What is ghosting and where has this spooky behaviour come from?

There’s nothing like finding out a new slang term that seems to have completely passed you by to make you really feel your age. This seems to happen to me more and more often these days, which is unsurprising as I’m (sadly) not getting any younger. I rarely take much notice of these words – if someone called me a weapon I wouldn’t know if it was a compliment or an insult. Apparently it can be either?? But then I heard about the term “ghosting”, and realised, whether I liked it or not, that I was all too familiar with the type of behaviour this term describes.

What is ghosting?

Ghosting, it transpires, is a “new” 21st century verb that refers to ending a romantic relationship by cutting off all contact and ignoring the other person’s attempts to reach out. In more simple terms: good, old fashioned rudeness. A survey from Elle magazine polling 185 people found that about 16.7% of men and 24.2% of women had been the victim of ghosts at some point in their lives. As I get deeper into the dating game, and explore all mediums (pardon the pun) I find myself being ghosted more and more frequently.

What are my experiences with ghosting?

The very enthusiastic, and very attractive man who started messaging me on a dating site made my pulse race and gave me butterflies. He ticked a lot of boxes… he was moving to a nearby town from London and seemed keen to keep in contact. We exchanged a flurry of messages and I thought he would most likely ask to meet once he had found his feet.

 

Everything went suspiciously quiet for a while – I’d given him my phone number to take things beyond online dating but all I got was radio silence. I wished him luck with his move, I hoped he had settled in OK. I hoped all was well…? The silence across the internet was palpable. Had I imagined this man? Wasn’t he really complimentary and seemingly keen? What the hell had happened? The only feasible reason, in my head, was that he had suffered some ghastly fate that had prevented him from contacting me… Death was really the only polite excuse!

 

This example of course, is someone who I’d merely been messaging – we hadn’t even met at this point. Whilst he may have seemed enthusiastic at first, perhaps there was someone else who was more suitable than me; an ex flame reignited; or perhaps just a change of heart. These are all acceptable excuses, but I do think in this situation you should just politely thank someone for their time, and tell them that you’re not actually a match after all for whatever reason. You don’t even need to go into details; just let them know that you don’t want to continue dating them. It certainly would save them a lot of wondering and waiting for a reply. Even worse than this scenario is ghosting once a relationship has started. This is more unforgivable and could lead to real hurt for the ghostee.

 

Friends of mine have reported on someone that they’ve been dating simply dropping out of their lives and seemingly being spirited away into the night, never to be seen again. This is both puzzling and rude – leaving the victim of ghosting confused as to what they did wrong to deserve this silent treatment.

Why do people ghost?

As for the ghosts themselves, I think the main reason for this behaviour is a lack of awareness of how else to extricate themselves from relationships. A lot of people doing this kind of thing are unable to deal with the possible negative reaction that could arise if they were honest with the person they were dating. So they ignore them and allow the silent treatment to do the hard work for them. To simply disappear avoids all messy, human emotion that is an intrinsic part of real, functioning relationships.

We live in an age in which technology can provide the illusion of contact and emotional intimacy – drawing you closer to someone you may actually know very little about. Be aware that this same device of creating connections can easily be shut down and withdrawn, leaving the other person feeling lost and haunted by what has, or hasn’t happened. Ghosting – it’s actually rudeness masquerading as a normal part of dating.

 

If you’ve been ghosted and you’re feeling hurt or humiliated, try and see it this way: the person who’s ghosted you either isn’t ready for a relationship, or they didn’t see any future between you. Even if they hadn’t ghosted you, things wouldn’t have worked out between the two of you. Don’t feel disheartened in your search for the right person – they’re out there, you just need to stick at it.

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