“He Looks Better With His Mask On”: Maskfishing at THS


Gia Shin, Roy Dafinoiu, and Elena Goiria

It’s the 7th of March—the mask mandate has been removed. You stroll down the hallway to your science class, anticipating seeing your crush. Yet the moment you step foot into your classroom, you’re overcome with shock. Mind you, you’ve never seen the bottom half of his face before. But this is what he looks like? Your dreams are crushed.

Of course, the current situation is not as dramatic as this seems, but the pressure to mask or not mask is on many students’ minds, and maskfishing doesn’t make it any easier. “Maskfishing” is a term coined by TikTok to describe people who appear more unattractive without their mask than they do while wearing one. On TikTok and Instagram, users film themselves with a mask on before taking it off, asking their viewers if they were maskfishing or not. The word is derived from the term “catfishing,” which is when someone uses pictures of strangers to create a fictitious persona on social media. However, while catfishing implies taking advantage of someone else, maskfishing does not. The way we appear with a mask on or off is out of our control.

During adolescence, teenagers are more susceptible to insecurities and negative self-perception. Our prefrontal cortex is underdeveloped and our hormones run higher than in any other stage of life, which causes us to also be more judgmental of others. “I feel like some people are scared to not wear their masks because they’re going to be judged,” Adar Serok (’25) said. We can attribute this to a phenomenon called amodal completion. When we see partially obstructed objects, our minds automatically fill in the gaps using generalized information. “However, this… tends to create images that are more aesthetically pleasing than what is likely behind the mask,” Mr. Petrozzo, THS Child Psychology teacher, said. “Hence the reason we tend to find people more attractive in masks.”

There’s no denying the fact that our physical appearances play a leading role in the determination of how attractive we are. Michael Lewis, from Cardiff University’s school of psychology, discovered that people are considered more attractive when they wear face masks, more specifically blue ones, because we associate healthcare workers with them. “At a time when we feel vulnerable, we may find the wearing of medical masks reassuring and so feel more positive towards the wearer,” he said. This is the opposite of what research prior to the pandemic showed, when face masks deemed the wearer less attractive because they were associated with illnesses.

In addition to this, teens are more influenced by peer pressure at an age where fitting in and being liked by others is gratifying. With the recent lifting of the mask mandate, Tenafly students and faculty have had to make the decision to either hang up their masks or keep them on. “I’m going to wear my mask if I see most people wearing it, but if most people aren’t, I’m not going to wear my mask,” Daniella Mor (’25) said.

However, even though people can be perceived as less attractive without their masks, it can go both ways. Some people can be considered more attractive without a mask, and this seems to surprise people. “Everyone looks better with masks,” Evelyn You (’25) said. “So [when it’s the opposite] it’s surprising [and] interesting.” However, this doesn’t seem to occur often as most impressions of people without masks tend to be negative, leading to increasing insecurity about appearances. “Some people said that to me today,” Megan Koehler (’23) said. “They said that they were hiding a pimple [under] their mask.”

Mask on or mask off, under the nose, or chin diaper, all THS students have felt the heat when it comes to the mask or no mask debate. Whether you wear it or not, the peer pressure will remain present. However, before judging people for wearing their masks because they’re insecure, we should all be aware that we are still in a global pandemic and people seek to stay safe. Always keep in mind that maskfishing is not in anyone’s control, and while it can be tough to get rid of insecurities, refraining from judging others for their appearances can definitely help.