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“Ghosting! We had a ghost in our house in Vermont,” my friend Sarah said when I asked her if she had ever been ‘ghosted.’ “It was a helpful ghost though. When the electricity would go out all the clocks would be set to exactly the same time when we would wake up. Very creepy.”
As much as I enjoyed Sarah’s story, it wasn’t at all what we’re referring to in regard to the ‘ghosting’ that occurs in today’s dating scene, even though the version we’re talking about can be very creepy, as well. ‘Ghosting’ occurs when a person you’ve romantically spent time with suddenly disappears out of nowhere. They’re here today, gone tomorrow. Vanished, without a trace or even a farewell text. The same way my friend Sarah couldn’t figure out how the clocks reset to the same exact time in her house since she never saw anyone do it, it leaves the person who dated and/or built a relationship with the ‘ghost’ in question searching for answers and wondering: what’s going on?
Comedian Aziz Ansari dedicated a section of his book, Modern Romance: An Investigation, co-written with Eric Klinenberg, to this topic with the heading: What We Do When We Aren’t Interested. “If you are plain just not interested in someone, you have a whole other conundrum to deal with,” Ansari wrote. “How should you let this person know you aren’t interested? From our interviews, it seems there are three big approaches: pretend to be busy, say nothing, or be honest.” During Ansari’s stand-up comedy tour he asked audiences the method they used. “Pretend to be busy” and “silence” were the clear winners based on crowd participation. Then when Ansari asked the crowd how they preferred people treat them while dating, the majority of the audience applauded when he said, “And finally, clap if you prefer that they are honest with you.”
And that’s par for the course with dating, among other things, today. We say one thing, but actually mean something else. We want love, but pass up actual opportunities for something better walking down the street or coming across our phone screens. We want the truth, but don’t offer it to others and struggle with rejection, while wondering what did I do wrong?
“The thing to remember with this nonsense is, despite all your second-guessing about the content or timing of your message, sometimes it’s just not your fault and other factors are at play,” Ansari wrote.
To better understand ‘ghosting’ we spoke with both men and women who have ‘ghosted’ someone, as well as people who have been ‘ghosted’ in order to achieve a better understanding of this new phenomenon. Click through for their real stories.
1. Katherine R.
The Situation: There was one guy that I went on two dates with and decided not to see him anymore. He then proceeded to text me to hang out every week for about 6 months. You would think that he would get the hint after awhile! Then another where we had been on three or four dates and I went off the grid. He texted me every single day—about the weather, his weekend plans, what he had for dinner. Finally, he said he was worried I had been in an accident and was coming to my house, which is when I had to jump in and tell him I didn’t think we were going anywhere.
Why She Ghosted: I think with the advent of Tinder and Hinge I got in the mindset that there are always more options out there. In addition to that, I was always seeing a few guys casually at a time. I felt as though if the relationship wasn’t serious, it didn’t deserve a serious ending. Today, guys still have a lot of the power when deciding if a hook up becomes something more serious. So, I think I tried to take some of that back. ‘I think we should see other people’ doesn’t work, since we all knew we already were. And, ‘I’m just not into you’ seems so harsh. So, if I went on a couple of dates with someone and I wasn’t feeling it anymore, I would just stop responding to his texts/calls/etc. I’d rather him think I moved to a tropical island.
2. Lyndsay R.
The Situation: I went on a blind date with a guy that I met on Hinge and it was fine, but I just didn’t super feel that much of a spark. So, when he texted me that weekend I just never responded.
Why She Ghosted: My motto is after one date I would rather a guy ghost me than try to be like, ‘Listen, I’m not interested.’ Like one date does not warrant DTR (define the relationship.)
3. Leo P.
The Situation: She was a customer that I met at work. We shared a few awkward looks the next time we saw each other, but she got it. She just passed by and we didn’t have any interaction.
Why He Ghosted: I got texts with things like ‘baby’, ‘boo’, and silly, unrelated emojis. It made me realize that our worlds were just too far apart. But then, I am the complicated one and know it. I’ve never ghosted anyone that I’ve seen more than once. Then it’s just a plain a**hole move.
4. Katherine S.*
The Situation: This guy, my boss’s best friend, who I met at work, was all about it—texting me, took me on several dates. He was really sweet. He went away for a week and texted me every five minutes—sent more messages than anyone ever. And I said, ‘I have a problem at work’ and he said, ‘Let’s figure it out babe’ and I thought, ‘What a sweetheart.’ We had gone on five dates over a month and a half and he met my co-workers. I’m picky about who I introduce to my team. After our fifth date, he said, ‘I’ll call you next week.’ And I never heard from him again. He said I was very important to him the last time I saw him and that he couldn’t wait to see me later in the week—then I never heard from him (unsolicited) again.
Why He Went Ghost On Her: Since we went on five dates and he’s my boss’s best friend, I texted – ‘What happened?’ And he responded, ‘ I don’t know. I’m in a weird place.’ This was right after we slept together for the first time.
*Name has been changed
5. Rod H.
The Situation: I was hooking up with this girl and we were texting back and forth pretty regularly. Then she just went silent for no reason.
Why She Went Ghost On Him: A month later she messages me saying she got back with her ex and ‘forgot’ to tell me.
6. Melissa G.
The Situation: I met this guy at a bar downtown in Portland. He was a little drunk but he and his friend were chatting up my friend and me. I was sharing stories about my travels and he kept saying, ‘Oh my god you are amazing. You are blowing my mind!’ We sat at the bar and talked and he kept telling me how much he liked me and wanted to see me again. He said he never felt so blown away by someone in his life. He lived up in Tacoma, Washington but was visiting Portland with his cousin and friend. When we parted ways that night, I gave him my number. He immediately texted me nonstop for the next hour or so telling me he hoped I wasn’t too good to be true and he would most definitely be back the following weekend to see me again.
For the next few days we talked nonstop. I wasn’t sure about him since he is 24 and I am 27, but he seemed sincere and I was starting to like him. We Skyped and he told me unfortunately he wouldn’t make it down for the following weekend because a friend was coming into town. We still texted all day Monday through Wednesday of that week. All the time he kept saying how much he liked me. On Thursday I didn’t hear from him all day. I waited. I texted him at 11 PM to just check in. He said he was with his friends but we still talked for quite a while. Then Friday I heard nothing. Saturday, I heard nothing. Sunday—nothing. I started to get anxious and complained to my friends that he went from extremely hot to cold so quickly. My friends reassured me he was probably just busy with his friends. So I gave him space and didn’t text him. Come Tuesday, I still heard nothing.
Why He Went Ghost On Her: I texted him finally and said, ‘Did something happen? Hope things are going well.’ No response. I texted again and said, ‘I really thought you were sincere, I guess not.’ Nothing. I promptly deleted his number and let it go. My best guess was that either his friend that was visiting gave him sh*t for being so into me and convinced him to let it go, or he met a girl that weekend and decided it would be easier to date someone who lived up there. I’d write it off as immaturity but I had a boyfriend who was 32 do a similar thing to me so it’s obviously not age. I’ve just let it go.
7. Alex C.*
The Situation: The number one rule in mobile app dating: Any girl can disappear at any given time without a single hint of warning. Have you ever seen a girl age 18 to 35 in public NOT check her phone at least once a minute? She got your text.
Why She Went Ghost On Him: With dating nowadays, everyone has his or her first choice (out of their league), second choice (good match, but would be considered settling), and third choice (in case of emergency, break glass). You go out on a date with the second choice, because the first choice won’t give you the time of day. The date is great—maybe you even fool around and definitely agree to see each other again. Then all of a sudden, you get ghosted. Her first choice gave her a shot.
*Name has been changed
8. Brenda C.
The Situation: A year ago, Mr. X and I met and rather than a chemistry between us, he referred to an ‘atomic explosion!’ We both wanted to be with each other as often as possible. When we weren’t together, it was texting and more texting. (I learned all the symbols for expressing affection.) He remarked: ‘Don’t you feel like a teenager?’ YES. Then over a two day period the texts were fewer until there were none. He did not return texts, pick up his phone, or answer emails. Nothing! Although at the time I didn’t know the term ‘ghosting’, that’s what had happened to me!
Why He Went Ghost: Finally I texted: ‘Your refusal to communicate is the behavior of a coward. I believed you to be an honest man of integrity but I was duped. Know that I cared for you but now I will click delete and move on’. His immediate text stated: ‘I just can’t fit into your life. Sorry. Good Luck’. Ghosting is a cowardly way of ending a relationship. In my opinion, it shows the true character of a person. I respect honesty in ‘breaking up.’ With ‘ghosting’ there is no explanation and no closure. The urban setting of our culture allows this anonymity. In retrospect, he was correct because we are very different but couldn’t that issue have been discussed. ‘Ghosting’ was the easy way out.
9. Cole Y.
The Situation: I met a girl off Match.com. She was 6 feet tall. I’m 6’4’’. She’s all over me. We live about 30-40 minutes away from each other. We texted and talked for a few weeks, she [sexted me], and there’s all sorts of anticipation building up. We meet up at the club—dancing, flirting, the whole nine. I sleep over her place the first night after meeting (…) I immediately ghost on her (…).
Why He Ghosted: Any girl who [sleeps with] you on the first night has done it with someone else the first night. (…) She gets pissed at me, curses me out, the end. We’re still Facebook friends. Ghosting removes the responsibility. It’s the easy way out. I ghosted on one-night stands. You can’t ghost on someone you’re actually dating.
10. Lisa C*
The Situation: Date 1, had a lovely evening. The guy bought the drinks (relevant for later.) I mentioned briefly during the date that my best friend was having a gathering at a bar the next night and he should totally swing by. He seemed positive about it, but I didn’t mention it again. End of the night, we say our goodbyes, I go home. I text him afterwards to thank him for the drinks (which is customary for me), but do not ‘open the box’ if you will to any additional hangouts, leaving the ball in his court. His reply to my thanks was to thank me for the ‘great company,’ and he also included the line ‘I’ll call you tomorrow when I’m getting off work to meet up at that bar—will probably be around 6pm.’ I thought—’great! He digs me! Cool.’ The next day, livin’ my life, not a peep. I realize not only is he not planning to come to this gathering, but he also has just ghosted me. To confirm my suspicions, I wait until too-late in the night for him to come, around 10:30 PM, and say, ‘Guess tonight didn’t work out—would love to see you again!’ Never replied.
My Takeaway: If you’re not interested, don’t INSTIGATE a lie/fake story about wanting to hang out again. Much preferable than him ghosting would have just been him replying to my ‘thanks!’ texts with “I had a great night, too!” or even ending after “thanks for the great company!”
*Name has been changed