I will always remember the first time I was ghosted. I was 22 years old, newly single, and had been on three dates with a nice man who worked in some vague segment of the advertising industry. He was taller and older than me, and he’d chosen a contemporary art museum for one of our dates (which seemed really sophisticated at the time), so I was pretty psyched about our potential relationship. One day, after a text I sent to him had gone unanswered for three days, I finally confided to a friend that I was concerned.
“Yep,” she said knowingly, “You’ve been ghosted.”
In case you’ve been lucky enough to never encounter it, ghosting is the practice of ending a relationship by simply disappearing and becoming unresponsive. In the last few years, ghosting has been investigated and editorialized to the point that it has become an established part of the cultural zeitgeist — which is comforting for me, at least. (Look! It happens to other people, too! I’m not an unlovable, pajama-wearing, apartment-bound loser!) Almost everyone has a ghosting story.
But, if we’re all talking about ghosting now, and we all (for the most part) know how horrible it feels to be ghosted, why do people still do it? And are there certain situations in which ghosting is simply unacceptable? How do you know?
Knowing that I was guilty of this myself, I reached out to a nice guy I had dated for a few months via Hinge (Jacob), and then unceremoniously stopped responding to. I asked him if I could interview him about what had happened. Even though I’d since apologized for my past behavior, Jacob was not into the idea. “I don’t think my answers would be interesting,” he said. “In our case, we weren't boyfriend/girlfriend, so I just had to take it in stride when the relationship became something that you clearly weren’t interested in pursuing. If you really want to talk about ghosting, you should be willing to make yourself feel uncomfortable, too.”
He was right: If I was going to learn anything new, I had to be willing to talk to the people who had ghosted me. After promising to buy drinks, I found four men who’d ghosted me who agreed to talk about why they decided to do it (including that aforementioned guy who worked in advertising). Yep, it was just as scary as it sounds. Oh, and pretty much everyone I spoke to asked for anonymity. Go figure.
*Interviews have been condensed and edited for clarity.