Who Are You Really Talking to Online?

TEAYS VALLEY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- College football standout Manti Te'o's relationship with what we know now to be a "fake" girlfriend raises a lot of questions.

But there is one question you should pose to yourself: who are you really talking to online?

“Online can be interesting because there is more of an acceptance of the fact, 'Oh, I saw it on the Internet so it must be true, so it's easy to see how people get duped into these relationships,” said Dr. Bob Rubenstein, a professor at Marshall University,

But the truth is the keyboard presents an easier opportunity for someone to live a lie.

Todd Ferris communicated with an online friend for about a year, via Instant Messenger and phone. Then he drove eight hours to meet her in Canada.

“We talked on the phone; we had developed a confidence that this is a legitimate person,” Ferris explained.

But the woman Ferris saw in person wasn't who he'd seen online. He says she misrepresented herself.

Ferris is just fine and has moved forward. He offers this advice to others who are involved in online friendships or relationships:

“Meet that person you are going to find out real quickly rather than letting something draw on for a long period of time through a chat,” he said. He also suggests doing the best you can to investigate them, find out where they work, become their friend on Facebook and learn as much as you can about them.

The disappointment, though, from an online relationship that doesn’t work out can be devastating to some.

Rubenstein explains that it’s all about evaluating your self-worth and what you are taking away from the conversation.

“If a person who is looking for a relationship puts their worth on-the-line or online, meaning people are out there saying to you, ‘Oh you are special’ and ‘I’ve never met anyone like you’ and ‘You are one of a kind’ and that sort of thing, I think initially your red flags should go up.”

Rubenstein points out any relationship, online or in person, can be built on lies.

“In person I can at least read your non verbals," he said. "I can at least listen to your voice inflection. Online all of that is sterile so I can't really pick that up

Consider how you are benefiting, if at all, from the relationship.

“People will say ‘My husband is cheating online or my wife,’” Rubenstein said, “and I will say ‘What do you mean cheating?’ and I will say ‘They aren't in love with the person as they are in love with the communication they are getting back.’”

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