Hendricks County Flyer, Avon, IN

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January 29, 2013

Fake is the new real in America

It's past the deadline, but Time magazine should have made Manti Te'o the man of the year. In case you have been living in a hole the past week, Te'o is the star Notre Dame linebacker whose heartbreaking story of his grandmother and girlfriend dying within hours of each other in September made national headlines.

As it turns out, the girlfriend was not real, nor was her death. Te'o, a Heisman finalist, only knew "Lennay Kekua" online and through phone calls.

Multiple media outlets amplified Te'o's wrenching story without checking her validity until Deadspin.com broke the story of her non-existence.

The story is tantalizing for its embarrassing revelations about a revered college football player, but most importantly it encapsulates how fake is the new real in American life.

Like Te'o, millions of Americans spend hours online each day communicating with "friends" they never meet, investing months and sometimes years with those who not uncommonly turn out to be impersonators. The frauds and their victims even have a TV show, "Catfish."

Those under 30 do not talk to one another. Their phones are merely vehicles for texting and social media, which they use for everything high and low, including breaking up with "girlfriends" and "boyfriends" - with acronyms. INYIM, Ok?

As noted in a recent column, college freshmen rank themselves very high for their leadership ability, intelligence, and drive, but are no smarter than previous generations according to objective measurements. They also study a lot less.

Lest people attribute this to the immaturity and narcissism of youth, it is not.

Our whole culture is phony. We call a cocktail of poor health indicators in men "ED" and label the declining energy of men as they age "Low T." Ads for drugs to cure these "sicknesses" dominate primetime television.

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