The two biggest sports couples of 2013 — Manti Te’o and Lennay Kekua, and AJ McCarron and Katherine Webb — met on Twitter.
It isn’t a coincidence, it’s a reflection of how athletes form relationships in 2013.
Since at least 2010, athletes have openly used Twitter as a tool to meet women. Some use it to find one-time hook-ups, while others use it to find full-time girlfriends. The inherent risks of beginning a relationship with a stranger online — which apparently sunk Te’o — can be negated with the slightest bit of due diligence.
The fact that Manti meet Kekua over Twitter isn’t a “red flag,” it’s an example of a common practice that’s happening all the time.
How Athletes Hook Up On Twitter
Paul Bissonnette of the Phoenix Coyotes is one of the most outspoken players in the NHL.
He also openly finds women to go on dates with on Twitter.
Sports Illustrated: “Have you ever met a female follower from Twitter for a date or anything like that?”
Bissonnette: “Oh yeah, are you kidding me? Once they start following you and you see they comment you, if they’re hot I just add them on Twitter. And then they usually fire me a message like, ‘Oh hey thanks for the add.’ And that just gets it going. I probably met up with a good six or seven.”
So if he gets followed by a girl, he looks at her Twitter avatar, and follows her back if she’s someone he wants to meet up with.
Bissonnette also told SI that he can figure out if a person is serious or not with a phone conversation:
“You can get a sense through phone conversation. Once direct-messaging starts, it’s only a matter of time before you start talking, right? You can gauge in a phone conversation whether it’s going to be a normal or messed up experience.”
We know this happens all the time.
Browse through any urban blog or any story about an embarrassing athlete direct message fail (where a person accidentally sends a private message publicly), and you’ll find evidence of athletes carrying on relationships with followers — some of which involve cyber sex, and some of which involved actual dates.
It’s not all that different than going to a club, dancing with a woman you never met before, and going home with her.
But Twitter isn’t just used for casual encounters. As we saw with AJ McCarron and Katherine Webb, real long-term relationships can form almost spontaneously for a few stray tweets.
How Athletes Find Girlfriends On Twitter
On November 28th of last year, Miss Teen Alabama Lorin Holcombe essentially introduced McCarron and Webb on Twitter.
A woman named Alexis Brown (who has since changed her Twitter handle) invited McCarron to the Miss Alabama beauty pageant, which was taking place in Montgomery on December 7th. Holcombe agreed, and tweeted McCarron that @RealMissALusa (meaning Webb) would be excited for him to come:
McCarron asked who this @RealMissALusa person was, and Holcombe told him it was Katherine Webb:
McCarron then shot a mildly flirtatious tweet Webb’s way, and their online relationship was born:
Webb later told the Ledger-Enquirer that the two exchanged messages and phone numbers, and began texting. On Dec. 7th, McCarron showed up to the beauty pageant. Webb told the paper, “I had not seen him (in person) until I went on stage and saw him in the front row.”
They officially started dating after that. A month later, they briefly became the most popular couple in the country when Webb was shown during the National Championship Game:
The very first stage of this McCarron-Webb relationship is an example of what Te’o probably thought he was involved with. The problem is he never moved on to stage two — actually meeting her.
What Does It Mean For Te’o?
It shows that — if he really was hoaxed — his failure wasn’t in forming an online relationship, it was in failing to do the due diligence in the after he began his relationship.
Some commentators will depict Te’o as the victim of online anonymity — they’ll say he should have been smarter than to dive into the weird and dangerous world of Twitter love. But that ship has sailed. This is how athletes meet women now, and it’s up to them to know what they’re doing.
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