Rewind five years and the concept of ‘ghosting’ might have conjured up images of chucking a sheet over your head and trying to scare the living daylights out of your siblings/flatmates/neighbours (and - let’s be honest - probably failing).
But now, in this peculiar year of 2017 in this strange world we live in, ghosting is a brutal dating move.
If you have somehow been living under a rock in a cave at the bottom of the ocean and don’t in fact know what ghosting is (and no, non-single people, you have no excuse to be ignorant of this cultural phenomenon), allow me to explain:
Ghosting is simply when you stop replying to someone’s messages. It could be on a dating app after just a few messages, after moving to WhatsApp or even after meeting up in person. You just disappear without so much as a ‘cheerio’.
Brutal, I told you.
But what is the etiquette these days? Few singletons can honestly say they’ve never ghosted anyone on their dating app of choice, but surely that’s not acceptable after meeting up in person?
I sat down with James, a 31-year-old single office worker, to grill him on why he ghosts women…
Rachel: Why would someone admit to ghosting? Isn't it appalling?
James: I'm admitting it because I'm an unrepentant ghoster. I do it a few times every week and I genuinely don't feel guilty about it.
Rachel: A FEW TIMES A WEEK!? That seems like a lot to me but maybe it isn't...
James: When you're not invested in someone - you haven't met them, you don't know their surname, you don't know their hopes and dreams - then it's far easier to hit the block button than to decide to explain to them why you don't want to talk to them, surely?
Rachel: So you think ghosting is the kinder option than telling someone you're no longer interested?
James: Yes! Especially on a dating app. Most people have tons of plates spinning at once on there, and if someone suddenly disappears from the list of Tinder matches then is that really so brutal?
Rachel: Actually no, that's a fair point. Often I'm talking to a lot of guys at once on dating apps so if one of them stops replying, I usually don't notice. But sometimes there might be one I actually like and then it's a bit gutting if he just stops replying. I am guilty of it too though!
James: Dating apps turn everyone into little emperors. You can pursue and ditch people on a whim. So pre-dating apps (at 31 I'm positively prehistoric) you'd be a lot less fussy. Now I've got less tolerance when it comes to trying to find common ground with them. So if someone tells me they only read Dan Brown novels, or reveals that they don't like pets, then I'm moving for the block button rather than explaining all that.
James: I'm guilty of far shallower reasons. Everyone has to be attracted to someone physically, so if I re-examine someone's profile pictures and come to the conclusion that they're using flattering angles to hide how they really look, then I'd likely ghost for that too. It's deceptive on their part, and I'd ghost because it's something you'd avoid telling them - I wouldn't gratuitously hurt someone's feelings.
Rachel: I have been known to ghost someone after I realise they can't spell or use apostrophes correctly. But dating apps are one thing - would you ghost someone after you'd met up in person and gone on an actual date?
James: Erm, yes.
James: Is it that bad?
Rachel: Um, YES! That is rude.
James: If I've had a bad experience of someone who wouldn't take 'no' for an answer, does that make it a bit more justifiable?
Rachel: Go on...
James: I, very politely, told a white lie and said I wasn't ready to date so soon after my last relationship. She said that was fine, but over the next seven days I received four messages through four different social media sites, with attempts to change my mind. I had to break up with someone five times!
Rachel: BLOODY HELL! That is outrageous on her part. Recently a guy I went on one date with seemed to be ghosting me afterwards, so five days later I sent him another message - he duly replied but used that same line on me. Although I question the truth behind it I was glad to have some closure (and was never going to contact him again and again!).
So do you not mind being ghosted either?
James: It happens all the time on dating apps. I don't understand the outrage people have about it.
Rachel: Have you seriously never been disappointed at a woman not replying to you? Not even after meeting up?
James: Yes it's sad, especially if you liked that person. But to me, the sadness comes from unrequited affection, rather than how they did it. It's just as disheartening to hear 'there wasn't a spark' as there is to not receiving a response to a WhatsApp message.
Rachel: Interesting. And I suppose if they do ghost you, that's as good as them saying they're not interested in you for whatever reason it may be. But I can't help but think that if you meet up with someone you owe it to them at least to send a quick message though! Then they have closure and can move on (and get back to the swiping).
James: I see, so you're saying that if you approach it from a basic manners point of view then that it's best to be upfront, even if it's easier for one person if they just ghost?
Rachel: YES EXACTLY! Sending the message isn't for your benefit, it's for theirs. It's the decent human being thing to do. Much like after a few months of dating it'd be a pretty douchey move to end it with someone over WhatsApp, it's impolite and a bit cruel to ghost someone after you've met up in person and spent hours getting to know each other.
Sometimes you both know the relationship isn't going anywhere after that date and that's fine - things may just fizzle out. But if they're still asking questions and expressing interest, simply not replying is pretty low, don't you think?
James: I feel my ice heart thawing...
Rachel: One day you may feel smitten with someone after the most magical first date of all time, and how crushed would you feel if she just stopped replying to your messages a day or two later?
James: That would be quite grim. I'll try to reform, I promise.
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