Ghosting: The modern way of breaking up
Stella Logan | November 2017
The art of seduction is an ancient book lying somewhere on an obscure library shelf, collecting dust.
Gone are the days where you have to go to a bar and actually make an effort to meet people. All it takes now is a mere right flick of your finger on your phone. The romantic candlelit dinner and establishing a physical and emotional connection through meaningful talk has been reduced to a mere "Hey, wanna Netflix and chill?" Throw in the lure of free pizza, and you're pretty much guaranteed to get lucky by the end of the night. All from the comfort of your couch.
Dating apps such as Tinder have made it much easier and quicker to meet people, but the ease of which people can form intimate relationships means they can end it just as swiftly. Ghosting, a term synonymous with 21st century dating, is a common occurrence that is typically characterised by your crush suddenly ceasing all communications without any explanation, never to be heard from or seen again, leaving a gaping void in your wounded heart.
Jill met George online one night and they hit it off instantly. They both liked the same things, like pancakes for breakfast, wanting the White Walkers to win, and how much they wanted to do hot, graphic, explicit things to each other. "These exchanges happened every day for weeks," Jill writes.
And then, just like that, he vanished. "He suddenly no longer called me darling. His morning calls on his way to work ceased." Her friends told her she was silly for being so attached to a guy she’d never even physically met. "I am the Queen of Stupid for falling for a guy I knew firsthand would never fall right back," she concedes.
It's a familiar story told by countless people being ghosted, as well as the "Caspers" confessing to doing the ghosting. A survey released by dating site PlentyOfFish found that 80 per cent of millennial singles had experienced having someone they were dating suddenly disappear without a trace.
The fault of our dysfunctional dating culture lies in part with the technology we have at our fingertips. It's all too convenient for people to hide behind a device and take the easy way out, rather than looking the other person’s eyes and saying to them, "I'm just not that into you."
Up until now, our dating options were limited to our immediate social circle. Chances were high that we still had to see the other person around amongst our group of friends, in the neighbourhood or on campus, so it was in our best interests to end things amicably. Nowadays, we can meet a plethora of like-minded singles from any geographical distance of our choice, and the likelihood of running into one of them down the road again is pretty slim.
"It's part of what makes the online dating scene so appealing," confesses Peter, who ghosted a girl after their first date. "Since you don't have friends in common or weren't introduced through some other channel, it's not the end of the world if you just drop off the face of the earth."
Findings in a clinical research paper indicate that social media has made communication less personable and meaningful. Young adults are sharing more on social media, leading to less intimacy in their lives. The research suggests that the ability for strangers to connect in an online world can equate to misleading relationships, as these relationships tend to be weaker than traditional ones due to the crucial missing element of physical engagement and interaction.
Flirting with someone online is seemingly easier because of the anonymity the internet provides. The beauty of using a phone or laptop is that the fear of rejection is greatly reduced because it makes an encounter less personal. But the flipside to this is that people have become less accountable for what they say and do.
Somewhere along the way, we seem to have forgotten the little nuances that come with courting someone. The romantics of the Renaissance would turn in their graves knowing that establishing eye contact, blushing, touching each other and writing love letters have been all but replaced with "send nudes pls".
We're also living in a world of instant gratification. The idea that people can sleep with, date and ghost whoever they want, whenever they want, is a by-product of our relentless need for immediacy. We want everything on demand. Want to watch that movie? Netflix. Need to get somewhere? Uber. Hungry? UberEats. Need a fresh outfit? ASOS. Can't afford it? Afterpay. Anything can be delivered to your doorstep―burritos, groceries, bouquets, shirts, coffee tables, people.
Motivational speaker, Simon Sinek, aptly describes the nature of instant dating in a recent Inside Quest interview:
"You want to go on a date. You don't even have to learn how to be like, 'Hey…' You don't have to be the uncomfortable one who says 'Yes' when you mean 'No' and 'No' when you mean 'Yes'. Swipe right. Bang! I'm a stud! Everything you want you can have instantaneously, everything you want."
There's no app for building strong relationships, Sinek points out. It's a slow, meandering, uncomfortable, messy process. A process that we don't have the time, patience or courage for.
The shortcuts being taken in relationships leave a big impact for those on the receiving end. Scientific research has shown that the brain treats rejection in the same way as physical pain. So ghosting isn't just a psychologically traumatic event causing you to question yourself and the validity of your relationship, it also f***ing hurts.
"It felt a bit like someone has punched me in the gut when it happened," Heidi shares in her article, Why Good People Ghost. "The disregard is insulting. The lack of closure is maddening. You move on, but not before your self-esteem takes a hit. The only thing worse than being broken up with is realising that someone didn't even consider you worth breaking up with."
It becomes a sad, messy cycle where the only way to keep up, not get duped again, and bury those feelings of hurt and betrayal, is to download more apps―Snapchat, OKCupid, Happn, POF―and swipe, swipe, swipe, text, talk with and date as many people as possible, all at once.
We convince ourselves don't need anyone, so we sleep with people with whom we have no emotional connection. When one relationship bites the dust, that's okay, we have another one to fall back on. We worry so much about not having our hearts broken that we don't give a damn about anyone else’s along the way.
Until one day we realise that the ghosted have now become the ghosters.
A ghost doesn't just disappear. It's a lingering essence that never quite materialises, but never quite goes away either. It just hovers in some ethereal dimension, haunting you. It's no different in the dating world. Ghosting someone just leaves a person with more troubled questions than answers, and a barrage of emotions to contend with.
It doesn't help anyone to just hit the emergency exit button and go MIA, least of all ourselves. How can we share our feelings, and be open and truthful in a relationship, if we can't even do it over a simple text message?
At the end of the day, we are the creators of our toxic dating culture.
We all like to think that we're decent human beings, and there is a good probability there are others like us out there. Every now and then we pause and question who we are, what we're looking for, what we're doing and how we're doing it.
Honesty still is the best policy. If you don't see it working out with the other person, it only takes a moment to tell them so before hitting the delete button on your phone. Even if it feels uncomfortable and painful. Even if it means missing out on being naked in someone's bed, watching Netflix and eating free pizza.