The subtle science of Ghosting: An etiquette guide

By Samantha Lego
@samanthalego

You match. You chat. You realize he’s not a complete moron. You get excited and you go on a date, maybe two. Maybe it’s been weeks. You’re riding a high that only the promise of a new relationship can bring.

Then all of a sudden he’s not initiating conversations. Then he’s not replying to your texts at all. You’re sent in a downward spiral of indecision, anxiety and stress, all the while adamantly trying to pretend it doesn’t bother you as you stare more and more obsessively at your phone. You wrack your brain as you second-guess every one of your interactions, trying to figure out where it all went wrong.

You, sister, have been ghosted.

More commonly associated with the loveable cartoon character, Casper, or symbolized by Snapchat’s adorable mascot, Ghostface Chillah, ‘the ghost’ has come to represent a movement in modern day dating where, instead of letting you know they’re no longer interested, they opt for the slow fade, causally seeping out of your existence.

Yes, ghosting sucks. Yes, it’s savage, but no, it’s not wholly inadmissible.

The concept has been around for awhile, if you think about it. Who hasn’t avoided a person at school when you knew they liked you. Or pretended to not be home when someone came knocking on your door. Humans love to avoid things that make us feel uncomfortable.

Yet it’s with the rise of social media and dating apps where romantic avoidance has it really gained prominence. We’ve created an environment where we can build relationships and form connections without ever meeting one another in person. We use technology as our virtual playground and with apps like Tinder, Bumble and Plenty of Fish, it becomes a lot easier to hide behind a phone screen than a swing set.

What happens when you get busy, constantly forgetting to reply until you realize you don’t miss hearing from them? Or you realize you’re straight up not interested in them anymore.  It happens. You don’t think much of it, but you stop replying, believing they’ll take the hint. They must have, because they’ve stopped reaching out. You move on without any lasting feelings.

Congratulations. You just ghosted someone.

People ghost for a lot of reasons and it’s not a simple, explainable recipe. Maybe they’re not ready for the commitment you were asking for. Maybe they’re not interested in you and didn’t feel the need to tell you because well, they’re just not that into you.  Maybe you have mannerisms that they didn’t like. Maybe they were seeing a bunch of different people and you didn’t make the cut.

Ghosting is a two-way street, and, although it feels like you’re getting run over by the car when you’re on the receiving end of a ghost, you feel nonchalant about it when you’re in the driver’s seat.

So, when is it actually ok?

As a general rule, if you’re sleeping with someone, then don’t you dare ghost! That person has placed their faith in at least the expectation of a catch-up or a dialogue about why it’s not working.

But what about if you just started talking to someone off Tinder and you have a couple back-and-forth messages, maybe give them your number and then realize you’re not into it? Do you really owe that person an explanation as to why you’re not putting in the effort? What about when you match with someone on a dating app and, after a day of not replying, they spam your inbox with eyeball emojis and question marks asking where you disappeared off to?

Do you owe people you barely know an explanation as to why you’re not accepting their advances?

If you meet up and decide “hey, this person doesn’t float my boat,” it could be acceptable to fade into nothingness, especially if the other person seems to feel the same way. We all have had our share of boring first dates that didn’t amount to anything.

If you go on more than three dates, it’s an indication that you’re interested. To then ghost would be a disorienting and uncomfortable situation to place your peer in.

Our verdict: Judge it based on feelings. If you think the other person is emotionally invested, then buck up and give them a heads up instead of inflicting on them the shock a sudden disappearance can have.

Don’t leave them without the closure they may desperately be craving. Because if done right, a ghost amounts to a death. That person is left grieving over the unexpected void you created and are never given the opportunity to ask why.

Although the action of ghosting appears to be smooth, the actuality of it is messy, emotional and very two-sided.
If there’s anything to remember in this crazy era of online dating, it’s the golden rule we learned in elementary school back on the playground. Treat – and ghost – others the way you wish to be treated in return.

Happy swiping.

 

Samantha Lego is a recent deportee falling back in love with her home country. She enjoys poking fun at Vancouver stereotypes while ignoring the fact that she is one. You can usually find her drinking beer on weeknights (for science!) and laughing obnoxiously at her own bad puns. Read more of her writing here: samanthalego.com