Love & Sex 22nd February 2021 by Denise Curtin
Maskfishing: The Lockdown Dating Trend That’s Causing Concern
Should dating sites ban users who hide their identity with a mask?
As if online dating wasn’t difficult enough, 2020 entered the chat. Like one of those painful family events you’re forced to attend, the year had only kicked off when we were already dying to see the back of it. A year that brought, dare I say it, the taboo word of 2021 – ‘unprecedented change’, it caused a massive shakeup, especially to our dating lives.
From Bumble’s video chat services to Tinder’s ‘Face to Face’, last year our reliance on technology reached an all-time high, as our level of human contact subsequently, reached an all-time low. Swapping hugs with elbow touches and shagging with lots of things that still don’t equate to a good decent shag, 2020 was one big banana bread fever dream, wasn’t it?
And like anything that causes great upheaval, all you can do is adapt, and that’s what we did. We adapted and today, we’re still adapting. I suppose this is primarily because a) we don’t have a choice and b) we’ve unfortunately all learned that a pandemic doesn’t stop when we countdown to a new year, despite our greatest efforts.
Now, we’re seeing a lot of new dating habits and trends crop up, all of which have been cultivated from the difficult task of trying to navigate love in lockdown. To bring you up to speed, there’s the ‘turbo relationship’ used to describe the speed at which couples either had to shack up or fear quarantine separation. Then we had the term ‘corona-zoned’, which is given to someone who fears calling over for a casual hookup in case they catch or spread the virus (I mean, fair?!) Following that the harsh ‘zumping’ began, which is to be unceremoniously dumped on Zoom, and lastly, one of the newer and more dangerous trends doing the rounds – maskfishing.
Maskfishing is the term used to describe people who hide their identity by wearing a mask in their dating app photos. Partially concealing their face, there’s growing fear that this trend will see people accepting dates without knowing exactly what the person they’re meeting looks like. Besides the obvious appearance blanks caused by a mask, we all know the real fear for any woman going on dates in 2020 is meeting up with someone and realising they’re not who you thought they were.
“I’ve come across a lot of people wearing masks on their dating profiles,” explains 27-year-old Waterford native, Clodagh*. “Wearing a mask in one photo is something I quite like to see because it shows me they’re also taking the pandemic seriously and that’s important. But a mask in every photo? Well, that just rings alarm bells,” Clodagh adds. “What are they hiding? Why aren’t they showing me their full face when it’s the only way I can identify them? And for the record, that’s not me being shallow, I’m honestly just cautious.”
Having learned the hard way, Clodagh* admits that a couple of scary encounters have taught her to be more careful online, and like many others, she’s now urging dating apps like Hinge and Tinder to update their requirements for validating identity. One dating site which has already taken a stand against the new dating phenomenon is Adult Friend Finder (AFF). As ‘one of the world’s largest sex, hookup and dating sites’ according to its website, AFF has already introduced a ‘no maskfishing mandate’ stopping new users from solely uploading images with a mask on.
Echoing Clodagh’s words, 31-year-old Katie* is also swiping left on all masked figures. “I truly don’t have the time to be writing to people and asking them to remove their mask so I can vet them as a potential match,” she explains. “I want to be able to see and connect with their face, you know, feel some instantaneous attraction? I do think that’s really important, especially when you’re limited to dating virtually.”
Like we’ve seen in MTV’s hit series Catfish, those who conceal their identity not only end up hurting others, but gain no longterm benefit from their actions. Shedding some expert advice on the subject, matchmaker and co-founder of INTRO Matchmaking services in Ireland, Feargal Harrington says there’s “no point in hiding” information just because you’re shielded behind a screen. “By putting out a fake profile of yourself – this false impression, it can only lead to disaster and mistrust.” Continuing, Feargal adds that by initially hiding your face or important information, it can destroy the foundation from which a healthy relationship is formed. “It fills people with doubt and worry from the get-go, leading them to think ‘well, if they lied about that, how the hell am I supposed to ever trust anything they tell me?”‘
And similar so, Feargal explains that this type of “deceit and deception” that we see online is also why there’s such a major issue with ghosting on apps like Bumble, Tinder and Hinge. “When people want to take it offline, the other person just disappears because they haven’t got the confidence to meet face to face. They can appear very, very confident behind the screen, but in person it’s not the case.” Explaining that maskfishing is no different, Feargal adds that although it’s good to showcase that you’re being sensible and taking precautions throughout the pandemic, it’s important to not misuse the purposes of a mask, noting that people can “hide their identity very easily now”.
So, the question is, what do we do? Boycott love until the pandemic subsides? Enquire for more photographs off a potential suitor? Or urge dating platforms to protect us more? It appears as though there’s no one size fits all answer for now, but certainly something that should be assessed on a case by case basis. Just remember the take home note: If you’re getting a sense that something doesn’t seem right, trust your instinct, it’s always a safer bet.
As for what the future of dating looks like? It’s hard to call what trend or phrase will be the next hot topic on everyone’s lips. If the past year has thought us anything it’s that you can never really predict what’s around the corner. However, if we were asked to make a pretty concrete assumption, we’d say that maskfishing won’t be the last nugget of dating-specific slang to become commonplace in the coming months. It’ll just be up to us to once again, adjust and thrive. Now, Alexa, play Rihanna, We Found Love in a Hopeless Place.
*names have been changed
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