Whether we're going back in time one decade, two, or even 50, the way people ghost each other in our modern times is
way different than how people used to ghost each other back in the day. In an effort to ghost someone now, you might unfollow them on social media, ignore their texts, or delete your dating apps. But years ago, it was a whole different world.
Things are changing, and there's a lot of talk about
ghosting happening with greater frequency today. And while that may be true to some extent, — due to the the fact we now have more ways to meet new people — the reality is, ghosting has been going on for ages.
"Ghosting [isn't] more common now,"
Amy McManus, a LA-based relationship therapist, tells Bustle. But it may be more painful. "Back in the day, when someone didn’t respond to you, you simply moved on," she says. Now, you have the ability watch in real time — on dating apps, on social media, etc. — as they continue on with their lives without you.
That's why it's more important now than ever to end relationships in a healthier way. "Ghosting isn't a particularly direct or courageous way to end a relationship,"
Kelly Bos, MSW, RSW, a psychotherapist and relationship expert, tells Bustle. It's much better to be honest, and let the other person know you aren't interested, so you can both move on. With that in mind, here are some old-fashioned ways people used to ghost each other back in the day.
Today, it seems we're in near-constant contact with each other right up until the moment we meet. You might text someone to say you're two minutes away, now one minute away, now you're walking through the door, etc.
Before that luxury existed, however, you simply had to trust that someone would show up at the previously agreed upon time and location. And as a result, "if you had a blind date or were casually dating someone, it was very easy for them to ghost you,"
Davida Rappaport, a psychic and spiritual counselor, tells Bustle.
Instead of being fairly certain the date was arriving, you might find yourself sitting alone in a restaurant or movie theater, until it finally sank in that they weren't coming. As Rappaport says, "People would make plans to meet with you and they would just stand you up — no phone call, no message, and no explanation."
To ghost someone while still out on a date,
you could simply leave, and that would be that. For example, you might go "to the bathroom and [not] return, walk away, or feign an emergency," Jesse D. Matthews, PsyD, a licensed psychologist, tells Bustle.
While people can still do this today, it was a lot easier to get away with it decades ago. Now, if you leave during a date, it's not uncommon to get a follow up text asking what happened. And that can complicate things.
Before we had unlimited ways of staying in contact, ghosting was often as simple as not picking up the phone. "If you didn't want to talk to someone you would tell your parents or a roommate you weren't home if 'so and so' called," Bos says. "There were no answering machines and after the person was told you weren't available ... the calls would be stopped and no explanation given, much like the modern day unfollow."
Changing Your Usual Routine
It wasn't uncommon for folks to go way out of their way to avoid bumping into someone they were trying to ghost. "They might change where they normally go, e.g. the place they get their coffee, their gym, or the place they get their lunch at work,"
Dr. Nikki Goldstein, a sexologist and relationship expert, tells Bustle. "These were often the places where you might meet someone, so if [you] are not calling someone back, these familiar locations might be where [you] were found. Or in this case, not found."
While this one was
way harsh, it's true that some people would give out "rejection hotline" numbers to someone they weren't interested in.
"During the 80s and 90s ... there were fake phone numbers
one could give out to others when asked for their number," author and relationship expert Kevin Darné tells Bustle. "A message to the caller would say something along the lines of: 'The person who gave you this phone number does not wish to be contacted by you. You've been rejected!'" Ouch.
The most obvious way to ghost someone, was to simply ignore them if you ran into each other in public. (Which, admittedly, still happens a lot today.)
"If you met at a place such as work or [school], they might not be able to escape you entirely but avoid you physically whilst still being in the same location as you," Dr. Goldstein says. By pretending you didn't see them, it was possible to — somewhat rudely — avoid having to explain why you disappeared.
Asking Friends Not To Talk About You
It's strange to think of a time when we weren't all connected and in-the-know about each other's daily routines. But this anonymity came in mighty handy back in the day whenever
people wanted to disappear.
All you had to do was tell your friends to keep quiet, and pretend they didn't know a thing. As Dr. Goldstein says, "Someone might ask mutual friends not to pass on information about them." If the ghosted person wanted more info, it was darn near impossible for them to get it.
Turning Off Your Answering Machine
Another classic was the old answering machine maneuver. As
licensed clinical psychologist Ramani Durvasula tells Bustle, you could simply turn them off so that your date wouldn't be able to leave voice messages, or ask you to answer. Eventually, they would just give up.
Back in the day, you might leave your answering machine plugged in, but choose to screen calls instead. "When we had answering machines that taped incoming messages, it was possible to screen your calls before you answered," McManus says. You could hear the other person talking into the answering machine, and decide if you wanted to answer or not.
"Now with 'call blocking,' the number doesn’t always come up on your caller ID," McManus says. "If you have the kind of job ... where you need to answer calls that show up as 'unknown,' then it’s harder to avoid someone you are trying to 'ghost.'"
Not Returning Notes & Letters
Sometimes, ghosting was as easy as throwing love notes and letters in the trash, and moving on with your life.
People ghosted their partners ... by ignoring letters and not responding to them," relationship expert Jennifer Seiter tells Bustle. "Sometimes they would write 'return to sender' on the letter." The note would then be mailed back, leaving the other person to wonder if you had moved. Sneaky sneaky.
"Not returning a page ... was considered ghosting in the '90s," author and
relationship expert Lynn Gilliard tells Bustle. If your beeper went off, you could simply ignore it. And that was that.
Not Providing Enough Information
By limiting how much information you gave to your date — such as your full name — you could effectively vanish afterward, and they'd have little hope of finding you. "Nowadays it's way more difficult to ghost a partner considering that we live in a world that is constantly connected via social media, emails, phones, apps and so forth,"
clinical psychologist Dr. Martina Paglia tells Bustle.
Changing Your Phone Number (Or Moving)
If someone truly wanted to fall off the grid, they could. "They changed their phone number to an unlisted number with no forwarding number," Rappaport says. "In extreme cases, they would move so they could not be found. It was a lot easier to disappear back then than it is today."
Now, we have so many ways to communicate, and so many more resources when it comes to keeping in touch. It makes it difficult to ghost, but it also makes it seem like ghosting has become more popular. In reality, people have been ditching each other for decades, one sneaky way or another.