What makes a bad date? There's being stood up, there's being insulted, there's having someone try to ram their tongue down your throat and swish it around like a washing machine. But is there something worse than any of these? There just might be. Welcome to the wonderful world of "cloaking." What is cloaking? You might be familiar with the term if you know your search engine optimization — per Google support, cloaking is a way of giving search engines different information than is actually displayed on the browser to viewers. It can help up the SEO of page without actually changing what the viewer sees.
But when it comes to dating, cloaking is a different type of hiding — a much more brutal one. "It's like being stood up, but like, extra," Mashable's Rachel Thompson, who coined the term, explained in a video. Thompson introduced the dating world to the term "cloaking" after a truly awful dating experience — one that a lot of other people have had.
Basically, per Thompson, cloaking isn't just being stood up on a date — it's being stood up and also be blocked on any and all apps you might have been communicating on. It's going completely invisible — almost disappearing into thin air. "If you're thinking Harry Potter invisibility cloak, then you're definitely along the right lines," Thompson said.
Thompson had a story that may sound familiar to a lot of people. It started with a match on Hinge, some flirting about pasta, and agreeing to meet up. So far, so good. After planning a date to meet and get some pasta in real life — which makes sense, as it is most romantic of all of the foods — Thompson found herself waiting in a line at the restaurant, alone. When she checked her Whatsapp messages, she found that the last one hadn't gone through. As she kept waiting and checking, she realized that their match had also disappeared on Hinge — as had all of conversations between her and her no-show date. It was like he just straight-up disappeared from her phone.
Thompson found the process both humiliating and frustrating — all the more so because she couldn't even express her frustrations to him. Of course, a chat with an Uber driver and some Chinese food with friends helped — but Thompson still wanted to call this guy out and hold him to account for his bad dating behavior. Because Hinge shows you the last name of your match, she was easily able to trick him down and send a Facebook message (which unsurprisingly, he didn't open). Now Instagram keeps popping him up as a suggested friend — which most be unbelievable irritating — despite the fact that Thompson has no real way to contact him.
The good news? Coining the term cloaking has been a cathartic experience and let's people unite in their experiences of bad dating behavior — reminding you that you are not alone. And you really aren't — dating is rough. There are all sorts of terrible dating behaviors out there — you can be ghosted, you can be haunted, you can be breadcrumbed, and so much more. But having a name for it, something to call it that reminds you it's not unique to your experience, can be so helpful.
There's nothing that excuses terrible dating etiquette or just being 100 percent rude, but know that you're not alone. Dating might be a jungle, but it's one we're navigating together.