Why Do We ‘Ghost’ People?

Why do we ghost people when dating?
The summer of 2014 was an interesting time. I had just finished uni for good, and left a job I wasn’t particularly fussed about. Well, I say left, I was more pushed out of the door, after they conveniently decided to downsize two months after hiring me. But I guess that’s the nature of sales jobs, one day you’re in, the next you’re out. Anyway.

I still had a large chuck of the summer ahead of me, and when I wasn’t searching and attending interviews for jobs that I actually wanted, I had a lot of time to kill. And how else does a millennial kill time, but browse on Tinder? It’s not that I was particularly interested in meeting anyone… but I was looking for ways to pass the time.

After a while of swiping and chatting, I managed to come across someone with more than two brain cells that I could have a decent conversation with, and we made plans to meet up for coffee. It was a pleasant, harmless affair, and we decided that we liked each other enough to see each other again.

One night, I went out with my friends, and met another person who tickled my fancy. It seemed that I also tickled his, as we ended up swapping number and we made plans to go for drinks on a separate night.

Suddenly, I had realised that I had accidentally started dating two people at once.

That’s not a predicament I often found myself in. I usually had trouble finding people who were interested in me in the first place, and I was rather the expert of the one-way, unrequited crush. Honestly? It was exciting: playing the field and having fun. I had a couple of worries: How long do I let it go on for? When is the time I actually have to decide who to pick? On what grounds do I go off picking the most eligible bachelor?

People around me reassured me: this is fine, this is what young people do. It’s absolutely fine to date two people at once, just keep it light and unserious. And when time comes when things do start to get more serious: evaluate your feelings. Who do you think about more? Who is the first person you want to share the events of your day with? Who makes your heart pitter-patter with feelings?

After a few weeks, I decided to go with the guy I met at the bar. He ticked all the boxes and still possessed an air of mystery that I was so intent on cracking. However, I was now faced with breaking things off with Tinder Man, and I wasn’t quite sure how.

I hadn’t let either of the guys know about each other – it didn’t feel necessary so early in our courtship. I knew that honesty is the best policy, but somehow, “So I’ve also been dating another person while we’ve been hanging out, and I’ve decided I’d like to purse that avenue and see how it goes with him instead. So I have to cut things off here, bye” felt a bit too honest. I knew I needed to say something soon; my interest in him was starting to wane, my replies to his text taking longer, and getting more concise, each time.

As usual, I consulted some friends with my dilemma, telling them how bad I felt for borderline ignoring this guy.

“You’re not doing anything wrong,” one of them said, “You’ve not been going out for very long, and you’re certainly not serious. I don’t think anyone would blame you for going quiet and letting things fizzle out naturally. You don’t owe him anything.”

I heeded her advice. She was right –- I didn’t owe him anything. I wasn’t his girlfriend. We weren’t even friends, really. Just two people who would have been strangers had it not been for the internet.

So… I let it fizzle out. Stopped replying to messages. Stopped frequenting areas we had hung out together. And soon, Tinder Man got the message.

Despite my perceived nonchalant attitude and validation from my friends; I felt bad. And not just because things with the guy at the bar ended up going south (like, really south, but that’s a story for another time). Tinder Man was a nice, good, stand-up guy, and just because I didn’t ‘feel it’ with him, doesn’t mean he deserved to be ghosted. Because that’s what I did – I ghosted him.

Even with validation from my friends – you did nothing wrong, it was nothing serious, this is just what people do these days – I still felt bad. Horrible, in fact. There were many occasions where I even considered calling him up, months after the fact, to apologise for my behaviour. For not being honest, and taking the coward’s way out. But I didn’t, because I didn’t think it would make things any better.

This was certainly a morality tale of treating people how you want to be treated. I often wondered that maybe things went bad with the guy at the bar because it was the universe’s way of teaching me a lesson. That sometimes it’s better to face an awkward conversation than to completely disregard someone’s feelings, whether you meant to or not.

Karma gave it to me good, if it was in fact Karma that brought this upon me. And maybe I’m overthinking things and being overly critical of myself (quel suprise) — but whatever it was, it worked, because I know I certainly won’t be treating people like this in the future.

This post was inspired by one of Grace Latter’s latest posts, Getting Ghosted. Have you ever ghosted or been ghosted? Let’s swap some tales.

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