‘Ghosting’ or ‘being ghosted’ is a term coined to describe the increasing appearance of what is now an accepted part of modern dating. Here is how it generally plays out: you meet a person who seems great, you start to text, and one day they stop answering and disappear off the face of the planet. Rude? Yes. Uncommon? Hell no. My friends and I pretend to be shocked in an ‘I can’t believe a boy would dare ditch my friend’ kind of way, but we really aren’t surprised. In our quest to find love, we are met with more than enough problems these days – but the ghosting epidemic is taking hold in particular.
Unsurprisingly, I had a difficult time rooting up academic literature that tackled this forthcoming issue, but I did notice something from the mainstream listicles I did manage to skim – the prevalence of blame placed on our dating culture itself. It seems our first reaction is no longer to blame the person who ghosted us, but to make excuses – it’s our collective obsession with looks, or social media, or the instant gratification of Tinder that is causing us to feel hurt, or worthless, or disposable. It’s never called what it is – which is some selfish, self-described “nice” person with the emotional maturity of a week old pear kicking you to the curb with no regard for how you may interpret their disappearance. I don’t doubt our lazy left or right swipe culture of almost-relationships endorse and propagate the use of ghosting, but come on: take responsibility for your actions. It’s too easy to blame our culture.
For those unfamiliar with the process (lucky you,) here are the most common types of ghosting:
- Mutual Ghosting: The conversation dies one day because we’ve run out of things to talk about, or we’ve had a date or two and realized it’s not going to work out. We don’t declare our intention to break it off because it was never exclusive in the first place. Instead, we both stop texting and hope to never run into each other again.
In my opinion, mutual ghosting is relatively harmless, and beyond missing an opportunity to practice shutting things down in a mature fashion, it seems to have no lasting impact on the ghosters. Maybe there simply wasn’t a spark, and both parties didn’t see the need for a formal break up for a short fling. Fair enough.
- One Party Ghosting: I notice I’m carrying the conversation all the time. I’m saying hi first, and making all the plans just to have the other person cancel the day of because they can’t be bothered to get out of bed. I decide to not say hey one day, and I never hear from them again.
One Party Ghosting is an extremely passive way to ghost. This is good for the ghoster in two ways: a) if they are ever going to see the ghostee in person, they can come up with a myriad of excuses, and b) they have no real guilty feelings because they can justify it to themselves by saying the conversation wasn’t interesting, or the ghostee misinterpreted their lack of messages, or whatever. It leaves the ghostee, the one putting all the effort into maintaining the relationship, feeling disappointed and inadequate.
- Cruel Ghosting: The other person straight up lies to my face. They tell me all these sweet things, and they may even follow through on plans and treat me like their entire world. Until one day I’m not. They disappear. I text or call and they don’t answer. I start to worry. I ask around, and I find out they are well and alive. Once the relief passes, I hear they have found another person to treat like gold and didn’t feel like letting me in on the secret. I’m hurt, understandably, and I’ll never hear from them again.
Cruel ghosting is just that – cruel. It’s manipulation and a huge disappointment that can leave the ghostee feeling lonely and worthless, and causes many to ask themselves what they did wrong. The answer is usually nothing, and hopefully you have people around to tell you that, but in the event that you don’t, you should know that people who use this form of ghosting are not people you want to be associating with, regardless of how great they may seem. It takes a lot of effort to ghost in this fashion, which points clearly to their lack of maturity and the enjoyment they receive from drama.
Some of you readers may be wondering: who is ghosting, and how do people get away with it?
The answers are simple; nearly everyone ages 15-30 are ghosting, and as long as you can assure you will see very little of the other party in the real world, they can get away with it very easily.
Tinder and online dating have become a veritable tour de force in modern dating, with users able to connect with others without leaving the house, however, it comes with problems never faced in the dating world before – many users are meeting people for whom they have no background information or mutual friends, and in turn, they don’t know a) their intentions, b) their demeanor and c) whether they’re dangerous. There are pros and cons to this setup – it may be great if you have a horrible and embarrassing date because you will never see them again, or it could be awful because they are out to do you harm. As we all must know by now, there are ill-intentioned people in the world, and the one place they would be abundantly present is Tinder.
Why do people ghost? Well, a number of reasons might be contributing to the heinous act, but here are the ones I have noticed:
- Does Not Compute: Some individuals have trouble communicating their feelings, or they may not even know their feelings. Rather than face the troubles of identifying and explaining their feelings to the other party, whether good or bad, the individuals find it easiest to fade away.
- Desensitization: Ghosting is such a common occurrence today that those who have been single and dating for a while may be so used to it that it becomes a regular, although unhealthy, way to resolve any dating issue that may arise.
- Boredom: The other party is boring. The individual ghosts to save time and energy better spent remedying this newfound boredom with Netflix.
- Options: The individual had multiple options available, and has decided the other party isn’t the one they want to pursue. Instead of being honest and facing the consequences, they dodge out of that responsibility and ghost. Directly connected to this is a sudden change in their intentions with the other person or finding out the other party’s intentions do not match their own. It is easier to drop off than to face a difficult conversation.
- Violence: On the rare occasion, an individual may be trapped in a seemingly impossible situation such as a relationship where they want to end it but are worried, or even scared, of how the other party may react. If the other party is prone to violence or rage, individuals may choose to ghost for their own safety. If you are in this situation, it is advised to acquire some outside help.
- Need: Another rare occurrence may call for ghosting as a total last resort. If an individual has exhausted all possible ways of breaking it off with the other party, and they still do not take the hint, it is completely acceptable to ghost. In this situation, it is also advised to acquire some outside help.
Each time I am ghosted (because yes, it’s happened multiple times,) I retreat. I put a little bit less of myself out there in the world, especially when dating. I think “Hey man, it’s too easy to leave and be left. I can’t take another hit to the self-esteem like that.” It’s natural to hide from things that will inflict pain, but here’s the truth: every time you put yourself out there, you start to attract the right people. Those moments of vulnerability will bring kindred spirits your way, and although it also gives others power to act like a bag of dicks in your general direction, you’ll have a squad behind you ready to build you up when someone tries to tear you down. Now that’s the real love we should be seeking.
Holly Veale is currently a student at the University of Ottawa and is the Newsletter Publisher for the Web of Loneliness Institute, Inc.
See her previous article: