Why Are We All Ghosting Each Other When the Alternative Is So Simple?

To ghost or not to ghost?

That seems to be the question for anyone dating today. The more we date, the more casually we do it; the more casual it is, the more we find ourselves in situations that aren't going to work out. Ghosting — simply fading away from a dating situation without formally putting an end to it — is a convenient answer to all the stray, loose ends of our dating lives. 

Is it rude? Disrespectful? Lots of people think so, but do it anyway — men and women. The funny thing is that the alternative to ghosting is so damn simple: Just send a text.

Better yet, send a formulaic text, a fill-in-the-blank message you can reuse. Mic spoke to Erika*, a 27-year-old New Yorker who has one standard text she uses repeatedly, drafted between her and two friends. "I just said to my friends, 'There's this nice person who I went out with, and he's asking me on another date ... I feel bad just not responding; it's really rude,'" Erika said.

So they created a refillable text she's been using ever since:

"It's not super boilerplate," Erika said, noting a good alternative response of "But I don't think this has long-term potential." Either way, it's been working, and her friends have copied and pasted the text into their own phones.

Ending anything can be uncomfortable. We know, sending a text as a revolutionary solution to ghosting is not exactly groundbreaking. And yet somehow, so many of us still can't be bothered. Perhaps we don't know the words to use, or find that even communicating a rejection over text is too awkward.

"I find the official 'ending it' incredibly awkward and really hate doing it," Amanda, 25, said. "Lately I have been sending the formal end text — usually written by someone who is not me — then I press send and immediately throw my phone down and distract myself because I'm so uncomfortable."

Even via text, letting someone down is still awkward, which makes ghosting so appealing — especially as it becomes more acceptable. A YouGov/HuffPost poll found that over 10% of people have ghosted or been ghosted by someone else. As our dating lives become more virtual, it becomes easier to dismiss someone from a distance without considering them as a real-life, breathing human.

"I have stopped feeling feelings," Tyler, 27, from New York, half-joked. "I just understand that [ghosting] comes with the territory of most dating communication being over text. Sadly, I do it constantly ... I don't feel bad anymore due to the fact that it has happened to me a number of times." 

Results from an Elle.com survey of 120 women and 65 men.
Source: 
Elle.com

But does anyone really like ghosting? As Tyler said, the process is desensitizing: The more we ghost others, the more the people on the receiving end will feel fine doing it to the next person. But that doesn't mean any of us particularly like it.

"I'm a total hypocrite in that respect," Chelsea, 25, told the Huffington Post. "I'll ghost someone without a second thought, but when it happens to me, I'm the first to run to my girlfriends in disbelief saying, 'The least he could do is let me down easy.'"

Chelsea's is not an unrealistic expectation. Letting someone down easy is one of the simplest things we can do. As Erika has found, it's as simple as a text: "You wince a little when you send the text, but it's so much easier. I mean, you don't know if somebody's sitting around and being stressed about it." 

They very well might be. As Matt, 24, said, "Ghosting takes time. Maybe not your own, but the other person's, who might be wondering, 'What if?' Why not just end it and move on? It's a courtesy thing." Otherwise, the result is the modern-day equivalent of waiting by the phone, pathetically hoping he'll call. 

It's not that we can't get the hint when we've been ghosted. As Slate's Amanda Hess wrote, "It doesn't take any specialized skill to read between the lines." It's more about courtesy and respect. "I just feel that if people are nice and decent human beings, they deserve to be treated that way," Erika said.

It's as easy as a text. The people who received Erika's boilerplate text have generally appreciated the honesty, she said. That said, the standard text can function as an interesting litmus test: One friend who sent it to a guy she went on a few dates with, Erika told us, was treated to the reply, "That's OK, I just wanted to get it in once."

Creeps aside, it's hard for anyone to make the case that a simple text isn't better than totally fading away.

"It's very easy to lose faith in humanity when you're dating," Erika said. "You want people to come away being like, 'Well, she didn't like me, but she seemed like a decent human being. Maybe there are other decent human beings who will like me.'"

If more of us stop ghosting and try old-fashioned texting, we'll all probably seem a little more decent. Now, if we could only quit the habit...

*Some names have been changed.

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Ellie Krupnick

Ellie is Mic's editorial director of lifestyle. A former style and fashion editor for The Huffington Post, her writing has also appeared in Women's Wear Daily, HarpersBazaar.com and the Twitter feeds of British royal fans everywhere.

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