By Richelle Brito-Carvalho
In the age of online dating, saying harsh or mean things while sitting behind a phone or computer is becoming a standard practice. Whether it is sending innocuous but presumptuous pick-up lines, unwelcome nudes as first messages, full-blown threats, and abuse, or disappearing just after initiating a possible romantic interest.
Behaviours such as these are not as commonly enacted in a face-to-face set- up as it occurs so casually in the digital world. In 2018, a team of researchers across the Netherlands and the US found that 42% of people who signed onto dating apps, were either married or in an exclusive relationship but still seeking dates.
Alongside trolling, what is also prevalent on these apps is – ‘ghosting’ where matches disappear after proposing a romantic inclination without any notice. “The screen mediates our courage, so we will do and say things online that we would never do in real life,” says Dr. Joanne Orlando, an Australian-based researcher, and author who focuses on digital wellness. This has troubling implications for online dating as so many people lean on these apps to find matches.
Ghosting has increasingly become the accepted way to end short-term dating relationships. There are multiple ways to ghost, from ending a relationship abruptly by ceasing to reply to messages, to gradually terminating communication. A 2019 study found that participants had ghosted 29% of the people they had dated and had been ghosted by 25% of the dates themselves. In addition, 74% of respondents said they believed that ghosting was an appropriate way to end a relationship.
You might wonder why people ghost. Ghosting probably occurs frequently because of the ease of ending a relationship, particularly if the couple has yet to meet in person. The authors of the same 2019 study also highlight that online dating offers an abundance of possible partners, and people who ghost one partner may do so because they have moved on to someone new. The convenience and abundance of choice in online dating encourage a culture of ‘disposability.’
The good news is people ghost because of their own shortcomings- and it has nothing to do with you! People who ghost are focused on avoiding their own emotional discomfort without taking others’ feelings into consideration. Maybe they couldn’t find the right words, don’t have the courage, to be honest, or are simply running away from taking accountability. None of the above reasons justify ghosting to be acceptable behaviour.
Ghosting can have a distressing emotional impact on the one being ghosted. Research also indicates that social rejection (ghosting) activates the same pain pathways in the brain as physical pain. Being ghosted increases ambiguity which then gives room to innumerable interpretations of what could have gone wrong. Not being able to regain contact can leave one feeling anxious and out of control. This could result in a decreased sense of self-worth, increased self- blaming tendencies alongside feeling disappointed in yourself.
The important thing to remember is that when someone ghosts you, it only shows their inability to manage their emotional discomfort. It says nothing about you or your worthiness for love. One of the ways to move forwards is to engage in self-care.
This might look different for everyone. It might include spending time with friends and family who can support you, finding time to indulge in activities that you enjoy, and reconnecting with your community. Give yourself compassion and resilience during this painful time. If you’re still struggling to cope after being ghosted, reach out to a mental health professional for support.
About the Author:
Richelle Brito Carvalho is Counselling Psychologist based in Mapusa. She is the founder of Wholistic Connect, an online counselling service. She also provides counselling services at Antarman, a psychosocial well-being centre, in Panjim She has done her M.Sc in Counselling Psychology from Roshni Nilaya, Mangalore.
If you are facing any psychological issues and wish to seek help, you may contact Richelle on:
Email: [email protected]