“Ghosting? What’s that?” asked my 37 year old husband who’s been off the dating market for a little over a decade now. So, I thought it might be useful to start with a simple definition.
Ghosting is when someone who you think cares about you (to whatever extent), disappears without any explanation. No call, no text, nothing.
It’s an old concept but has a new terminology.
There are some things in the world we can absolutely do away with, and ghosting is definitely one of them. I’ll make my case for why we ghost, and why it’s important for us as a society to join forces in abolishing it.
Ghosting can happen anytime. For instance, you match with someone on a dating app, and then you drop them a text to connect, they don’t respond, that’s ghosting. When you’ve been on 3-4 dates with someone, you trust them enough to open up to them, they disappear on you without a clue, that’s ghosting. When you’ve been dating someone for a while, even as long as two years, and suddenly they stop responding to your calls or messages and vanish into thin air, that’s ghosting too. Some of this happens more often than others, but they all hurt nevertheless. The impact is a function of who gets ghosted and how invested they are.
Well, there are a range of possibilities:
It wasn’t a real person, it was a bot
No, it wasn’t a bot, but they’re horrible people, what other explanation is there?
They liked you by mistake, and they don’t care enough to clarify
They liked you because they didn’t have much choice back then, but now they do, and so they don’t care enough to clarify
They don’t want to exhaust their options, and so they want to string you along till they find someone better
Their phone got stollen, and they don’t know how to reach you now
May be they died
People don’t want to take any emotional responsibility - not for themselves, not for anyone else. So, when you have to deliver a message that is expected to have unpleasant repercussions, you don’t want to be responsible for either delivering the message or handling the emotions of the person who reacts to your message.
So, what do you do?
Disappear without saying anything.
For you, yes. Not for the other person. It absolutely sucks, albeit even for a minute.
Sure, you feel guilty for running away and wish you didn’t have to run away. But guess what? You actually didn’t have to run away. You had a choice to stay, explain and then walk away. Instead, you chose to run away without saying anything. That choice makes you who you are. In the short-term, running away might work for you, but in the long-term, you’ll never grow the muscle to deal with anything difficult. It probably doesn’t even matter to you, but I’d still like to tell you what the other side deals with in the short-term.
Ghosting hurts. People need closures. People are far better equipped to deal with fizzling. Oh yeah, that’s a thing too. Fizzling is when things trickle down in fervour slowly over time, and then dies a slow death. Death in general is hard for people to cope with, but if one’s allowed a preference, I think slow death is preferable any day considering the grief, and effort needed to make peace.
If I matched with someone, and they didn’t respond to my text, I might be down for a day but the impact would be wildly different if we went out for months, and they ghosted me just like that. I will kill myself with overanalyses about what I could’ve done wrong to kindle such a reaction from that person.
I will then oscillate between hating that person and hating myself. Over time, I might stop looking for answers, and I might start convincing myself that it wasn’t my fault or the other’s, and that things like this happen all the time. I might even forget this ever happened, but remember that a part of me will be scarred forever, and nobody, including myself, will know for sure what the damage is, but damaged, I will be.
It will take me a few bruises to not notice anymore, but in the process, I’d have started paying back, not to the person who ghosted me necessarily, but to other people who didn’t deserve it in the first place, just like me.
The what now?
In an age of constant communication, people aren’t foolish to not read the signs if something’s not meant to be. It’s different when someone reads too much after being betrayed one too many times. But in general, we can all do with a bit more kindness in the world.
We may not be generous to share our wealth with someone, but I think there’s not much to lose with a simple response to someone who is obviously invested in a conversation with us. It’s basic courtesy. Is that so hard in a civilised world? What are we doing with all the education anyway?
If we feel like we don’t have the energy to engage someone in a lengthy discussion, it’s okay to say so. It might hurt, but it’s better than us not responding to them. That’s the least we can do when we’ve chatted for days, exchanged a few laughs, possibly a coffee, had sex with or whatever counts as an interaction that merits a response. I think, of all the things in the world we can eradicate, ghosting is definitely a social evil worth abolishing.
Even if we aren’t doing this for the other person, we could avoid ghosting, for ourselves, just so we learn to take responsibility of someone’s emotions other than ours, otherwise what’s the point of even trying to be in a relationship?
P.S. - I am collecting stories of people who’ve been ghosted, or who’ve ghosted other people. If you’ve got a story to share, you should send in your stories here. If we love your story too much, you can win a chance to be a part of a fun community of singles. Given COVID-19 and all, we might stick with e-mixers before we allow physical contact within the community ;)