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July 2024 |

Ghosting in Online Dating: The Silent Epidemic

Ghosting, the act of suddenly cutting off all communication with someone without any explanation, has become a common phenomenon, particularly in the world of online dating. With the rise of dating apps, the incidence of ghosting has skyrocketed, leaving many individuals grappling with feelings of confusion, rejection, and hurt.

At Compatico, New Zealand's premier matchmaking agency, we understand the emotional toll this can take on individuals seeking genuine connections. Our relationship expert, Tiare Tolks, shares her thoughts on the impact of ghosting and offers advice on how to navigate the modern dating landscape with grace and integrity.

What is Ghosting in Online Dating?

Ghosting can be subtle at first. Here are signs that someone might be pulling away:

  • Unexplained silence: They suddenly stop responding to your messages or calls without any warning.

  • Delayed or sparse replies: When they do reply, it’s significantly delayed or very brief, and lacks the usual warmth.

  • Cancelled plans: They frequently cancel or don’t show up for planned meetings without offering to reschedule.

  • Less engagement: They stop initiating conversations and seem uninterested in maintaining contact.

  • Avoidance on social media: They avoid interacting with you online, where you used to communicate regularly. This can also include unfriending, unfollowing, or blocking.

  • Frequent excuses: They make vague or repetitive excuses for why they can’t meet or talk.

  • Ignored messages: They read your messages but don’t respond, or they’re active on social media but ignore your attempts to communicate.

  • Lack of effort: The effort they used to put into the relationship suddenly diminishes or disappears.

According to a recent survey on ghosting in the context of dating, 65 percent of those surveyed reported ghosting someone they had talked to on a dating app without meeting in person, 54 percent ghosted after one physical date, while 39 percent did so after multiple dates. And 30 percent ghosted after a single sexual encounter.

Tiare explains that with the ability to stay behind the phone, dating apps may be making it easier to cut contact without face-to-face confrontation and less accountability for their actions. What’s more, what feels like an abundance of potential matches might be leading to a ‘grass is greener’ mentality, where people are constantly looking for someone better.

‘Perhaps the relative anonymity and lack of face-to-face engagement can reduce feelings of accountability, making it easier for individuals to disappear without explanation,’ says Tiare. ‘The act of ghosting is creating a ‘'noncommunication’ culture and promoting avoidance behavior so that daters, under the illusion that there are more fish in the sea, are less inclined to dig deep when the going gets tough and a hard conversation might be required. Sadly, this means real conversations are being had less often, and therefore true intimacy is not given a chance.’

Ghosting can have negative psychological effects on individuals, leaving people feeling confused, hurt, rejected, disrespected, and unworthy, says Tiare.

‘Repeated incidents can result in avoidant behaviors (in fear of further hurt), endless rumination, and even obsessive behaviors. For people with insecure or avoidant attachment styles, their attachment style may become reinforced, and distrust in themself and future relationships may become pronounced,’ says Tiare.

Real-Life Ghosting Experiences

Damon* has been on both the ghostee and ghoster. He’s been using dating apps for around three years and now sees it as a normal part of dating.

‘You’re used to how it goes,’ says Damon. ‘I’ve ghosted people I thought were a bit unusual, but it can be hard if you’ve been on a date and thought you had some kind of rapport. This can have an impact on you, but there’s no way to control it. It’s not a good way to interact.’

Tiare says the lack of nonverbal cues also impedes interpersonal connection, and that perhaps this means empathy doesn't develop between two people.

‘People who ghost often forget they are dealing with a person and indeed someone's emotions. Often daters are chatting with multiple people at a time, so the sense of individuality and the need for sensitivity is lost,’ she says.

Anna’s* ghosting experience left her hurt and confused when she’d met who she considered a great guy on a dating app six weeks before Christmas.
‘He came in hot and heavy, super keen, messaging back and forth,’ she recalls. ‘We even moved to messaging on our phones and sent pictures to each other.’

However, as Christmas approached, Anna's messages went unanswered.
‘I was gutted,’ she admits. ‘On Christmas Day, I was looking at my phone, wondering when he would respond.’

For Anna, the abrupt silence was not only perplexing but also painful.
‘I felt completely rejected,” she says. ‘I started over analysing things, wondering if I had done something wrong.’

Tiare explains that such feelings are common among ghosted victims. ‘The lack of closure and communication can lead to endless rumination and self-blame,’ she notes.

Coping and Moving Forward

Tiare recommends several coping strategies for those who have been left hurt from the experience.

‘Stand back and get into the habit of perspective-taking,’ she advises. ‘Ask yourself what might be going on for the ghoster. It has rarely got anything to do with you.’

Sharing experiences with friends and keeping busy can also help mitigate the emotional impact she says. Tiare also suggests stating boundaries clearly at the beginning of an interaction and making an agreement to be open and honest if you want a relationship to end. Talk openly about ghosting and agreeing not to do it.

For those considering ghosting someone, Tiare encourages a more empathetic approach. ‘Think about whether the act of ghosting aligns with the person you want to be,’ she says. ‘Proper communication and closure are good for the integrity and well-being of both parties. The best way to end the connection is being kindly honest in a time-sensitive way. It’s about acting with integrity,’ says Tiare.

And ending a relationship, situationship, or connection is best done face-to-face or via the phone.

‘If you have only been in text contact, then it's also best to end it this way with a text that states you won't be continuing the “textmance.” State your reasons honestly and kindly, and avoid blame or criticism,’ she says. ‘Use “I” statements such as, “I've realised that I'm not ready for a relationship,” and offer empathy such as, “I know this might be hard to hear.” This can often soften the blow. Be prepared to listen to the other party and answer questions.’

The Role of Matchmaking Agencies

In a time where ghosting has become commonplace in the context of dating, matchmaking agencies like Compatico offer a more personal and accountable approach to dating.

‘Matchmakers provide a level of vetting and support that can reduce the likelihood of ghosting and promote healthier dating interactions,’ says Tiare.

Discover more with Compatico about returning to the dating scene and why matchmaking could be the perfect choice for finding love after 40.

*Names have been changed to maintain confidentiality.

Curious about Compatico? Reach out to our team here.