Far too many of us can relate to the experience of being “ghosted.” It’s what happens when you meet someone you’re interested in at a party and exchange some texts, only to never hear from them again, or in more serious cases, when someone you’re dating cuts things off completely with no warning or any further communication. This trend has become so prevalent in modern dating culture that millennials have invented a term for it. Sadly, this is a far cry from Casper: “ghosting” is anything but friendly.
Why do people “ghost”? Oftentimes this behavior is perpetuated by a psychological impulse to avoid conflict. Millennials, already comfortable hiding behind the veil of technology and the relative anonymity that dating apps provide, could potentially find it easier to simply ignore someone altogether than to confront an issue. This problem is seen predominantly among our generation: a poll conducted by YouGov and The Huffington Post showed that respondents ages 18-29 were most likely to admit they’ve experienced ghosting on either end.
Research studies show that avoidance is much more likely to result in anger and contention between partners than a direct and confrontational breakup strategy. Avoiding conflict is a ploy that not only leads to the demise of a relationship in the first place, but can also intensify the pain caused by its ending.
Part of the reason the propensity to “ghost” has increased is the fact that potential matches are far more expendable and accessible in the modern world. With thousands of options at one’s fingertips, the stakes of ignoring someone are disappointingly low. The advent of dating apps has left us spoiled for choice and thus more likely to subconsciously dehumanize others during the dating process. It’s easy to be in the position of the “ghoster,” especially when you see the other individual infrequently. But ghosting can often create resentment and self-doubt in the victim, making it hurt more than any other type of rejection.
Ghosting is a natural byproduct of a generation afraid to face conflict head on. Still, it is undoubtedly an immature and ineffective response to relationship issues that can and should be handled directly. If we condone behaviors like ghosting, we will continue to lower the standards of our dating culture, and frankly, the standards of common courtesy. Rather than succumbing to the psychological impulse to hide, we should confront issues directly and be courageous in the name of treating people right and combating this trend.