The truth about wokefishing

Online dating can be full of potential pitfalls, from dates who don’t look like their profile pictures to being ghosted. By now, most people know what catfishing is: pretending to be someone else to deceive a romantic partner online, often using fake photos or lying about their name, age, and other personal information. In recent years, online dating tricksters have evolved. The newest trend is called “wokefishing,” or pretending to share someone’s progressive political values. 

The term wokefishing was coined by author Serena Smith in a piece for VICE. “A wokefish may at first present themselves as a protest-attending, sex-positive, anti-racist, intersectional feminist who drinks ethically sourced oat milk and has read the back catalogue of Audre Lorde, twice. But in reality, they don’t give a s***,” Smith explained. One a wokefisher has convinced their target that they have shared progressive values and started a relationship, they’ll reveal their true nature.

How to identify and avoid a wokefish

Wokefishers can be difficult to spot, since asking questions about the other person’s values and beliefs is a basic part of dating. Victims often don’t identify they’ve been wokefished until it’s too late. One victim Zara told VICE that while her wokefisher initially came off as “philosophical” and “well read,” he soon started turning escalating arguments and “playing devil’s advocate.” Another target Hannah, dated a wokefisher for six months before he revealed he was previously involved in Nazi groups.

So how do you know if someone is wokefishing you? Health spoke to author and psychiatrist Gayani DeSilva asking for tips. She cautioned against people who were “too agreeable” and exactly matched your opinions on every topic. She also pointed out that wokefishers will probe you about your political beliefs, offering vague answers until they learn what you think. To get around that, ask a new specific question about a topic you haven’t yet discussed. If the person you’re chatting with avoids answering or tries to turn the question back to you, they just might be a wokefisher.

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