“Shall we go for a walk?” he asked Anne* after they polished off the dessert at her favourite restaurant.
It was slightly after midnight, and she was enjoying the conversation too much to decline. Anne met this guy on an online dating platform, they texted quite a bit and spoke on the phone before deciding to meet up for the first time. Bonus points for him, as he suggested they have dinner at her favourite haunt in KL.
So they proceeded to go for a walk around the housing area beside the restaurant. The conversation kept them going that night. They connected. Next thing Anne knows, its two hours later, and they decide to say good night. Sounds like a good start right?
Well, two dates and a weekend together later, his texts had tapered down, but she didn’t think much of it, attributing it to work commitments. One day, he just stopped replying, and that was it. He seemed to have disappeared off the surface of the earth!
Anne’s messages yielded no replies, in spite of the dreaded blue ticks. A realisation then dawned on her. Anne knew that had been ghosted.
What is ghosting?
When one party in a friendship or relationship (or anything in between) decides to cease all forms of communication without notice, the other party has been ghosted. The ghoster does not give an explanation of any sort, leaving the ghostee wondering where he or she went wrong.
This troubling trend seems to be all the rage today, with the advent of Tinder and other dating sites, making potential dates literally disposable. Perhaps it’s the ‘unmatch’ option taken to greater heights?
Ghosting is a phenomenon not new to the dating/friendship scene. Heck, it’s a tale as old as time. Back in the day, it was easier to ghost someone. Picture a world sans Facebook, Instagram and zero messaging applications. It was easier to vanish.
And that’s how it all began. Ghosting capitalises on the human mind that easily forgets and is addicted to the next novelty that we come across. But not all of us forget easily, do we?
For the purpose of this article, we are going to focus on ghosting in the dating scenario, as this seems to bear a large plethora of ghosting horror stories. We talked to a few Malaysians who've been ghosted - or did some ghosting of their own - and find out what's the reason behind this old new trend:
Why ghost someone?
The basic tenet behind ghosting is that the person who is being ignored will just get the hint, and figure out that their partner is not interested in the relationship anymore. We spoke to Dinesh*, a self-proclaimed ghoster, to get his side of the story.
Dinesh claims to have ghosted multiple people, both men and women alike.
“It’s not something I’m proud of. But it just spares me that uncomfortable conversation. I’d rather just ignore their messages and let time do the work. And it always works,” he says.
He goes on to tell us that if the person was someone genuinely special to him, he would make the effort to let the person down gently. However, as most of the people he has ghosted are fleeting friendships, he claims that he feels no remorse for his actions.
Some may be quick to jump the gun and call Dinesh selfish, but he doesn't really care: “I guess I am selfish. Is that such a bad thing, though?”
Jillian Knox Finley, author behind the piece This Is the #1 Reason Guys Ghost
, conducted a focus group to get to the crux of the matter. Why do people ghost? Among the reasons given for ghosting someone while dating, the most popular is the lack of sexual chemistry. Funnily enough, the second most common reason was that the other person was being too clingy!
It appears that in the dating game, one must strike a balance between being themselves and not overdoing it, nor underdoing it. Other reasons include the person forgetting to reply, and then forgetting about the other party completely. One response was particularly intriguing, “I had already moved on to the next match.”
All of which begs the question: are we moving from a selfless society to a selfish one?
At one time, it was the trend to be nice and courteous to others. Now, it seems to be more fashionable to #loveyourself and put yourself first without a second thought about the person who may be hurt by your actions.
How it feels to be ghosted
Not everyone responds the same way to ghosting. Most of us would be hurt, surely, but we would eventually drop it, and move on. As we are all social creatures, it upsets us when we are ignored. What feels worse to the ghosted is that they weren’t given that much of a second thought. Their presence in the other’s life was not even dignified with a parting message or some form of closure.
Su Yan’s* first ghosting experience was with a guy she had met through a mutual friend. They went out on dates over the span of the month before they took their relationship to the next step of intimacy. After a few more dates, she wanted to take things to the next level, and the moment she broached it, he vanished into thin air.
Her calls and texts went unanswered, and he seemed to have blocked her on all his social media accounts. She was too embarrassed to approach the introducer to find out if her date was okay.
Su Yan wondered if she had put out too early. She looked into the mirror and pondered upon all her physical flaws. She replayed the memories of the dates they had gone on, questioning herself if she had said anything offensive.
Needless to say, Su Yan was headed towards depression. She kept thinking, “He is probably busy. I was hanging on to that unlikely shred of hope that he still wanted to hang out and maybe he would call, and grovel a little, and it world work out fine.”
In retrospect, she admits that clinging on to that notion of hope wasn’t the wisest idea. The fact that her date hadn’t out rightly said that he doesn’t want to date her anymore, kept her hopes up.
What many ghosters don’t realise is, while they move on to the next date, this person they are leaving behind is left clueless as to why the relationship has ended. Not knowing why leads to one’s brain being fed with a thousand different theories on what they did wrong and what the other person didn’t like about them.
Half the time, it could just be the lack of chemistry. However, if that is spelt out before ending the relationship, the blow will be softended tremendously.
Does ghosting have to do with sex?
Not neccesarily, according to Jillian Knox Finley’s focus group. Sometimes the absence of any attraction in person within the first few dates can also lead to one party ghosting the other. Where intimacy is concerned however, the rates of ghosting appear to be higher.
Brenda* tells us: “We did it. However, I didn’t enjoy it one bit! We just didn’t gel, and that’s okay, it happens sometimes. But I knew that I never wanted to see him again.
"I blocked him on all platforms and he got the message, I haven’t heard from him since.”
Lack of sexual chemistry is a running theme among serial ghosters. A question for the Brendas out there though, if you didn’t enjoy it, what makes you think that he did?
PSA to ghosters
, just send him/her a text. If talking face to face is too difficult for your emotionally immature self, just copy these options into your notes and use them when needed.
- Hey, I don’t think this is working out. Looks like we aren’t on the same page on where this is headed. Maybe it’s best if we go our separate ways. All the best to you!
- I’ve been having a great time getting to know you and hanging out. However, I’m afraid I’m not ready for a relationship at the moment, and perhaps we could take a break from this for a bit. I thought it best to be honest with you, rather than to lead you on.
- We don’t seem to share the same interests; perhaps it would be best for us to go our separate ways.
Yes, yes they’re all very formal and not something you would say to a person in real life. So tweak it! While we aren’t advocating ditching people after two dates, we really don’t think you should waste your time if a relationship isn’t working out the way you want it to.
Plenty of sotong
out there, after all.
Nonetheless let’s do it like adults, shall we? Just like many adult things in life, letting someone down is never easy. But isn’t putting them through mental turmoil worse? Come on lah
, take ownership and hold yourselves accountable!
PSA to those who have been ghosted
If you have been ghosted, think of it this way: you made the choice to go out with this person, and do whatever you did together. After that one time, or a few times, that person did not respond to your texts and calls. That person made the choice not to contact you anymore. So this person wasn’t who you thought he/she was.
It’s okay; people are never what you think they are right at the beginning. All that’s left is to ask yourself, are you really going to allow this person that you don’t know that well and who cannot treat others properly have all this power over you?
In a twisted sense of logic, this person did you a favour with his/her disappearing act because you now know their true colours and their lack of maturity is evident. Perhaps it was a blessing in disguise.
You deserve someone who wants to emotionally connect with you at whatever level you want, someone who understands you and is respectful of you. And now, thanks to him/her ghosting you, you don’t have to wait three, six or twelve months into a relationship to find out if this is it.