Maskfishing: A brand new dating problem

Toyloy Brown III, Managing Editor

Looks are important — we can all agree on that — but they aren’t everything. As the saying goes, there’s more to a person than meets the eye. But what if you’re only able to see a person’s eyes when they have a mask on?

Lindsey Komson

If it isn’t obvious, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected many aspects of life, including the dating world. In the heat of the pandemic, more people used dating apps like Tinder, on which users had 11% more swipes and 42% more matches in 2020. People have had to research Zoom date ideas, and apps like Bumble have incorporated video and voice chat features since meeting up in person was no longer the safest option. 

With the COVID-19 vaccine more available and positive cases dropping in the U.S., society has gradually opened up, bringing some normalcy back into our love lives. One significant but necessary health hang-up we still endure is mask mandates, which have introduced us to the world of maskfishing.  

What is maskfishing, you ask? For those who don’t know, this is a situation that occurs when someone takes off their mask and appears less attractive than when they wore it. The origins of the word can be traced back to none other than the cesspool for conceitedness, TikTok. 

The mini-trend goes like this: a user on the app records themself while wearing a mask and proceeds to take off the mask to ask the lucky soul watching if they are maskfishing. In other words, is my face still good-looking?

Maskfishing is derived from the word catfishing, which is when someone uses pictures of strangers to create a fictitious online persona to deceive someone into entering an online relationship. 

While catfishing is diabolical in nature due to the intent of taking advantage of someone else, maskfishing does not possess a nefarious overtone. The way we look with a mask on and what people assume we look like without wearing it is out of our control. If you happen to have an enticing top half of your face, you hit a jackpot no one thought they wanted pre-pandemic. If your bottom half doesn’t fit the bill, then be ready to disappoint once that mask comes off. 

In all seriousness, our faces play a vital role in someone determining our level of attractiveness. There has even been research that shows that the human brain has evolved to find facial attractiveness favorable. 

“We can speculate that there is an evolutionary reason behind our brain enjoying to look and wanting to look more at an attractive face,” said Olga Chelnokova, a then-Ph.D. candidate at the University of Oslo in Norway. 

A mask that covers the majority of the face, concealing notable features such as our mouth, jawline and smile, interferes with our desire to look at someone cute.

Although maskfishing has TikTok origins, it is a phenomenon that regularly happens in real life. Let’s say you are a college student attending class and see someone that looks interesting from the eyes up wearing their mask. It is only natural to be curious about the mysterious bottom portion of that person’s face. Similar scenarios can occur in the hallways of academic buildings, waiting in line for food and any other indoor spot where people are required to wear masks. 

Maskfishing is a silly concept that seems like it possesses only downsides due to the risk of a person getting maskfished. However, there are some unintended benefits. It’s sometimes convenient to have a reason to cover your face on certain days when you’re out of the house. If you don’t have time to shave or go through the struggles of trying to get your beard to connect, having a valid reason to mask up is fantastic. The same is true if you’re experiencing a breakout of acne. 

Another benefit of wearing a mask is that you aren’t as quickly deemed unappealing by someone you approach in a romantic way. Personalities matter with or without masks, but we can’t act like pretty privilege doesn’t exist and that our looks can’t make or break our chances of successfully shooting our shot. It’s possible that having a mask on during that first impression undermines the importance of beauty and buys the pursuer more time to woo their love interest with their charm.

It also shouldn’t be ignored that it is plausible to want to wear a mask due to an insecure feature. Everyone possesses insecurities of some form about their physical appearance, whether they are small or big. We constantly see pretty people on social media and in real life, and we do eventually compare ourselves to them in some fashion. Prior studies have found that comparisons of any kind account for as much as 10% of our thoughts. So wearing a mask can act as a temporary shield that makes us feel less concerned about whatever we’re insecure about. However, the real cure to that kind of self-doubt is a positive self-image

Lastly, we can’t fail to explore the possibility of being dumbfounded when the maskfish beats the odds and actually looks better than anticipated. It’s ever so rare, but coming across someone that fits this description is a nice surprise for the person thinking of making their move or is having a move made on them.  

Who knows how much longer we will rightfully be obligated to wear a mask. But until the day we bump Future’s “Mask Off” as our faces see the light of day, let’s maskfish away.