What is wokefishing, the latest online dating deception?

If he says he’s a feminist or if she adds #BlackLivesMatter to her profile, tread carefully

The problems arise when you find out that these gestures are all for show, designed to lure the interest of potential lovers. Photograph: iStock

The problems arise when you find out that these gestures are all for show, designed to lure the interest of potential lovers. Photograph: iStock

 

If you are confused about the whys and wherefores of online dating, you’re not alone.

First we had “catfishing” (assuming a false identity online); “kittenfishing” (misrepresenting your age using old profile photos); “blackfishing” (pretending to be a person of colour); “hatfishing” (wearing a hat in online photos to conceal a receding hairline) and even “sadfishing” (making exaggerated claims about emotional problems to generate sympathy from others).

And now from the darkest corners of the Bumbleverse comes another madcap way to masquerade online: “wokefishing”.

Has your potential paramour pretended to be vegan, or professed himself a staunch feminist? Has she added #BlackLivesMatter to her dating profile, or declared her pronouns as she/her in an act of trans solidarity? Congratulations: you appear to have found yourself a socially progressive, liberal, sex-positive match.

The problems arise when you find out that these gestures are all for show, designed to lure the interest of potential lovers. Scratch the surface beyond their cuddly hashtags, and they hold deeply racist/sexist/conservative viewpoints.

Despite blacking out their online social profile, perhaps they use casual racist slurs. Or your proud feminist boyfriend thinks that girls who wear clingy outfits are sluts.

Sorry, you’ve been wokefished.

Fine line

There’s a gossamer-fine line between virtue signalling and wokefishing. Virtue signalling – the expression of opinions that suggest good character – is already rife online. Wokefishing, though, means deliberately hiding one’s conservative or populist beliefs while professing to be much more progressive.

Fine, we all put our best face forward, and curate ourselves to appeal to the widest number of potential partners. And there’s certainly a conversation in why someone might hold views that they believe are best left unexpressed in public.

Things get problematic within the online dating realm when you present yourself as one type of person, and reveal yourself in time to be another

Yet showing our true moral values makes for an awkward moment or two once the honeymoon period ebbs away.

In the current climate, political beliefs are edging themselves even further into the romantic equation. On a premium account on dating apps like Bumble and Hinge, users can filter out users with certain political beliefs.

A 2018 study revealed that people are less likely to be attracted to people with political beliefs that are different to their own. Famously, it was revealed in research carried out in 2016 that over 1.6 million relationships in the UK hit the skids over opposing views about Brexit.

Shapeshifting

While there’s nothing wrong with holding less-than-liberal social views per se, things get problematic within the online dating realm when you present yourself as one type of person, and reveal yourself in time to be another.

We all shapeshift the more we tunnel into relationships. After buffing our proverbial shopfronts to a high shine and toning ourselves down, we start to exhale and let out the less edifying aspects of ourselves; leaving teabags in the sink, liking Nickelback, and so on.

But when it comes to shaving off a few years from your age, a receding hairline or liking the cut of Breitbart’s jib, some things are just fundamental to a person’s identity. They’re not up for debate, and certainly not up for change. And in matters of the heart, the sooner people realise this, the better.

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