Manti Te'o continues to be the talk of the Internet after Deadspin reported that the Notre Dame football star was allegedly duped into thinking he was in a romantic relationship with a woman who never existed.
Everyone is generating their own take on the facts vs. the fiction, so on Wednesday, we reached out to "Catfish" star Nev Schulman, our resident expert on the subject of online-dating deception, who sympathized with the Notre Dame star's apparent ordeal. While Nev didn't express whether he thinks Te'o is a victim or in on the scam, our readers have been debating about it since the story broke, and they have strong opinions on both sides of the argument.
"Nev, Help him!!! He got royally duped globally," Karen wrote in the MTV News comments section. "Please have a show with him. I think most people would watch."
"Help him? He is in on this," another commenter chimed in. "He used the death of an imaginary person to boost sympathy and gain Heisman votes. He is a liar and pretending to be a victim just like [Notre Dame]."
Other readers expressed a newfound understanding of the importance of protecting your online identity and were moved to share their own stories of being "Catfished."
"It's a shame. We think this happens to women, falling romantically for someone without meeting them, but here's a person that was Catfish'ed 100%," Jim wrote. "I listened to the interview with the executive from Notre Dame, and after seeing the show several times, I believe it fits the pattern of deceptions. Sadly, it happens EVERY DAY. I have the experience of someone taking MY PHOTOS, and creating fake profiles and persona on the internet. ... It's crazy, and I hope that from this, the social-networking sites will improve their security and privacy and hopefully get out the real truth to this ugly social behavior."
The controversy has kept Twitter buzzing — even late-night talk show host Jimmy Fallon wanted to know the truth.
"@NevSchulman I want the scoop!" Fallon tweeted at the "Catfish" mastermind. "Catfished? Wait... is this really you? #doublecatfish"
Schulman empathized with Te'o's predicament and public embarrassment — after all, Nev was the subject of the 2010 "Catfish" documentary that showed the online scam he got caught up in — and told us he hopes this story takes a positive turn and makes people think critically about their presences and interactions online.
"It's very embarrassing, of course. No one likes to admit that they got scammed or duped, especially when you retell the story in an abbreviated version. It generally sounds sort of ridiculous that you fell for it," Schulman said. "It's hard to understand what people go through unless you're there with them, much like my story. So I imagine he's embarrassed, I imagine he's still going over the events that took place over the course of his relationship and sort of putting the pieces of the puzzle together [and realizing] that all of this wasn't true, and he's probably feeling even more and more embarrassed because of that."