A buzzword for millennials and gen z’ers in recent years, ghosting is an unavoidable hurdle in the 21st century dating scene. In fact, a recent study from the online dating site Plenty of Fish, found that almost 80% of millennial daters between 18-33 have been ghosted.
But why exactly do we do it and what are the consequences?
Online dating apps like Tinder, Bumble, and Grindr have made meeting and connecting with new people easier than ever before. Fancy a 2am hookup? Easy. Wanna go for a cute coffee date? No problem. In saying that, the ability to essentially date someone through a screen, combined with our ever growing dependency on our phones when it comes to communication, has led to the rise and rise of the aforementioned ghosting culture.
The bottom line of ghosting is that it’s easy. It’s a get-out-of-jail-free card. Don’t wanna see someone again? Just don’t text them back. Simple, right?
When we ghost someone, we often like to claim that our actions are an attempt to ‘save their feelings’. But let’s be real, we’re kidding ourselves when we say that ghosting is anything other than a selfish move to avoid the emotional labour of having to deal with some kind of break up. Cutting off communication and swerving those DMs for a few weeks totally trumps having to tell that lad you banged that his game is off, or that girl you dated just isn’t doing it for ya.
The problem with ghosting is that the negative impacts of it run so much deeper than just hurting someone’s feelings or causing them to rinse their data trying to contact you. Aside from spurring majorly-bummed-out-rejection feels, ghosting leads some people to deeply internalise that rejection, which can have some serious knock-on effects. According to Psychology Today magazine, “ghosting creates the ultimate scenario of ambiguity”, and in fact this kind of social rejection “activates the same pathways in the brain as physical pain.”
When we’ve been ghosted, we end up questioning everything about ourselves. Is it the way I look? Or maybe how I am in bed? Did they not like my new haircut? Or am I actually a bad kisser? Did I talk too much about politics, or perhaps not enough? Shit, what if it’s my fashion sense?
Although these thoughts and feelings might seem trivial to some, for others ghosting can lead to a dangerous downward spiral of self doubt and cause major damage to self esteem - which in turn can trigger depression and anxiety. In fact mental health professionals have even declared the tactic as a form of emotional cruelty, branding it the ultimate silent treatment. They also said that “people who end relationships by ghosting have often been ghosted themselves, yet seemingly show no empathy toward the other”.
With this in mind, why do we continue to ghost people when we know how down right shitty it feels to be on the receiving end of a major swerve?
Like I said, we’ve all been ghosted or done some ghosting in our time. I for one will put my hands up and say I’ve defo ignored a text or two in my time. But with so much buzz around mental health and supporting one another right now, shouldn’t we be actively trying to avoid situations that might trigger an unpleasant emotional experience?
So, it’s time we said goodbye to ghosting. Ciao. Adios. We’re done.
First things first, if you’re old enough to be using online dating apps and services then you should be mature enough to be upfront and honest with a potential partner about the fact that you don’t want to see them again. Moreover, if you liked them enough to have any sort of relationship in the first place (yes texting and meeting up one time counts), then they deserve some basic level of respect on your part. Now I’m not saying you need to send a full on essay or go all he’s-just-not-that-into-you-movie-montage on them, but a lowkey text message saying that you didn’t feel a spark but wish them all the best will do the trick.
Another way to avoid ghosting is to be upfront about your dating expectations from the beginning. If you’re only looking for a one night stand and nothing more, then make that clear to avoid any miscommunication and emotional damage down the line. Alternatively, if you’re looking for something more serious, make it known so that you and your potential partner can make sure you’re on the same page, before you find out that you’re actually in totally different books altogether.
Yes, being upfront and honest can be a little toe-curling at times, and ofc no-one wants to intentionally hurt someone’s feelings. But it’s time to break the cycle we’ve been a slave to and welcome in a new and honest era of modern dating. So, what better place to practice our first breakup than with ghosting itself?
So, next time you’ve got your swerving shoes on and making a beeline for ghost town, take a moment to pause, and send a text instead ;)
Written by Jade Biggs.