Social media experts: be careful who you meet online

The story everyone seems to be talking about concerns a well-known college football player whose dying girlfriend inspired him to play better.

Except that it appears to be a hoax.

The girl who Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o thought he was in love with didn't actually exist. Notre Dame put out a press release saying someone using a fictitious name apparently duped Te'o into an online relationship and then conspired with others to lead him to think she had died of leukemia.

Notre Dame says there's no record that Lennay Kekua, the woman who Te'o believed was his online girlfriend, ever existed, except on Facebook.

Many people wonder how it could happen. Weren't there some warning signs?

When it comes to social media, Corinne Dalelio, who teaches interactive media at Coastal Carolina University, has advice for her students, and all of us.

"I think to be safe on the Internet, you should know all of your friends in real life and then, when it comes to just communicating with people you don't know, keep it more distant. Don't be so involved with them," Dalelio said.

Dalelio says public figures need to be especially concerned about interacting online, which means, ironically, they should probably have more than one Facebook page.

"You have the Facebook that's your personal account and that's who you have all the people that you know in real life, and then you have the account for interacting with the public."

Conway family therapist Helen Bayne advises that before you give your heart away to someone online, you eventually should get that person's full name, address and the ability to see the person in real time.

"Even if they are a long way away, you want to be able to Skype with them. People love to describe themselves a little bit differently than who they actually are," Bayne said.

To be in a relationship with someone you met online, Bayne says, you should get to know that person's real family and real friends.

Most important, she says you should trust your gut, which may be telling you something is wrong.

"A lot of times we want something to work out so bad that we ignore our gut, and that's the biggest mistake we can possibly make."

Bayne says a big red flag is when someone keeps coming up with reasons why they can't meet you in person. On occasion, things happen and you can be understanding, but she says if that happens too often, it's too big of a coincidence.

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