NO MATTER HOW MUCH YOU DATED IN SCHOOL, you find out fast that the rules change when you reach adulthood. Yes, it was awkward to have classes with your exes, but dating in high school and college taught you how to handle social situations in the aftermath of a breakup: how to interact with a person and share friends after whatever you had is gone. After you move away from home, however, you’re faced with an all-new breakup option: ghosting.
Ghosting isn’t a new practice, but it has been in the news a lot recently, with the advent of mobile dating apps that bring the “magic” of matchmaking to your phone or tablet. It would be pretty damn difficult to disappear entirely from your ex’s life in high school, or even in college, but, if you’re an adult living in a metropolitan area of any size, it’s an enticing alternative to the classic “It’s not you, it’s me.”
All you have to do is never speak to someone again. Block them on Facebook, Twitter, and any dating apps. Ignore their calls, texts, and emails. In short, wait for the whole thing to blow over.
According to a survey of 185 adults on Elle.com, 50 percent of both male and female respondents said they had ghosted someone. Women were more likely to have experienced ghosting in some capacity, however: only 23.33 percent of women said they had never ghosted or been ghosted, compared to 36.36 percent of men. In a larger, 1000-person survey from YouGov and Huffington Post, only 11 percent of respondents said they had ghosted someone, and 13 percent had someone give them the ghost.
In general, ghosting is seen as a Class-A Dick Move, and is the less favorable — and understandable — option as time goes on and a relationship progresses. It doesn’t offer the closure that even a bad breakup does. My first boyfriend ghosted me, and it hurt like hell. But sometimes ghosting is the better option.
Michelle Thomas went on a “fairly standard Pleasant Evening” of a Tinder date with Simon, and received a lengthy breakup message the next day:
So whilst I am hugely turned on by your mind, your face, your personality (and God…I really, really am), I can’t say the same about your figure. So I can sit there and flirt and have the most incredibly fun evening, but I have this awful feeling that when we got undressed my body would let me down. I don’t want that to happen baby. I don’t want to be lying there next to you, and you asking me why I’m not hard.
That paragraph sums up Simon’s message, but you can read the full letter on Michelle’s blog.
While we could go to great lengths analyzing his semantic choices and other assumptions, Michelle does a damn fine job of that herself, surmising that Simon’s “only possible objective for writing it is to wound [her].” Suffice it to say that, after a single date, Simon was well within his rights to ghost Michelle, and taking the time to write a brutal, 400-word takedown of his date’s appearance is, as Michelle notes, “nothing short of sadistic.”
To be clear, the problem is not that Simon wrote Michelle, but what he chose to write. A Mic.com article recommends sending this formulaic message as the best ghosting alternative: “Hey, I had a really good time at [whatever date we went on], but I don’t see this going anywhere romantic. So I don’t think it would be right to go on another date.”
Ghosting, like most of our unhealthy social behaviors, stems from a fear of conflict and confrontation. We don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings, get upset, or argue, and so we just stick our heads in the ground until the situation resolves itself. For women, however, ghosting offers an added benefit over face-to-face discussion and continued contact: a protection from violence.
In the U.S., between February 2015 and February 2016, at least 14 women were murdered for rejecting men. A blog called When Women Refuse chronicles these stories, and it’s well worth the visit, if you can stomach it, to understand the frequency with which these attacks happen in a supposedly safe country. When women say no, we risk death.
In most cases, ignoring harassment won’t make it go away. It can even make things worse. But when you’re dealing with an online dating mismatch, ghosting can reduce the number of angry messages you’ll receive from the other party. By providing someone with feedback, even negative feedback, you reinforce their behavior. In many cases, the harasser wants your attention, not your affection. He isn’t entitled to either.
Whether you have nothing nice to say, or you just don’t feel safe engaging one of your Tinder matches, sometimes ghosting is the best way to end things.