One of my clients recently went on a date, and he said it went well. They hit it off. His date even mentioned how she was excited to meet again soon, very soon in fact.
She seemed interested in him, and they spoke a lot about how awesome it was to be able to pursue the possibility of a relationship.
He messaged her later in the day and didn’t get a response. He tried again the next day; then a couple of days later. He heard nothing from her and, as far as I know, still hasn’t.
While ghosting has always been an occurrence, modern technology has made it much more common. For example, before caller ID, it was pretty difficult to ghost someone, simply because the person doing the rejecting had to at least pick up the phone, even if it was to hang up on the person in question.
But, with text messaging and social media, ghosting can be taken to a whole new level. The person being dumped can attempt to reach out to the one doing the dumping in countless ways – only to be ignored on every platform.
Why People Ghost
Psychologically speaking, why do people ghost someone they aren’t interested in? I have a couple of theories.
First, I believe it’s a tactic used by people who lack assertiveness and good communication skills. Let’s face it, telling someone we aren’t interested in them is difficult. It’s even harder for people who might have a hard time being assertive or accurately communicating their feelings in other, less stressful, situations.
So, rather than tell the truth and talk to the other person, they take the easy way out and simply don’t respond, knowing the other person will likely give up. They feel they’ve dodged a bullet and go on with their lives.
Second, many well-meaning people perceive ghosting as a less harsh option. They feel that if they tell the person the truth (e.g. I’m not attracted to you because of (fill in the blank)), they will hurt the person’s feelings.
Under this reasoning, rather than hurting the person’s feelings with direct feedback, the less awkward option is to simply ignore them.
Of course, there are many other reasons why people ghost, many of them less flattering than the two I’ve given: personal insecurity, lack of integrity, and, in some cases, the person doing it might just be an outright jerk.
Except under extreme circumstances (like creepiness, stalking, etc.), I don’t believe ghosting is ever appropriate.
While I usually believe being direct and assertive is the best route generally, ghosting is wrong because it’s actually more emotionally harmful than being direct.
Sure, it might hurt a person’s feelings to hear “Sorry, you’re a nice person, but I’m not interested,” or “I don’t think we should date anymore.” But, that sting is far better than spending days (or more) wondering what the heck happened when a person who previously seemed interested now won’t even respond.
If you’re someone who likes to ghost, just remember that you’re only prolonging the person’s pain and any effort at moving on. Spending a week or two trying to figure out why you aren’t texting is wasting another person’s emotional energy and can be cruel if they really like you.
What to Do If You’ve Been Ghosted
If you’ve ever been ghosted, you know that it isn’t any fun at all. Anyone dating in the modern world will likely get ghosted at least once. It’s not the end of the world.
First, don’t be needy about it. If you send a couple messages and get no response, take the hint and move on. Yes, ghosting you is crappy behavior from the other person. But, constantly messaging the other person hoping for an answer just makes you look weak and desperate. Take the high ground.
Second, definitely don’t lecture the person or beg for an answer. Again, this comes across as pathetic. And, you’re likely wasting your time.
While annoying the other person might have some revenge value, in the end, it won’t do anything to help you find Mr. or Miss Right. So, save your energy.
Finally, move on and find other options. If a person ghosts you, it says a lot about him or her. So, be grateful you dodged that bullet and keep plugging away for someone who will give you at least the basic respect you deserve.
If You Ghost (Then Stop It!)
Just like most people have been ghosted, the same is true of ghosting others. Many of us have taken the “easy” way out and simply stopped responding. Unless the person you’re dealing with seems dangerous or creepy, it isn’t something to be proud of. Ghosting shows insecurity in the one doing it and, at worst, can be cruel to others.
If you’re tempted to ghost someone, you have a few other, more courageous and mature, options instead. These can be done over the phone, by text or other messenger app, and even in person.
First, you can simply be direct. This might not be for everyone, but, if you don’t like someone, just say it. So, if you feel like you didn’t connect with the person on a date, say, politely, “sorry, but we didn’t connect.”
Second, you can always let the person down easy, by stretching the truth just a little. So, if you really didn’t like his terrible breath or thought her voice was too high pitched and annoying, you have the option of just saying something like, “you seem like a good person, but I just don’t think we’re right for each other.”
Finally, don’t feel the need to go into detail about the ending of communication if you don’t want to. While I believe being upfront and honest is much cooler than simply never responding, you’re under no obligation to continue talking to the other person or give him or her a lengthy explanation of your decision. But, letting the person know you’re not interested is simply common courtesy.
So, hopefully now you have a better idea of what ghosting is, how to react if you’ve been ghosted, and, above all, tips to never ghost someone again.