'o's specific case. "I am working on finding out more about this @MTeo_5 #Catfish story," Schulman tweeted. "I have been in contact with the woman involved and will get the truth." Yes, the host of the show Catfish is on the case.

Swarbrick believes Te'o to be a victim. If true, what happened to Notre Dame's star linebacker is the stuff of movies (and television).

(Copyright © 2013 USA TODAY)

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