We matched on Tinder while I was living in the Bay Area. We were both interning at federal research agencies for the Summer. Interestingly enough, this person and I had actually grown up in adjacent towns, peripherally knowing one another through mutual friends.
A few dates ensued and I thought it was going great. I didn’t really have any expectation of where it was going, but I knew it was enjoyable in the moment. We went camping, saw live music; it was a warm, Summer fling.
A few weeks later, what followed was a complete dissociation and lack of response on their part. As I thought things were going well, with some naive, unrealistic expectations of future dates sprinkled on for good measure, I failed to see the cliff.
Was this even ghosting? Is there some textbook definition? Is it more about the act, or is it defined by the reception of said act?
Just a few months later the tables would turn as they texted me a week before Christmas asking if I was still living in the Bay Area. I guess such a question elucidates where that fling was going. If they never had realized I was also interning there temporarily, what else went over their head?
That short exchange cumulated into a mutual plan to get together over the Holiday break. They would be back in Michigan, where I was once again living. If you didn’t already guess, there was no rekindling; there wasn’t even a response.
Ghosted twice, by the same person, in less than six months. Was that a record? Well, to top it all off in truly dissociated, millennial fashion, I would go on to ghost another person just a few weeks later. Someone I had been talking to for a little over a month.
I would ghost them like I had been ghosted twice before.
I even tried to chalk it up to the fact that their toilet looked as if it had never been cleaned, like ever. And how could I continue on with someone whose toilet resembled those you see on a lime-remover TV ad where they scrub away grime with a magic eraser and you’re left wondering – “how the fuck did they get a toilet THAT dirty?”
Yet, I knew this was not the case. It was because I was a coward and emotionally unequipped to communicate my true feelings, or rather the lack thereof.
So, was it some sort of karmic feedback loop? The chicken or an egg type question.
To the other people who were ghosted by someone only to ghost another, what are your thoughts on all of this? Why is ghosting a thing? How was it that I was able to do the exact thing that had made me feel so shitty TWICE in recent memory? What does that say about me? What does that say about them?
For me, it was ghosting only to then be ghosted, then to ghost again. In this way, it sure feels like some sort of sick game. But unlike a game there were real consequences for all involved.
And it’s more than not hearing back from that person you casually had sex with after a few too many G&T’s. It represents a complete breakdown in human connection, respect, and communication. One that may be more common than we would care to admit.
In one poll, 50% of men and women had ghosted. Roughly the same amount had been ghosted themselves. Which brings me to the point of how this behavior became as common as owning a tablet.
When flipping a coin might be an accurate way to tell whether the person you are talking to has ghosted someone else, it makes it hard to build up trust in the formative period of dating.
What does that leave you with when you are trying to build trust in a relationship. If this date goes well, but then they notice the way you sometimes smack your lips together when you’re eating ramen, will they ever speak to you again? And what does this sort of thought process do to one’s self-esteem, or the ability to let go and be yourself?
Ghosting won’t only damage one’s self-esteem, though. The insidiously pervasive social technique also has damaging consequences for the one receiving the painful indifference. Social rejection, like that experienced through ghosting, produces neuro-chemical reactions that mimic the way the body deals with physical pain. So, by engaging in ghosting we are really engaging in harm, both to ourselves and to others.
Maybe it’s the presumption that this behavior is benign and that’s why we collectively engage in it. Even those who have not done it themselves surely have dated or been in some sort of relationship with someone who has.
So, it becomes this behavior that is normalized and then shipped off to others. Well, they may have ghosted their ex but what kind of person was their ex? Whatever the rationalization, I would bet the real reason for the behavior is much less defined, let alone understood.
Which brings me to the purpose of this post, to share my experience with ghosting and to challenge others to be more conscious in their communication and their dating.
We just began a new year, which technically means not a fucking thing, but it is symbolic. And we can choose to change these things about ourselves, these negative behaviors like ghosting.
We can obviously do this at any time, but when a new year comes it gives us a point in time to reflect back on, to see how we’ve changed and to consider how we might change in the future. So take advantage of this time to reflect on your behavior, and the ways in which you’d like to change it.
For me, that is addressing my history of ghosting head-on, and consciously acting in ways that foster honesty and openness in communication. Developing intimate relationships necessitates trust, and ghosting eats away at the ability to build trust, like how those magic erasers eat away at toilet grime on those sketchy TV commercials.
Ghosting; let’s not do it.