Online dating can be a weird and wacky experience – and the introduction of voice notes is leading to a whole new phenomenon that app users are on the lookout for.
What attracts us to certain people can be a complex and ever-evolving set of factors. For some, it’s all about the physical – from their height (I, too, was once a member of the 6ft and up only club) to their facial features and hair, to wealth, ambition, sense of humour – the list goes on.
The introduction of this new feature comes after data from Hinge found that half of its users have become less attracted to a match after hearing the sound of their voice, revealing it has made them feel everything from annoyed to uncomfortable and even disgusted.
This has led to a rise in concerns among dating app users in what Hinge has called “voicefishing” – a new phenomenon that sees people alter their accent, dialect or tone in an attempt to sound more sexy or desirable.
The app also found that “almost two-thirds of Hinge users say voice is an important factor in determining whether they like someone” and with the rise of in-app voice features, this alternative strand of catfishing is something online daters are looking out for.
In a bid to get the lowdown on all things voicefishing, we spoke to three relationship experts about what it is, how to detect it and how you may even be doing it without realising it.
What is voicefishing?
“Voicefishing is someone who puts on a fake accent or choice of dialect in the attempt to impress their potential matches,” says Carly Smith, a relationship expert for Condoms.co.uk.
Smith says the aim of altering someone’s voice is so they can sound more “desirable or sexy than they naturally do” in a bid to impress more potential date matches.
“Voicefishing is the latest shift in attention that has come out of people looking for a deeper connection on dating apps,” states relationship expert and co-founder of dating app Bare, Gillian Myhill.
“We all know some accents stand out more than others, but if it’s meant to really hoodwink who you’re talking to and not just a bit of fun voiceplay, it can be quite dangerous.”
What are some signs that someone might be getting voicefished?
“One sign is that they only seem to want to communicate with you in very short voice messages, where their fake accent can be hidden,” says psychotherapist and relationship expert Lucy Beresford. “Another sign is that they might only communicate in voice notes instead of having an actual phone conversation where you could attempt to build a deeper connection.”
Myhill seconds this and says it’s important to look out for signs of “inconsistencies in tone or accent, overkill on stereotypical accents, speaking slower or a lack of desire to FaceTime.
“These could all indicate that someone is being dishonest about their true voice.”
Is it possible for someone to be voicefishing without even realising it?
Our voices can often alter throughout the day depending on the mood we’re in or the time of the day – something that can result in a change in how we sound and could potentially lead to us voicefishing without even knowing it.
“People’s voices change throughout the day,” says Smith. “From first thing in the morning before you have that morning cup of coffee to that end of day excitement when you come home from work.
“Voices can also change depending on a person’s mood. If it’s higher pitched and they are talking quickly, it could be a sign of excitement; slower and more grumbly voices could be a sign of annoyance. It depends on the person.”
Smith says it’s also important to bear in mind “the linguistic phenomenon of convergence”, adding that pretty much all speakers will subconsciously change the way they speak to make themselves more amenable to a conversational partner.
“That might mean leaning into a regional accent or dialect when around your family, or dropping it in job interviews,” she notes. “It’s a part of all human interaction and is somewhat unavoidable. However, there’s a big difference between trying to make your conversational partner more comfortable and pretending to have a completely different accent. One is normal, the other is deceit.”
If you are unintentionally voicefishing, how can you avoid it?
Beresford recognises that a change in how you speak or your tone of voice isn’t necessarily intentional – but there are ways to maintain consistency.
“Plan when you are going to leave your message so that you are physically relaxed and in a positive mood,” she says. “And then focus on being natural. If this potential date doesn’t like you from the sound of your natural voice or accent, this is not going to ensure a long-lasting relationship. So don’t fake things from the start. In your head, have in mind something that makes you smile, as this ‘smile-energy’ will come through in your voice.”
Smith adds that developing a writing style that matches the way you speak can also help build an authentic connection with someone and avoid confusion.
“If you choose to add a voice note to your profile, ensure you feel good and carry a warm energy,” she says. “If you aren’t feeling like yourself, it is more than likely your voice will reflect this.”