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7th February 2019

A 21st century ghost story

Kate Fawcett explores the modern dating phenomenon of ghosting, and its harmful impact on self-esteem
A 21st century ghost story
Photo: K. Whiteford @ Public Domain Pictures

We are surrounded by ghosts. We walk past them on a daily basis; some of our friends are ghosts, some of us are dating them, some of us are even ghosts ourselves. The ghosts that I am talking about are not ghoulish spectres or poltergeists. Instead, they are a barista in his mid-twenties who paints his nails and ‘forgets’ to text you back.

I’m going to tell you a ghost story. You meet your perfect man. You exchange numbers, you go on a few dates. You’re full of hope for the future! You find yourself dreaming about him on the bus and you have definitely been on his Facebook profile more times than you’d like to admit. You excitedly send him a message asking if he would like to get another drink sometime. And then… nothing.

At first you lie to yourself. He could be busy, you say. Maybe he hasn’t seen it. But then you see it: Active 1 Minute Ago. Yet still there is no response. Days pass, then weeks, until you finally accept that they are never going to text you back. They disappear from your life as though they have died, or never even existed in the first place. Because of this swift exit from your life, this phenomenon has been dubbed ‘ghosting’.

The reason that ghosting hurts us so much is the sense of absolute indifference from the other person. To feel as though someone you once dated cares so little about you, refuses to allow you even a little bit of closure, is incredibly painful. Unfortunately, it doesn’t end there. You can also be ‘haunted’ by someone. This is essentially just ghosting, except the person occasionally likes the posts you share on Facebook, or religiously watches your story on Instagram. It is a constant reminder that, while they don’t quite like you enough to message you, they are not entirely ready to let you go either.

I understand why people ghost. Being open and honest about your feelings is frightening, and telling someone you are not interested in them is an uncomfortable thing to do. However, I can promise you that anyone would choose someone being honest with them over them simply disappearing from their life with no explanation. And so I propose a radical notion: if you don’t like someone, please just tell them.


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