Woman looks sad as symbol for ghosting

Ghosting and How it’s Affecting the Dating Scene

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by eharmony Editorial Team - November 22, 2023

Since the emergence of online dating, the term ‘ghosting’ has also entered the language. You may have come across it on social media or even experienced the phenomenon yourself.

But what is it and why does it seem to haunt the dating scene? We take a deep dive into this phenomenon: what ghosting means, how it can affect your dating life and how to have a more positive outlook on the experience.  

What is ghosting someone?

The meaning of ghosting someone is when someone you were dating – either casually or more formally – or were friends with, cuts off contact with you without explanation. They essentially stop responding to you on social platforms or their phone as a way to end the relationship.

  • A recent BankMyCell survey found women ghosted more than men with 82% and 71% respectively having admitted to ghosting someone1
  • The survey also found that men and women have experienced ghosting at the same rate of 56%
  • The main reason given for the act was to avoid confrontation
  • According to a study by Western University, anxious and detached personality types were the most likely to be the victim of ghosting, as they tend to inspire less attachment in short-term relationships2
  • People who believe in ‘fate’ are far more likely to ghost someone, according to a recent Sage publication3. So perhaps they’re just waiting for destiny to bring them back to you
  • One of eharmony’s relationship experts Laurel House says: “Sadly, being ghosted (or doing the ghosting) is a dating reality that the majority of daters have experienced. Most didn’t ghost with ill-intent, but instead avoidance drove them to disappear.”

So is ghosting something that just happens online? No, it’s really just an updated term for jilted, ditched, stood up.

Different types of ghosting

Ghosting someone comes in a variety of flavors. It most frequently happens after a first date, normally a case of someone not having had the nerve to say they just didn’t feel a connection.

Online dating ghosting is probably the most common. You connect. You share a few messages and then they just stop replying. There are a million reasons for this, ranging from them becoming preoccupied and losing track of time to a simple boredom with the interaction.   

Then there’s the more emotionally difficult ghosting a friend, where you used to spend time together but now they just won’t respond and avoid your calls. Perhaps you may have gone on a few dates with someone and seemed to be hitting it off but then they cut it off without warning, leaving you confused and feeling rejected. 

The most emotionally devastating form is ghosting in a relationship, where you had been actively dating and they drop off the face of the earth. This can take a lot of recovery time and pointless thinking over what could have gone wrong. 

Similar dating trends to ghosting

Ghosting isn’t the only toxic online phenomenon in the dating pool:

  • Caspering –  Close to ghosting but instead they just fade away. They respond but only vaguely and often in two or three words. They tentatively agree to plans but never follow through. You’re not sure what they want and, eventually, they disappear. If you want to knowwhat does ghosting look like in slow-motion, this is it
  • Haunting – A bizarre trend where someone who’d previously ghosted you is now following all of your socials. You haven’t heard from them in weeks and then they like one of your Instagram posts one morning. Can be confusing as it is strange
  • Zombieing – This is when someone who ghosted you pops back into your life after a few months, often behaving as if nothing happened. It may be a case of boredom or regret but not someone you should explore a relationship with

And we haven’t even covered ghosting-related behaviours like ‘breadcrumbing’, ‘orbiting’ and ‘benching’. So online singles should probably watch out for even stranger dating verbiage to come.

What’s the motivation behind ghosting?

Why do people ghost? The reasons are too many to count and many of them are not worth exploring. The most important thing to remember is that it’s rarely about you.

It’s easier than being direct

The convenience of technology can cause huge feelings of rejection when we aren’t replied to. But the reason is likely because they either aren’t that invested in dating or just may have not felt the spark with you.

Choice overload

Sometimes, people have too many options, particularly on the dating scene in bigger cities. For someone who has a lot of online interactions, it can be just too easy to move on to something shinier. As an eharmony relationship expert Laurel House add: “When juggling 10 app conversations it’s too easy to forget the details of each of who you are talking with, forget the feelings being created in the moment, and forget if they followed up or not with the final questions left unanswered. Which is why app conversation should never be boring or mundane. You must stand out by digging in and asking questions that you would be excited to answer and want to learn. And make sure that each communication is on purpose. Make sure to always ask a question and also share something intriguing about yourself.”

The ghosted are also ghosting

A recent study found that the majority of participants had played both the role of ghost and ghosted4. The trend is now so deeply rooted that many see it as normal behavior instead of harmful.

Their attachment style

According to Attachment Theory, there are four principal types of social bond5. Those with fearful-avoidant attachment styles switch between deeply desiring intimacy and then becoming fearful when someone becomes too close.

Their own personal problems

People who ghost generally aren’t mean-spirited. They may be experiencing issues or battling low self-esteem and may not even believe they deserve you. Such people often initiate online interactions to escape their loneliness but then realize they aren’t ready yet.

And still, the sudden abandonment can feel extremely hurtful. Ghosting allows you to end the relationship or situationship without confrontation, with the idea being that you can just fade away without being noticed and without creating too much hurt. When, in reality, you’re causing even more hurt. When you’re ghosted you’re stuck wondering what you did wrong, what you could have done differently, and you are stuck alone questioning: “why?” It instantly creates insecurity. Interestingly, it’s not just the person who was ghosted on who feels the sting. The ghoster can also struggle with the weight of not knowing when or if their ex will run into or contact them, feeling the guilt of their disappearance and the shame that they just hurt someone. Truly, honesty is the best policy. As scary as that is and as easy as it may seem to avoid and disappear instead it’s best and less painful to address the issue, deal with the initial sting, and move on quickly.

The fallout from ghosting someone

While perhaps a very common modern dating trend, the human psyche clearly hasn’t caught up with pop culture so ghosting someone can have quite a detrimental psychological effect on them, depending on how far into the dating process you were.

Laurel House says: “The truth is that many people ghost because they get busy, they forget about the connection that was started, they start dating someone else, or they take a break from the app. Even if the last online conversation was super connected, fun, flirty, and creating a foundation for a date IRL. Life can quickly distract daters from the app as they go about real life, and once they realized that they ghosted someone they really started to like, they feel too embarrassed to reach out again, or by the time they get back online, the person who they ghosted has already blocked them or moved on.”

Therefore, it’s interesting to note that it’s not that great an experience for the person doing the ghosting. Not that you should feel sorry for them, but rather also know that they’re getting a negative effect as well.  

How the ghoster feels

Ghosting means something different to those who do it often. It can be a sign of emotional immaturity and that they have created unhealthy problem-solving patterns when it comes to social bonds.

Many ghosters do want human connections to escape their sense of isolation but as soon as the prospect becomes too real, they become apprehensive about letting you further into their lives. Fleeing is just easier.

As an eharmony relationship expert Laurel House adds: “Interestingly, it’s not just the person who was ghosted on who feels the sting. The ghoster can also struggle with the weight of not knowing when or if their ex will run into or contact them, feeling the guilt of their disappearance and the shame that they just hurt someone. Truly, honesty is the best policy. As scary as that is and as easy as it may seem to avoid and disappear instead it’s best and less painful to address the issue, deal with the initial sting, and move on quickly.”

Why ghosters are always come back

What happens when your ghost comes back to haunt you?  We take a look at why ghosters always come back. We unpack the ‘zombieing’ trend, how to deal with it and what to say to someone who ghosted you.

Common emotional reactions to being ghosted

Whatever the reasons, ghosting someone is nearly always wrong. In essence, it’s being casually discarded by someone you cared for, as if your connection meant nothing. Ghosting can leave people with a lack of closure, wondering what they do to chase people off. It has a lasting impact on their self-worth.

Tips for getting ghosted

Tired of getting ghosted with no explanation? We explore what to do when someone ghosts you, how it can sometimes be for the best and getting over it.

Don’t let ghosting haunt your dating journey

No-one really wins in ghosting. And having it be such a casual part of our dating culture is sad but hopefully temporary. 

But if you’ve been ghosted, don’t let it get you down. If they deserved your time and affection in the first place, they wouldn’t so easily discard it. Find someone who is worth your emotional energy on eharmony. We specialize in connecting relationship-seeking singles based on compatibility, so you start on the same page.

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