Online Dating |

What Is Wokefishing and How to Spot It

The world of dating, and dating slang, is hugely influenced by the world around us, and particularly social attitudes. Current affairs and social issues make up as much of our conversations as pop culture does, especially in a post-Covid and BLM world. We’ve seen the largest civil rights movement of our time this past year, and in the midst of a pandemic, which has both brought to the surface the question of ‘who are we?’ 

A woman with green hair sitting on a blue sofa browsing the web on her laptop. a monstera plant is on the floor beside her.

Our morals and principles have always been a key part of who we are, but now we’re seeing more people be vocal about the issues they care about, especially online. In a virtual world of cancel culture and hypervisibility, how we communicate our personalities online has never been more important. 

Social justice work is no longer being left to the air quote ‘professionals’, and we’ve seen that everyone can be an activist. But the praise that many get for ‘doing the work’ and raising awareness about social issues has opened up a new kind of dilemma and dating slang: wokefishing. 

What is wokefishing?

The term wokefishing was born from the term catfishing, another of the many online dating terms, which we all know is appearing to be someone you’re not online. We can think of wokefishing as the personality alternative to catfishing. 

Wokefishing is a term that’s used to describe someone who appears to hold progressive views about social issues in order to get a date or appear more attractive to others. And it’s not exclusively one of the online dating terms we see nowadays, people wokefish their friends, colleagues and strangers too!

So what is a wokefish?

A wokefish is the person who pretends to be progressive and ‘woke’ when really they harbour different (and most likely problematic) opinions about the world. 

The act of wokefishing ranges from performative gestures such as putting #BlackLivesMatter in their Tinder bio all the way to building a facade and personality off social issues that they actually don’t care about. But the goal is to appear better, or more socially conscious than they actually are. 

A black person's hand holding a phone showing a Tinder bio of a white woman with #BlackLivesMatter in their bio

Examples of wokefishing

  • Men who claim to be feminists and then proceed to exhibit sexist behaviours or attitudes.
  • People who claim to support LGBTQ+ rights but feel uncomfortable dating someone queer.
  • People who say they believe everyone deserves housing but are against refugees being granted asylum.
  • People who believe in human rights, but only for certain groups.
  • People who claim to support Black Lives Matter but still hold racist views towards people of colour.

And that’s just off the top of my head. Put it this way, there are many ways to be a wokefish, and you’ve probably come across people like this a few times before but couldn’t quite put your finger on what it was they were doing. Well, now you know. They were probably wokefishing.

Why do people do this?

As we’ve covered earlier, caring about social issues is now seen as something positive. A few years ago we were labelled ‘angry feminists’ or ‘social justice warriors’ for talking about social issues, but now this is not just socially accepted, but celebrated. Those wanting to elevate their social standing or gain popularity of some kind may engage in wokefishing as a way to boost their ego. In terms of dating, the ego point definitely still stands, but someone will wokefish their matches to secure a date, and in the worst case, a relationship.

You might think that wokefishing is a myth and that we’re just becoming more socially conscious, but don’t let social media fool you. While a lot of us are starting to be more vocal about the things we care about and learn how to be allies against oppressive systems, there are still a lot of people out there who don’t share these progressive views. That’s why wokefishing has become such a problem, because of the damage it can do to relationships and the people that are being wokefished. 

neon sign with a heart and zero next to it

Building a relationship on lies means it’s never going to be sustainable, and having similar views on the important things is crucial for creating a healthy and loving dynamic between the two of you. Especially if you are a marginalised person, you can’t be with someone who doesn’t ‘agree’ with your existence or holds damaging views towards your community. 

How to spot a wokefish

If you’ve ever come across a wokefish, you may get out of the entanglement relatively unscathed after realising that they aren’t who they say they are. But for those who unknowingly get into relationships with these people, you can feel deceived and manipulated when the facade falls away.

It’s clear that dating a wokefish is a huge disappointment, and something no one really wants to fall into. It’s hard to know who’s real or not online, but there are some things you can do to spot a wokefish, and then you can get the hell away from them.

Pay attention to what they say

As you chat and get to know each other, there’s a pretty good chance that something is going to come up that will test how ‘woke’ they really are. When these things do come up, whether it’s a trending topic on Twitter or new movie centering a queer story, pay attention to how they react. Do they want to talk about it? Do they try to change the subject? Or do they straight up say something offensive?

Ask them upfront questions

There’s nothing wrong with a little Q&A with your match to get a feel for their morals. So if you’d rather not beat around the bush, just ask them upfront about the issues that matter to you. If they truly are the progressive person they appear to be online, they won’t have a problem answering your questions and having a discussion. If they get defensive or don’t reply, chances are they’re googling what to reply or are going to ghost you.

an image showing a text conversation between a woman and a man where the woman asks "have you heard that revenge porn is being made illegal?" and the man is typing, unsure of what to say

Listen to your gut

The sad reality is that some wokefishers are really good at coming across as progressive and cool. But even if they say all the right things, if you have a gut feeling that something is off about them, listen to it. 

It’s expected that when online dating we put our best foot forward in order to attract people to us – it’s not like you would admit to snoring or liking Disaster Movie in your Hinge bio or on the first date. But the issue is when people create personas that simply aren’t real. And wokefishing is a particularly shitty form of it.

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