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What does “ghosting” mean in online dating?



A frustrated person staring at a phone.
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Ghosting can be one of the most disturbing experiences of online dating. Find out what it is, when it happens, and why dating apps and social media are contributing to its rise.

What is Ghosting?

Ghosting is the complete cessation of all communication with someone without notice, usually with a romantic partner. The person who is ghosting ignores texts, phone calls, and other forms of contact, and does not normally explain the other person. While ghosting can occur in all types of relationships, it is most prominent in relationships that mainly take place online. Ghosting can happen at any stage of the online dating process, be it at the beginning of a relationship or within months.

A big part of ghosting is ambiguity. While ghosting implies that a relationship has ended, there is none of the closure and communication that occurs with a typical breakup. Therefore, a person who has been ghosted will wonder what exactly happened and may feel hurt, confused and distraught.

Ghosting has become a cultural phenomenon with the rise of social media and dating apps, making the practice very common among young people. A survey conducted in 201

6 found that 80% of a sample of 800 millennials are ghosted at some point.

How Ghosting Works

Ghosting normally follows a predictable pattern. First, the person will cut off contact completely. This means that they no longer respond to messages, calls and texts. This could mean that they completely ignore all received messages and stop opening them. This normally comes without warning and may not have an apparent cause or trigger. It can happen very quickly after a previous conversation.

Then the person can delete all links on social media apps. This includes unfriending them on platforms like Instagram and Twitter, unlinking them from dating apps, and blocking them on messaging apps like WhatsApp and Viber.

Ghosting on dating apps and social media

A person who swipes on a dating app.
Tero Vesalainen / Shutterstock.com

A major cause of the rise of ghosting is the popularity of dating apps. These apps have made relationships much more anonymous and temporary than before. It is now widespread and easy to enter and exit people’s lives, and many have become desensitized to the phenomenon. Since users of dating apps are likely to be talking to multiple users at the same time, they may not actually have strong feelings about a particular user.

These apps have also reduced the potential impact of ghosting on others, especially if two people never met in person or only spent a small amount of time together. Few of the social problems that come with breaking up a relationship.

Another big part of the practice is the ease with which people can disconnect on social networks and messaging apps, which are the main forms of communication today. Blocking someone on a platform like Instagram or unlinking someone on Tinder takes just a few clicks. Most dating apps like Tinder and Bumble have no way of contacting a previous match if they have not been matched making ghosting of these apps very easy.

RELATED: How to Block Someone on Instagram

Ghosting in Non-Romantic Relationships

Ghosting doesn’t just happen with online dating. It can also happen in many other contexts, including friendships and family or professional relationships. While the reasons for ghosting can be completely different in these types of relationships, the behavior is the same. As long as it involves someone cutting off the correspondence completely without warning and ignoring all future attempts to contact you, it could be considered ghosting.

An example of this happens in a professional relationship when a partner you should be working with on a project suddenly stops responding fully to your emails and messages. This is especially the case when the subject of payment comes into question. Because communication is essential to working relationships, this behavior can tarnish a person’s reputation in the professional world.

RELATED: How to block emails from specific senders in Gmail

Expand the word “Ghosting”

In recent years, the definition of the term “ghost images” has begun to lose its original meaning. Now it can mean any break in communication, even from people you don’t really know personally. For example, if a famous celebrity figure seemingly out of touch with the general public, fans could say the celebrity is ‘ghosting’ them.

The word is now also used to describe relatively minor offenses, such as taking too long to respond, leaving someone’s message read, or forgetting to reply to someone for an extended period of time. In this context, ghosting doesn’t actually mean ending a relationship. If someone you’re still in a relationship with told you to stop ghosting, they may want you to respond to messages a little more quickly.




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