Ghosting, The Social Contagion of the Millennial Generation

You get home from a lovely night out, and you smile as you recall the night’s events. Maybe, just maybe, you found someone who could end up being the One.

A few days later, you send a text so he or she knows you were thinking of them.

“Hey, you. I had a great time the other night. Would you like to go out again sometime?”

Simple, right? No strings attached. No expectations. Just an innocent desire to connect to another soul. Anyone in a getting-to-know-each-other or dating relationship is familiar with this message.

But it goes unanswered. What the heck?! Everything went fine! I mean, he or she seemed nice… Not the type to disappear. What happened??? …They could’ve said something.

The sad truth is this is all too common in the 21st century as technology becomes more commonplace. Online dating service PlentyofFish released a shocking survey in 2016 highlighting the millennial’s struggle with ghosting. Of 800 single users aged 18-33, 78 percent reported they were a ghosting victim at least once by “someone they were dating (who) suddenly ceased all communication without an explanation.”

Additionally, a 2014 investigation from Elle found equally surprising data. A poll of 185 young daters’ dating habits (65 percent of which were female) showed both men and women were just as likely to be the cowardly culprits.

Sarah Braun, an MSW student at California State University, Long Beach, and past victim, believes ghosting emerged as the popularity of online dating increased and meeting people in public settings decreased. The dynamic between the two created a lapse in social responsibility, making avoidance, and consequently hurting feelings, much easier.

“Those who ghost tend to do so to avoid confrontation, feeling negative emotions, or causing another person emotional pain,” Braun said. “Everyone is affected differently. Common feelings victims experience are confusion, uncertainty, hurt, and anger. Those who are ghosted lack closure and are often left with many unanswered questions.”

At a time in history when technology is more advanced than ever, today’s generation has an astronomical amount of information at its fingertips. As millennials, we can find solutions to today’s problems and build connections to places and people, many of which our parents and grandparents never dreamt possible. So, it begs the question: why do we, as enlightened and mindful and capable of greatness as we are, find such a damaging and viral phenomenon like ghosting even mildly acceptable?

“Such behaviour leads to the objectivization and even harsher behaviours toward others,” said Michael Southerland, MS, LMFT. “Also, it leads to avoidance of simple courtesy that is so lacking in many areas. Breaking up with someone face to face helps accept responsibility for ourselves and our relationships.”

So, how do we proceed, if we are to end this phenomenon once and for all?

“Communication is key,” Braun said. “Being honest and direct about your interest and intentions is the best way to combat (ghosting). Having this conversation may be uncomfortable, but this momentary discomfort is an act of respect for the person. It provides the person with the closure needed to let go and move on.”

But what about the rest of society, not just with you and me and the people with whom we come into contact?

“If I were treating someone who engages in ghosting, I would do my best to help them see the consequences of their behavior has on others,” Southerland said. “Acceptance of responsibility for them is the key to stopping the behavior and making them more responsible and their relationships. Thus, they would become happier individuals.”

Andrea Bolduc, another ghosting victim and a health services professional in Orange County, Calif., believes going back to more traditional dating methods would erase the stain ghosting has on dating in today’s generation. Being honest and upfront, she says, isn’t enough because honesty isn’t always objective through a digital medium.

“You can be anyone you want on online dating,” Bolduc said. “Both men and women can say whatever the other person wants to hear. We should go back to meeting in coffee shops or in public places than being behind a screen.”

New research from POF backs up her premise. A poll of 3,000 users aged 21 to 65 found that weddings might be the answer for many not having luck with online dating. Nearly 52% said weddings are great for hooking up because “it’s easy to start a conversation” while 7.8 percent said “there’s no commitment required.”

Additionally, while only 18 percent said they had hooked up at a wedding, nearly 88 percent of those respondents said it was at a wedding for a friend or relative. What seems hopeful is 15.7 percent of hookup respondents said they’d gone on to have a relationship.

Millennials, this is your personal service announcement: if you’re single and thinking about or participating in online dating, consider deleting your apps and meeting people organically when you’re not at home. Look for mixers or meetups based around hobbies or interests. Go out to your favorite place and scout for someone who catches your eye. Or better yet, dust off your dress or suit and attend a wedding. Be the real you, and you might meet someone worth your time and feelings.

HOW TO GIVE UP THE GHOSTING GAMBIT 

  • If you have any remote interest in someone, give them a chance and go out with them. Nobody suffers from some extra practice.
  • After a date, if you don’t have a desire to get to know them, let them know. You might think it’s harmless, but omitting the truth to spare someone’s feelings does more damage than being straightforward. But do it tactfully – how you craft your message makes a world of difference.
  • Only when the other person doesn’t accept the truth or becomes irrational should you consider blocking them.
  • Be mindful of what you’re looking for. If there’s something specific that doesn’t catch your interest, don’t continue to seek it out in others.
  • If you know someone who is a ghosting perpetrator, encourage them to change their ways. As the adage goes, united we stand, but divided we fall. If we are to end this phenomenon, we must do it together.
Jon Beam
Jon Beam is a communications professional from Southern California. A journalism graduate from California Baptist University, his biggest joy is helping others become their best selves and accept themselves, flaws and all. He dreams of seeing his name on the New York Times Bestseller List and is working on his first young adult novel, “Singing Above the White Noise.”

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3 Scenarios where ‘Ghosting’ is totally acceptable

3 SCENARIOS WHERE GHOSTING IS ACCEPTABLE

There are a few things that we celebrate people for stopping ‘cold turkey.’ Smoking. Drinking. Dating?

In most dating scenarios, deciding to disappear rather than engaging in a conversation about the end of the courtship would be bad form. While it’s generally considered rude to suddenly vanish from a new romantic partner’s life, there are are few instances where ghosting might be a better solution for ending a potential relationship that has gone wrong.

But what is ghosting? Ghosting is the act of disappearing after beginning a courtship or starting to date someone. Something happens that makes you change your mind about a potential love-interest so you decide to stop texting, calling, and going on dates with that person making it seem like you’ve vanished right before someone’s eyes…like a ghost.

Now that we are clear on what ghosting actually is, here are 3 scenarios where ghosting is acceptable and possibly even your best option after you’ve decided to stop dating someone….

1. You feel threatened or unsafe

It’s possible to misread a new love-interest with a lot of potential especially if you’ve met online or via app. If you go on a date with someone new and your date has misrepresented himself or herself, he or she makes threatening remarks, or does something to make you feel unsafe for any reason, ghosting could be your best option. When dealing with someone who might not be operating at a high level of integrity or might even have malicious intentions, disappearing abruptly could be the best way to protect yourself. Be sure to listen to your intuition on this one. Safety first!

2. Your date asks you to leave them alone

There might be times when your presence is doing more harm than good and disappearing would benefit your potential love interest more than making repeated attempts to make amends. Maybe you had an unfortunate argument or said something that did irreparable damage and your date has requested for you to leave him or her alone. It might be best to respect their wishes and honor their ghosting request. Disappearing in a sudden fashion might be the best option to avoid causing further harm.

3. You are unexpectedly relocating

This might not technically be considered ghosting, but if you are leaving town because of a new job, family obligations, or just a lifestyle shift (and especially if one or both of you are not interested in pursuing a long distance relationship), it might be best to end the courtship sooner rather than later. If there’s time before you leave town, it would be nice to have a face-to-face send off, but at least a “it’s been nice” phone call would be a nice way to end the courtship.

Generally speaking, it’s considered rude to quit dating someone ‘cold turkey’ without so much as a “goodbye, it’s been nice getting to know you,” but these are some examples of where ghosting could be the safest option if trying to get out of a new dating situation that has taken a turn for the worst. Always do your best to act with integrity when meeting and dating new people but also be sure to protest yourself when an interaction becomes distressing or potentially harmful to you or those you are dating.

Hugs and love,
Erin ‘The Dating Advice Girl’ 🙂

The Dating Advice Girl
The Dating Advice Girl, Erin Tillman, is a dating expert, social life consultant, author, speaker and radio host based in Los Angeles, California. For almost a decade she has been helping singles successfully navigate through the early stages of dating through her book, The Dating Guidebook (www.TheDatingGuidebook.com), over 100 dating-related articles for various lifestyle and dating sites, radio and TV segments and through her weekly radio show, The Dating Advice Girl Radio Show on 99.3 KCLA FM in Los Angeles. She has hosted singles events in and around Los Angeles, leads dating and self-help workshops for men and women, has given dating tips to celebs at events and on red carpets and has collaborated with several networks, radio stations, and magazines including Men’s Health Magazine, ABC7 Los Angeles and WGN 720 AM Chicago and featured leading a dating workshop for the single cast members on Lifetime Network’s ‘Big Women: Big Love’ just to name a few. She empowers singles navigating through the dating process by helping them improve their social skills, communication skills, and overall enjoyment of life regardless of marital status while raising their self-esteem. She does this through her radio show, articles, book, workshops, and tv appearances and 1-on-1 coaching with online dating profiles, app profiles, self-esteem building, and social skills training. Erin feels especially passionate about helping college students make safe and empowering choices for themselves while respecting their peers when it comes to dating on campus.

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