What Is Ghosting

Men's Dating

What Is Ghosting?

Lexi Inks

Written by: Lexi Inks

Lexi Inks

Lexi joined the DatingAdvice team with years of lifestyle journalism experience. She grew her writing prowess through reporting on the topic of sex and relationships, and she loves continuing to cover this niche content while working toward becoming an AASECT Certified Sexuality Educator. You can find Lexi's writing in Refinery29, Cosmopolitan, Bustle, Well + Good, and Women's Health, among other publications.

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Edited by: Lillian Castro

Lillian Castro

Reviewed by: Amber Brooks

Amber Brooks

Amber Brooks is the Editor-in-Chief at DatingAdvice.com. When she was growing up, her family teased her for being "boy crazy," but she preferred to think of herself as a budding dating and relationship expert. As an English major at the University of Florida, Amber honed her communication skills to write clearly, knowledgeably, and passionately about a variety of subjects. Now with over 1,800 lifestyle articles to her name, Amber brings her tireless wit and relatable experiences to DatingAdvice.com.

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Picture this: you start chatting with someone exciting and plan your first date together. Once you meet up you think the date couldn’t have gone better, and you allow yourself to start imagining a future with them. 

Many of us have been there, myself included. I tend to jump lightyears ahead of myself when I meet someone new and catch feelings quickly. 

Let’s say you’re eagerly planning a second date… and then you never hear from them again. Even after sharing a romantic dinner and a sweet goodnight text (maybe even a goodnight kiss), they basically disappear. Who would do that? 

Well, unfortunately, more people than you may expect. According to a 2023 survey among millennial and Gen Z singles conducted by the Thriving Center of Psychology, 84% said they’ve been “ghosted” before

Ghosting is a term used when a potential partner acts like a ghost and disappears. A romantic date chooses to stop existing — in your life, that is. 

If you’re curious about why, read on for everything you should know about ghosting. 

Origins & Evolution | Handling Being Ghosted | Why People Ghost

Origins & Evolution of the Term

Ghosting has become a popular term among young daters, but it isn’t that novel of a concept. According to Merriam-Webster, the official definition of ghosting is: “the act or practice of abruptly cutting off all contact with someone (such as a former romantic partner) usually without explanation.” 

ghosting

The word has been used in a dating context as far back as 2006, in the early days of instant messaging and setting your status to “invisible” so as to avoid receiving correspondence. 

Since then, ghosting terminology has extended to social media and online dating apps. If you’ve ever watched a significant other’s active status on Instagram while they ignore your DMs or found that your promising Tinder matches suddenly blocked or unmatched you, you’re not alone. 

Ghosting has become incredibly common and seems to be the M.O. for many avoidant singles across the globe.

Whether they refuse to respond to your calls or messages or unexpectedly block you on social media, ghosting has become a common phenomenon (some call it an epidemic) in the digital age. 

Tips For Coping With Rejection

If you’ve ever been ghosted by someone, you’ve likely gone through a wave of tough emotions. The sting of rejection or even abandonment when a romantic partner chooses to disappear without any explanation is painful, to say the least, but it’s not insurmountable. 

Although it sucks, there are a few key ways to deal with being ghosted. 

Don’t Take It Personally

This is much easier said than done, but an important step in healing from ghosting is to remember that it’s likely not personal. 

Even if a person ghosts you due to lack of interest, that behavior often says much more about them and their issues than it does about how great you are as a partner. 

ghosting can be painful

Try to remember all your positive traits and every wonderful thing you have to offer, regardless of how they treated you.

We are all inherently deserving of love, and someone else’s inability to see your worth should never define you. Keep in mind there are plenty of fish in the sea, and you can swipe on plenty of other prospects who will treat you with respect. 

Lean On Your Community

When you’re ghosted, it’s completely valid to feel distraught or dejected. The choice to ghost instead of communicate honestly is a cowardly act, but it’s still understandable that you may need time to process those emotions and move on from the ghosting experience. 

talk to family and friends

It’s wise to seek support from the people around you. Let your family or friends know what happened (to the extent you’re comfortable with), and allow them the opportunity to shower you with love and support. 

No one truly knows you like your inner circle. They can remind you of your greatness and what you deserve. 

Sometimes, our loved ones are the best example of unconditional love, so give yourself some grace and lean on friendship and family. You don’t have to go through this alone.  

Write It Out

Whenever I’m dealing with complicated feelings, one coping mechanism I’ve found to be beneficial has been writing. Obviously, I’m a writer for a living, but putting my feelings down on paper has proven to be cathartic in all the best ways. 

If you were recently ghosted, journaling is an effective method to process your emotions. 

journaling and ghosting

You can choose to journal about what they did and how it impacted you, or even better — my personal favorite — you can write them a letter. No, you’re not going to send it, but you can pour your heart out about how they made you feel and everything you didn’t have the opportunity to express before they left your life. 

Something about honoring that pain and disappointment, getting it out of your head, and then ripping it up or destroying it can feel like a major relief. 

Bonus points if you hold a ceremony surrounded by friends who can wipe away your tears and cheer you on as you let go and begin your healing journey. 

Don’t Make Contact

Take it from someone who has been there: As tempting as it may be, it’s rarely a good idea to reach out to someone who ghosted you

Although you’re probably feeling wounded and dealing with a lot of confusion and sadness, trying to open up a dialogue won’t do any good. 

The fact that your significant other or potential suitor would care so little as to ignore you and ghost without a trace says volumes about their character. 

don't reach out to a ghoster

Sure, there are rare cases where they are going through a mental health issue or dealing with family or career stress, but those aren’t valid reasons to disregard someone who was significant in your life — even if that was short-lived. 

Chances are a person who ghosts knows exactly what they did and why they did it. Even if you reach out, the likelihood that they’ll care enough to explain it is slim to none. 

That may be a harsh reality, but it will save you an extra layer of disappointment in the long run. Take their inability and unwillingness to communicate for what it is, and do whatever you need to focus on your self-care and healing

The Ethics of Ghosting

Like I said, even if your special person had a “good” excuse for falling off the face of the earth, there are rarely ever fully valid reasons to not send a text or make a quick phone call about why you can’t hold up your end of a connection. 

It’s not terribly difficult to be honest with someone significant about how you’re feeling and why you need to sever ties. A text message or DM only takes a few seconds to send. 

That said, there are some important things to keep in mind if you are currently being ghosted — or even if you’re considering ghosting. 

Is It Ever Justified?

Maybe they have a sick family member and are coping with an impending loss. Maybe you are struggling with serious attachment issues and feel that you need time and space to figure those out before you’re ready for a partnership. 

Whatever the case may be, ghosting is rarely the necessary answer to these problems. Although some crises or severe situations may delay your ability to have honest conversations, there comes a time where it’s only fair to be vulnerable and show decency in responding to them. 

don't ghost

Your personal life can remain personal if you don’t feel comfortable diving into certain issues, but if you’re leaning toward ghosting someone, try to reconsider. 

A text as simple as, “Hey, I’ve had a great time connecting with you, but I don’t have the ability to commit to a relationship right now. I’m dealing with a lot, so I don’t want you to think you did anything wrong. I wish you the best, and I hope you find what you’re looking for” could suffice if you aren’t able to go back and forth. 

At least you won’t leave them hanging with unanswered questions and racking their brain about what they could have done differently.         

Safety Considerations

Most dating apps have safety and security features for each user, but despite this, there’s no guarantee that you’ll be totally safe and comfortable when you’re meeting people online. Or ghosting people online.

If you’re ghosting a person you barely know, you may want to consider how they could react. Some people may take that behavior personally and want to retaliate. 

ghosting

If they know any identifying or personal details about you, someone scorned by your disappearance could decide to try to harm you or disrupt your daily life. 

For example, I recently made the poor choice to ghost someone after a first date, and he ended up showing up at my apartment out of desperation to see me one last time. Luckily, I wasn’t home that evening, but it really shook me up and reminded me to be more careful about how I conduct myself with strangers I met online.

On the flip side, if you’re on the receiving end of a ghost, trying to make contact or making attempts to change their mind could also end badly. 

Being upset and even angry is totally understandable, but it’s best to leave it alone and try to move on. Someone who is intentional about not responding to you may get frustrated or even be aggressive if you insist on a last-ditch effort to continue a relationship they clearly don’t want to be in. 

Alternatives to Ghosting

As previously mentioned, ghosting doesn’t have to be the default dating behavior. It may seem like the easy way out — and it’s very popular — but it lacks emotional maturity.

ghosting

You can end a dating situation more politely by letting someone down easily.

Send a quick and honest text about where you’re at emotionally. Or meet for coffee and explain your mindset.

A brief discussion can go a long way and make a former romantic partner feel as if you at least considered their feelings.

Bottom line: Having an honest conversation is the decent thing to do, and you can walk away knowing that you did the right thing.

Honest Communication Can Offer Closure

Dating is fun when you have that giddy feeling after a first kiss or while daydreaming about a wonderful date night with a new person. Getting ghosted, however, is not so fun. 

If you’re in the modern dating pool and using dating apps to find potential partners, it’s highly likely that you’ll ghost people or be ghosted at some point. 

Whether it was the COVID-19 pandemic and its social implications or just the casual nature of social media and digital dating, there’s quite a culture of not “owing” anything to others that is undeniable in the dating world. 

If you’re in the awkward and uncomfortable situation of not wanting to commit to a romantic relationship, you’re entitled to those feelings — but ghosting isn’t always the answer. Communication is key in any relationship, even if you’re breaking up, and it may help make the situation easier because both you and your S.O. will feel a sense of closure. 

Although they may never fully understand or accept exactly why things had to stop, being honest and showing up for them is the honorable thing to do. Give it a shot, and maybe good karma will come back to you when you’re ready for a fresh start in your dating life.