It’s the classic tragedy of modern dating: You met someone that you finally felt a genuine connection with. You two talked for a few weeks, and you couldn’t help but be more attracted to this person the more you got to know him or her. You restrained from smiling at your phone in public when they texted you, you really enjoyed hanging out with them, and you stayed up late talking to them with your phone plugged in the wall. The mundane topics of conversation were exciting because you just wanted to get know this person.
Then one day, very abruptly, the texting became vapid and less frequent, and you tried thinking of ways to keep the conversation going. Your head wanted to prepare for what was to happen, but you also wanted to preserve hope. During that time you started to make excuses for this person. The “what ifs” flooded in, and before you could have even attempted to rationalize it, they were gone.
Being ghosted is maddening, to say the least. You overanalyzed your last few conversations, your last date, and your last text. You ruminated because you weren’t given a real explanation as to why it ended or what happened. After all, everything seemed fine to you. No matter how hard you tried not to, you blamed yourself because that was the easiest route when you tried to make sense of it all. The only thing worse than being dumped is the fact that someone didn’t even consider you were worth the actual dumping.
To most people, it’s just “what we do these days” and you should just “get over it” since it wasn’t that serious anyway. But it was serious because you felt real things for this person.
No matter how desperately you wanted to believe this person isn’t terrible, you’re frustrated that they didn’t really give you a fair chance or at the very least, some closure. Part of you wanted to be hurt. Part of you hoped that when your phone rang, it was this person. And the other part was angry with yourself for not being able to move as fast as they did. Logically you knew that you shouldn’t have gotten attached, but emotionally you couldn’t help it.
If you’re in this position now you’re probably asking yourself where you go from here, or how you make yourself feel better after feeling completely rejected. So you do what any millennial would to get over it, you re-download tinder.
You swipe and talk, swipe and date, and swipe and hookup. You do it because you just want to move on. Maybe you want a few people on standby in case you feel lonely. You may not be serious about any of these people, but being with anybody is better than being alone and rejected. Your ego needs the validation and you’re just trying to make up for the attention you were denied.
But the explicit truth of the matter is that your doing this is part of the problem. You may very well be hurting these people by disappearing once you’ve had your time with them, or if you don’t see it going anywhere. There are so many other people out there to meet, and you vanish without any explanation because ghosting is easy. After all, you’re not labeling your relationship with these people. You aren’t giving them any sort of title as to what you two are doing. In your mind, going ghost seems appropriate to the situation, even if the other person’s feelings are invested. The modern dating scene is so elusive that it makes the sting of someone’s vanishing act both upsetting and confusing. You think to yourself how you could have liked someone who deemed you so obsolete?
I personally like to think of myself as an honest person, but I admit I’ve also done it. There were situations in which I just wasn’t that interested in pursuing someone further, and instantaneously decided to quietly disappear, leaving the other person to escape without a goodbye or an explanation. I believed that it was in their best interest to preserve their pride and get away scot-free. Or perhaps I was afraid of the confrontation that came with rejecting someone while I was already on my way to finding someone else. I didn’t want to feel like a bad person.
But it’s different when you’re on the receiving end. I was ghosted several weeks ago and while it was happening, I felt like I was kicked in the gut repeatedly. You move on, but your self-esteem doesn’t exactly go unscathed; it was karmic retribution if I had ever experienced it.
The thing is, people are very aware when they’re being ignored, and it’s just as much, or if not more painful than breaking it off with them directly. I ran into someone recently whom I previously ghosted, and he very honestly admitted to me that what I did, “fucked him up for a while”. I felt guilty for leading him on, but knowing the repercussion of my actions (or lack thereof) on him made me feel worse. I did like this person but after our fifth or sixth time going out I just couldn’t continue it, but he also deserved to know that.
It’s the vicious cycle of modern dating. The environment is so casual until the “dumper” decides that the relationship’s not worth investing in. The “dumpee” is not only left with the hurt and confusion but now also the pressure to move on, feeling foolish and regretting that they even got attached in the first place. I still try and imagine a time when people would get to know each other without the threat of them running away at any sign of imperfection. Off to find the next person who seems “better” based on his or her profile pictures or cute bio. When everything we did wasn’t governed by the need for approval or and the instant gratification. When people weren’t disposable and when dating meant getting to know each other long enough to form a real opinion of the other person. When talking on the phone or seeing someone in person was the way to communicate instead of the casual texting every day.
But now we have hundreds of people at our fingertips waiting to go out with us. We are jaded by the vast failed dating experiences we have but all the while we want something real. We are so afraid of getting hurt that we’re already prepared with one foot out the door; an escape route just in case it doesn’t work out. But how can we find deep and meaningful relationships while also fearing emotional attachment? We’ve created a culture that craves human connection but also fears real intimacy. The process is draining, and I wonder if there’s any way to keep it from continuing.
If you’re an active participant in the game of modern dating take these questions into consideration: how did it make you feel the last time you were ghosted by someone you liked? If you do want to break it off with someone, can you honestly say that you’ve gotten to know this person well enough? Are your expectations of this person ones that are perpetuated by a culture of perfectionism? Do you even know what you’re looking for, and if so, you making those intentions clear from the start? If you are interested in getting to know someone with the hopes that it may eventually turn into a relationship, know that that takes time. But most importantly remember that as much as the culture keeps us from viewing each other as more than pixels on a screen, there’s a person with real feelings on the other end of the Smartphone.