No one likes to feel abandoned. This is especially true as the dead of winter approaches, with seasonal affective disorder and the current omicron surge combining to leave many people feeling increasingly isolated and lonely. Jan 2., or Dating Sunday, an unofficial holiday that sees the busiest activity across multiple dating app platforms, falls right in the middle of this. The explanation for the intense surge in dating app usage at this time is that the day falls right after holiday blues, when people have set New Year’s resolutions and are counting down the days until Valentine’s Day. This also coincides with the end of cuffing season, another impetus of online dating activity.
Amid all of this, digital daters need to remember the basics of dating etiquette. This means to communicate with honesty and clarity with potential matches. Above all, commit to not ghosting someone if you have decided to no longer pursue them romantically. Even if you may have found another person or want to avoid the awkwardness of breaking it off, ghosting is something that should be avoided out of respect for the other person’s time and emotions.
Ghosting, while a newly-coined term, has been a mainstay of the dating scene for decades. Tropes of people escaping a date by crawling out a bathroom window or disappearing without warning are well established. The act has worryingly become normalized. Fifty percent of people in the dating scene have been ghosted and almost the same amount have been the one to ghost. This behavior once was reserved for the disrespectful. Nowadays, ghosting is common practice. This is alarming. What does it say about current dating culture when abrupt abandonment of one’s date is accepted practice? Ghosting is now one of those things that comes along with finding a romantic partner.
There needs to be a recalibration of dating culture. It’s not healthy for sudden loss of contact to be the status quo.
Ghosting may seem innocuous. However, it has serious consequences for the ghosted. Ghosting hurts because it’s a whiplash in assumptions of how a person feels about you. To the ghosted, someone, who they thought cared for them, abandoned them. A person who they were building trust with all of a sudden disengaging from contact can feel like nothing short of betrayal. Being on the receiving end of ghosting can be painful. Studies have shown that social rejection activates the same neurological pathways as physical pain. Ghosting can trigger the grief cycle as the ghosted experiences an emotional concoction of embarrassment, anger, sadness and loneliness. While ghosting may be an easy way out of the relationship for the ghoster, it can be immensely hurtful to the ghosted.
Taking the courage to break off contact by sending a simple “I’ve decided to take a break on meeting new people” text does the potential ghoster good as well. It promotes character growth. Admitting that you no longer want to connect with someone means you are being honest with yourself and strengthening your communication skills and empathy. By not ghosting, it is a clear signal that you understand how your actions affect others. You’re acknowledging that you at least care enough about the person to not want to hurt their feelings more than just spurring a tad of disappointment.
Yes, ghosting is the easy way out. In theory, all bad feelings can be avoided by ignoring the situation all together. It’s not unreasonable to feel guilty for wasting the time of the other person now that the match is going nowhere. But you’re not a bad person for honestly communicating your feelings to others. A bad person, though, would ghost and leave the other person hurt and confused. By giving the other person some sort of closure, it can help them process their feelings and move on to other people. Not ghosting indicates your respect for the other person, and it is a moment of character growth that will benefit you in future romantic ventures.
I have been in both positions. Unfortunately, I ghosted someone in my past. Looking back on it, now also having inhabited the position of the ghosted, I am not proud of ghosting someone. It might have alleviated my shame or nervousness, but thinking of how my actions may have negatively affected the person I was talking with does not feel great. I now realize that it is better to have the courage to respectfully end communication with a potential romantic interest by clearly voicing your thoughts and feelings rather than running away from the situation all together. Being ghosted is not a great thing to go through, and therefore, I’ve made a pledge to never ghost someone across a dating app again.
It’s rude to abruptly walk out of an in-person date with no warning, so why would it be any different over text? Netiquette must be maintained when we connect with each other across dating apps. This is for the benefit of both parties. Direct communication will always be superior to ghosting. Though it can be uneasy to break off connection with someone through text, it is better than the fallout that accompanies ghosting. Ghosting can cause the ghosted to feel lonely, hurt and confused. I, for one, would not want the fact that I caused someone to feel that way on my conscience. Vowing to not ghost future romantic interests forces one to be honest with oneself and to not hurt others through abandonment. Let’s make ghosting uncool again. It never was cool in the first place.
Ben Davis is an Opinion Columnist and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.