“Apologies if I end up ghosting you,” I jokingly said to my Bumble match as we had our first FaceTime date. Two weeks later, I had discreetly unfollowed him on all social media, deleted his messages and his number. It was almost as if our interactions had never even taken place. That was three months ago and also the point I realised I had an issue: I can’t stop ghosting people.
Ghosting is by no means a new phenomenon, but the act only really received its very own label a few years ago thanks to the dating app revolution. In fact, it’s become so common, that best-selling author Dolly Alderton even based her new novel Ghosts around a character who gets ghosted. But, although narratives around ghosting tend to centre around straight women who get ghosted by men, we rarely try to understand the ghoster's motivations.
I was 18 and a newcomer to the dating game the first time I ghosted someone. I quickly realised that I didn’t click with the guy I was talking to, but how did I tell him that? For a few days I endured his weak attempts at humour and painfully corny pick-up lines, until I realised I couldn’t handle it for a moment longer. So, after telling him I was busy and would reply later, I quickly erased any evidence of contact and muted all his incoming messages and calls (so I wouldn’t have to deal with the guilt of seeing his name popping up on my phone). After a few days, I could barely even remember his name.
The second time wasn’t too long after the first incident and was a slightly more complicated situation. Two guys, who were both great in their own ways, were for some reason interested in me? I knew I couldn’t have them both, much to my dismay, so I had to make the difficult decision of choosing which one would make the cut. The mature thing would have been to tell the other that I simply wasn’t interested, but a part of me automatically assumed he would burst into a fit of rage and start pointing out all my flaws. So, what else could I do, other than ghost him?
After this, I found myself in a fairly long relationship and as much as I would have liked to, it’s pretty difficult to ghost someone you’ve been with for years. The eventual demise of our relationship led to somewhat of a post-breakup ghosting spree. Finding myself newly single in my early 20s meant I had my pick of the crop. It was raining men. I downloaded every major dating app and spoke to dozens of guys on a daily basis. It became like the X Factor, and the men who didn’t get picked to go to the next round (aka an in real life date), got ghosted.
Truthfully, I never really felt an overwhelming sense of guilt about ghosting guys I barely know... until recently. I soon began to realise it wasn’t just them I was ghosting. It was also friends. With most friends, it was slightly more difficult than the usual unfollow and delete. Some of these people had been in my life for decades and I didn’t have the heart to tell them that I wasn’t interested in taking this friendship any further. These special few got the ‘soft ghosting treatment.’ A method in which instead of disappearing without any warning, I gradually distanced myself from them by reducing my replies and turning down invites to dinner, until eventually they got the hint. But the ones who had newly come into my life, weren’t so lucky.
A part of me knew that this wasn’t the right thing to do, but I couldn’t stop. Was I becoming a cynic who barely liked anyone anymore? Was I afraid of rejection and projecting it on to these poor people who deserved better, or at least an explanation? When I look back at my 23 years of existence, it’s really no surprise to me that I’m a chronic-ghoster. I’ve always hated confrontation and telling someone I no longer want them in my life is the type of scenario that fuels my nightmares. I can barely muster up the courage to tell waiting staff they gave me the wrong order, so how am I expected to so callously tell someone that I don’t like them anymore?
And it’s not just me. At least once a week, someone in my life will complain they’ve been ghosted or had to do some ghosting of their own. Clearly, we’re all looking for the easy way out. When I asked Samantha Hilly, a psychotherapist based in the East Midlands, why she thought ghosting was becoming increasingly common, she agreed that the "inability to deal with conflict" was definitely one of the contributing factors, but there are also other possible reasons.
"In years gone by, we formed relationships with people that we worked or lived near. It was much harder (but not impossible) to ‘ghost’ that person because the chances of us running into them or their families were quite high. With the advent of the internet and the plethora of dating apps, plus a change in lifestyle, we may date someone who lives miles away from us or even in another country. People ghost because they can!"
Maybe, there’s nothing actually wrong with ghosting in the softer sense and not everyone is owed an explanation for every little thing. But I’m also pretty sure if someone told me they weren’t interested in me; I’d end up questioning practically every part of my existence. I’ve never been ghosted by someone, but I can imagine it’s a pretty shitty feeling. Perhaps this underlying sense of guilt I’ve developed lately is justification enough to change my habit.
I don’t plan on being a serial ghoster forever. In fact, since realising my habit those three months ago, I’ve done my best to be mature and craft a perfectly thoughtful text every time I want to get rid of someone. But a part of me is also content with ghosting the people who I have no emotional attachment to whatsoever. And is that really so bad?
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