‘Ghosting’ is the harsh reality of modern dating but what is it?

As someone who has dipped my toes in the world of online dating, I’m well aware of the risks and figured the worst case scenario was an awkward date or even worse

Emily Jardine

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The chanteuse Mariah Carey, in her epic cover of British hard rock band Def Leppard’s magnus opus ballad ‘Bringing on the Heartbreak’, sings “You're a mystery, always runnin’ wild/ Like a child without a home/ You're always searching, searching for a feeling/That it's easy come and easy go.” And anyone who’s participated in the tragic slow-motion car wreck that is online dating knows that it’s less often ‘easy come’ and more often ‘easy go.’

What at first feels light-hearted and fun, as you swipe through profile after profile, soon becomes more akin to high stakes poker once you and your potential paramour move from the safe anonymous space of the internet to the big bad real world where expectations and emotions can come crashing down on us, stripping us of our optimism and faith that the way we treat people will be reciprocated.

As someone who has dipped my toes in the world of online dating, I’m well aware of the risks and figured the worst case scenario was an awkward date or even worse, a boring one. I’d heard of ghosting but figured I was safe from the worst of it because generally, I like to move slow. In this age of infinite choice, it’s a big commitment to even see someone more than once, much less, start to open up your life to them. But then, just when I thought things with a certain someone were really starting to blossom, I got ghosted on.

Confusing and painful

Ghosting, for those who have been spared, is when someone that you’ve been talking to regularly disappears. The longer you’ve been talking to this person, the more confusing and painful is said ghosting.

Now to be fair, there are some times when ghosting has to be accepted as a consequence of modern dating. If we’re going to be easily matched with infinite numbers of people, we’re going to have coffee with people we actually don’t like or people who might even possibly not like us.

In my time of dating, I’ve had to break bread with a man who didn’t understand why I wouldn’t vote for Trump, a man who asked me why ‘feminists’ were trying to erode men’s rights, a man who had the evidence from his previous night’s date on his neck, a man who tried to bully me into leaving right then to going motorcycling in the desert, and a man who was actually still married.

I’ve also just met people that I didn’t click with. And while we’d all like to claim that we would do the honorable thing and express our lack of desire for a date two, sometimes it’s just easier to let things fade away. Or, maybe we have the intention to send that text saying ‘thanks but no thanks’ but we just seem to keep to forgetting to hit ‘send.’.

But that’s not really ghosting as I see it. As Deb Besinger writes for Huffington Post, Ghosting is not having some conversation with someone online and they either hide their profile or never respond to anymore messages, meeting in person for one date and one date only and not hearing from them again, or meeting someone in person and saying “we should get together some time” but never doing it.

Ghosting is, as Dr. Jennice Vilhauer writes for Psychology Today, “is having someone that you believe cares about you, whether it be a friend or someone you are dating, disappear from contact without any explanation at all. No phone call or email, not even a text.”

Questions and doubts

The bottom line is that ghosting is awful because it creates so many questions and doubts in the mind of the person who has been left wondering what happened. It’s unkind and can have serious and permanent repercussions.

As Dr. Vilhauer explains, “When someone we love and trust disengages from us it feels like a very deep betrayal...Ghosting gives you no cue for how to react. It creates the ultimate scenario of ambiguity. Should you be worried? What if they are hurt and lying in a hospital bed somewhere? Should you be upset? Maybe they are just a little busy and will be calling you at any moment. You don’t know how to react because you don’t really know what has happened.”

And it causes you to question yourself. No matter how confident we are, when a person that we have invested our time into disappears without reason from our lives, we are left in an echo chamber that can amplify our insecurities about ourselves in a brutal and unforgiving way.

Explains Dr. Vilhauer, “Ghosting is the ultimate use of the silent treatment, a tactic that has often been viewed by mental health professionals as a form of emotional cruelty. It essentially renders you powerless and leaves you with no opportunity to ask questions or be provided with information that would help you emotionally process the experience. It silences you and prevents you from expressing your emotions and being heard, which is important for maintaining your self-esteem.”

As a person who has been ghosted on, it’s akin to a kind of emotional miscarriage; you start to feel this life start to develop and grow, and then suddenly, without explanation or reason, it’s gone.

So take the two seconds it takes to be kind and end things in a manner that respects the time you both have invested in each other. Says Besinger, “If you’ve been tempted to ghost or are thinking about it, if you can’t handle an in-person conversation, at least have the gumption to send a measly one-sentence text!!! Seriously, just show up, be seen, be heard, put out good Karma out into the dating pond and just send a damn text saying good luck and good night!”