As a self-proclaimed expert at online dating (I’ve been through all the apps, y’all: Tinder, Bumble, Coffee Meets Bagel, Hinge. I even tried OKCupid. You name it, I’ve swiped on it. If there were an Olympics for dating apps, I’d be the Simone Biles.), I’ve noticed a universally hated trend that is often talked about but somehow keeps reappearing like a nightmare zit that never truly goes away. It is time to take a stand; we can no longer simply let this phenomenon go unchecked. It’s called ghosting—defined as the act of disappearing from a personal relationship by withdrawing all communication. It is cruel and unusual, and we’re going to put a stop to it, one text at a time.
Picture it: it’s 11 pm on Thursday. You’re wrapped up beneath your comforter, and your face is as moisturized as the Amazon rainforest. Before you pass out for the night, you open up the dating app of your choice, taking a few minutes to look for the beautiful, artistic, woke person of your dreams—or more realistically, a cutie who seems to have at least a vague life plan and a funny bio. Fifteen minutes later, you’ve matched with Jason (or Brad or Kara); whoever it is, they’re attractive, in school for graphic design, and they thought Lemonade was Album of the Year 2k16. All signs point to yes, so obviously after sending each other a few gifs of winking puppies, you make plans to get drinks on Friday night.
Being the master of flirtation that you are, drinks go swimmingly. Your date laughed at your anecdote about yesterday’s happy hour when you accidentally knocked a drink all over the bar and nearly got cut off before your night even started. Then they bought you a slice of pepperoni pizza and gripped your hand as they dropped you off at your subway stop. “I’ll text you,” they whispered in your ear as you embraced one another in the classic end-of-a-good-date hug. Three days later, and guess what?
LIES. IT WAS A FAÇADE.
Not only did they not text you, but they didn’t even send a one-word response to the text you sent thanking them for a nice evening, which you and your roommate spent 15 minutes crafting to perfection! That’s basic courtesy, and being ignored like that is Literally. The. Worst. And further, when Casper the Not-So-Friendly Ghost disappears from your life without a trace, a veritable Pandora’s box of self-doubting questions opens up and spills into an endless loop on repeat in your brain forever (or the next 24 hours). Were they laughing at my jokes out of pity? Did I seem like I wasn’t over my ex? Do I actually look like a swamp troll? Did they fake that orgasm?
Even though I have lived the above scenario more times than I feel comfortable disclosing, I must admit: I too have ghosted people. And I’ve done so more than once. After much introspection and reflection on my personal reasons for ghosting, I have come to two conclusions: it’s a shitty, unnecessary thing to do to someone, and we all need to agree to stop it.
Through our modern methods of online dating, it’s easy to forget that those we date are actually people with complex thoughts and feelings, and not simple objects with the sole purpose of serving as a one-night hook-up for us. We swipe away, sometimes barely taking two seconds to glance at a card before throwing it to the left or right of the glowing screens of our iPhones. This process is inherently artificializing, distilling the essence of a person down to five photos and a couple of lines in a bio. Condensing who a person is in this manner objectifies them, and when you view a person as an object, there’s no inclination to consider their feelings about anything—least of all, their feelings about you. This disconnect between the imagined object sitting beside you at the bar from the actual complex human that really is your date lays a foundation for your interaction that is dehumanizing and promotes disregard for empathy.
The definition of asocial behavior is that which is avoiding social interaction and is inconsiderate of or hostile to others. Ghosting embodies both of those components. When the ghost doesn’t like the person they’re dating, they can hit the unmatch button in two seconds and/or simply stop responding to messages, texts, and calls (avoiding social interaction, check). The two probably won’t cross paths again, so there’s no real-world awkwardness as a consequential deterrent from the act of simply disappearing; this would not be the case with relationships that began in real life. The ghostee’s emotional processes and feelings are so irrelevant to the ghost that they don’t even care enough to send a quick text succinctly expressing their disinterest for the sake of their own convenience, as there are no real consequences anyways (inconsiderate of others, check).
As one final bonus to the ghost, they don’t have to recognize the fact that they crushed someone’s feelings—they don’t have to be the bad guy. Only, when you ghost, not only are you totally still the bad guy, but you’re actually the worst guy. Along with the spiraling self-doubt you’ve induced in the ghostee, the question of whether or not you received that last text lingers in their head. Maybe their phone got stolen, or maybe they got hit by a car and are in the hospital. Maybe their childhood dog Rex died, and they’re too busy crying to respond to me right now. Oh god, am I being selfish? Who knows? And as time progresses, the ghostee’s optimism about the date is gradually replaced with self-doubt and anguish, which eventually turns into woeful acceptance laced with the notion that something is wrong with them. What could I have done differently? How can I make sure this doesn’t happen to me again?
When we ghost, we not only devalue the emotions, time, and existence of others, but we stunt the growth of our own emotional capacity and our ability to handle interpersonal relationships. We train ourselves to view the people we date as toys for us to play with, rather than free agents navigating the planet with the same internal emotional complexity that we have ourselves. We act as cowards, running from a briefly uncomfortable situation rather than dealing with it head-on, which is not a good precedent to establish in romantic life. One cannot run from conflict with significant others in the future (at least, not without severely damaging that relationship), so why establish the terrible habit of ignoring a problem now? Finally, it’s simply not worth causing so much tumult in another person’s life to avoid a confrontation that is slightly uncomfortable for you.
So, how do we go about ending this bullshit? The answer is an extremely simple one, and it literally only takes 10 seconds. You’re totally entitled not to want to see a tinder date again, but you don’t have to be a dick about it. Be a decent human, and exercise your empathy; treat people like actual people. Next time you go on a date with someone you aren’t really that into, and you get a text from them the next day gushing about the great time they had coupled with the flirty kiss emoji, simply respond with this: “Hey, I had a great time last night, but I don’t see a future for us. Have a nice day!” It’s simple and inoffensive, and it provides the other person with the closure they need—instead of leaving them hanging in some cruel emotional limbo. Ghosting sucks for everyone, and it’s up to us to fix it. Denormalize it; don’t do it anymore. Value other people and their feelings. Compassion is cool.