The Case For Ghosting

“I don’t need three self-esteem-destroying paragraphs about why you didn’t like me.”

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The case for ghosting.

Even though it happened years ago, I’ll never forget the novelistic text that popped up on my phone a few days after I went on a date with a Hinge match. We met for the usual drinks at a bar. We laughed and chatted. And then he walked me home. It was very casual and friendly, so it seemed clear we didn’t vibe in a romantic way; in fact, I was already on a different date a few days later when I saw his name pop up on my phone.

When I glanced at his text, I saw paragraphs explaining all the reasons why we wouldn’t work out as a couple. We barely knew each other and yet, by the length and wording of his message, it seemed like he was ending a 10-year marriage. Later, when I sat down to give it a more thorough read, I realized that ghosting would have been way less painful. If fact, I almost felt bad that he put so much effort into letting me down.

Ghosting gets a bad rap, so I can see why he took the time to let me down gently. But honestly, reading a list of reasons why someone doesn’t like you seems to be a bit overkill. As someone who has sent similar texts, I’ve officially decided that it’s completely unnecessary to send these types of texts where all the negatives and mismatched vibes are spelled out. In other words: Let’s just ghost each other, FFS.

By the length and wording of this person’s message, you’d think he was ending a 10-year marriage.

If you’re out there meeting new people, then you already know ghosting has become an expected side effect in the search for love. One study found that out of 554 participants, 25.3% of people have been ghosted while 21.3% have ghosted someone else. The more times we swipe right, it seems, the more likely it is for ghosting to occur.

One reason why ghosting is so popular is because it’s tough — and even kind of stressful — to directly communicate your feelings with everyone you date. According to licensed clinical psychologist Dr. Kate Cummins, ghosting is a way to avoid awkward conversations and potential conflict. Again, nobody likes a ghoster. But if you aren’t officially dating — and especially if you’ve only met up once or twice — I really think it’s OK to simply disappear.

If you go on a date, have a convo that’s dry as toast, and then exchange an air hug before parting ways, shouldn’t that be enough information to know you aren’t a match? If one of you proceeds to send an itemized list of all the reasons why you aren’t right for each other, it seems a lot like pouring salt in the wound.

Kyra, 30, is also fan of ghosting for this reason. “I don’t need three self-esteem-destroying paragraphs about why you didn’t like me,” she tells Bustle. “Ghosting is a pretty clear message in and of itself, so if someone doesn’t get back to me, I’m happy to gracefully take the hint.”

Uma, 32, says she’s usually OK with ghosting or being ghosted after one date. “If you feel there was no connection, I don’t think a text is warranted after that,” she tells Bustle. “I’ve been ghosted by people who I wanted to be ghosted by.” As long as it seems like everyone is on the same page — i.e., you had nothing in common, there wasn’t a first kiss, etc. — then a mutual fade-away could be the kindest choice, especially compared to a super-serious chat over coffee or a cold “I didn’t feel a spark” text.

You could argue that there are plenty of moments where it’s better to silently move on, but it definitely isn’t for everyone. Defined as “the abrupt end of communication with a person without letting them know you are no longer speaking to them,” ghosting has become a cultural norm, and one that can cause an equal amount of hurt, Cummins explains. Society tends to urge people to avoid ghosting at all costs, but could a fear of ghosting be the very reason why some folks overthink it and overreact?

“I don’t need three self-esteem-destroying paragraphs about why you didn’t like me.”

As with everything, it all comes down to each unique situation. “Ghosting may be the preferable choice when you don’t feel like a conversation about not being a good match will land well with the other person,” Cummins says. “Plus, ghosting may be the best option if you tell the person you’re not interested in pursuing anything and they continue to communicate, therefore overstepping boundaries that you’ve tried to set.” In these cases, ghost away.

Of course, if you go on a string of dates, hook up, swap heartfelt memories, or start to catch feelings, that’s when you do owe each other a quick note — or even a bona fide breakup text. “At that point, I’m OK with a message like, ‘I don’t think this is going to work,’” Kyra says. When connections have been made, Uma says she also appreciates a quick note. “It’s good social etiquette.”

Personally, I’d say less is more in almost every scenario. If you catch yourself writing a novel to a stranger after two meh dates, please resist the urge to hit send.

Studies referenced:

Navarro, R. (2021). Ghosting and breadcrumbing: Prevalence and relations with online dating behaviors among young adults. Escritos De Psicología - Psychological Writings, 13(2), 45–59. doi: 10.24310/espsiescpsi.v13i2.9960.

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