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Why Do People Ghost?

I regretfully wrote this blog in response to the many complaints and frustrations I hear about this new passive-aggressive tactic known as ghosting. If you’re not already familiar with the term, ghosting refers to the time when someone that we’re dating passively discontinues engagement with us without giving any reason why. We also don’t get closure when this happens since the person who ghosted us has passively faded into the background. I unfortunately see this happening quite a bit not only in my clinical practice but it’s also happened to me personally. Ghosting appears to be most common amongst millennials, and in the dating app world, it’s starting to become the new normal rather than the rare exception.

So why do people ghost? There are many reasons why ghosting has grown in popularity. One reason is that most millennials spent at least half of their lives with social media of some sort whether it was chat rooms, Instant Messenger (AIM), texting, Facebook, Instagram, Snap Chat, and dating apps to name a few. Ways of connecting through social media are now endless. This new technological social revolution has done wonders in helping us stay connected with those we care about, but this so-called “connection” often comes with a price. Virtual interactions make us feel less connected than hanging out with others in real life.  Since we’re gravitating toward more social media interactions than in-person ones, it’s also making it easier to ignore, mute, or block someone when they start to bother us. We can even ghost from the comfort of our own homes without having to confront the person face-to-face and tell them how we feel. As a consequence of this, it has become progressively easier to ghost rather than use our social skills to communicate our feelings.

Dating Apps have undoubtedly made it more convenient for us to initiate conversations with strangers to go out on more dates. However, these apps have made the dating world increasingly more competitive. Once you start a conversation with one person you might simultaneously match with a few others that you’re more attracted to causing you to lose your attention span quite quickly. When we meet people that perk our interests and we start conversations with them, we continue to match with others simultaneously who are possibly more exciting, thus motivating us to ghost the first person we started talking to. We get lost chasing the newest bright shiny thing. When we’re the ones getting ghosted it can make us feel frustrated and even more alone. For many of us, it takes away the motivation to match and start conversing with someone new when our efforts seem to get us nowhere. It’s difficult to compete with dozens of other daters at the same time.

Millennials are much slower to form a romantic relationship with someone than previous generations. Many of us are looking for the perfect partner that checks off all the boxes, or else we consider it “settling”. The media, movies, books, and even pornography have given us unrealistic expectations about dating, love, and sex. Now we want “The Notebook,” or nothing else! Not too long ago most people would meet someone in their community they were interested in and ask them out on a date. If the date went well, they’d continue pursuing more dates to see if they had a connection. Perhaps they were interested in a few other people at the same time, but they also weren’t consistently bombarded with intrusive matches from dozens of other new people at the same time.

You’re probably wondering what to do when you get ghosted. Well, the bad news is that there’s not much that we can do about it. We sadly don’t have any control over other people’s behavior; they’re going to do what they want to do. However, we can keep in mind the reasons why people ghost to give us more perspective on things. To reduce the amount of dread ghosting can create it’s also important to set realistic expectations for ourselves and others. Don’t expect too much from the apps. Go into them looking to have fun and be open to forming a connection—rather than putting unrealistic pressure on the situation thinking it has to happen. Respect yourself and set healthy boundaries. If someone disrespects you move on from them and focus your energy on finding someone else. We can assert ourselves about our feelings opposed to ghostting people. Let’s be part of the solution rather than part of the problem. We can keep an open mind, be upfront about what we’re looking for, and if the apps continue to overwhelm us, we can always uninstall them.