I’m not saying that it’s impossible to form true online relationships, I know plenty of long-term, stable couples who met through dating apps. For the purposes of this little note: I am speaking about the rest of us.
For anyone who hasn’t been living under a rock for the past few years, you will be well aware, if not intimately acquainted with the fiasco that is modern dating. From mastering the art of an online profile, to knowing how to filter past the fuck boys and girls (ladies, you are not innocent here), and surviving the first meeting, most of us have clawed together some kind of sense of how to navigate those initial waters.
In fact we have pretty much mastered the art of drawing in the opposite sex with just the right amount of mystery and raw honesty to keep thing interesting.
The issue, is that we keep hopping on and off of the dating carousel, and somehow never managed to forge lasting relationships. Do we even know how to relationship? Or do we only know how to get a date and occasionally (or regularly — no judgement) have drunk sex with someone who we may have been “chatting” to for a while, but in reality is almost a complete stranger.
Now we throw in to this mix, the dates who seem so amazing, you actually allow yourself to trust and believe that they may be different. They certainly claim that they are. You even let them see your naked parts, and they stick around. Things seem to be going well, but then… they vanish. And you realise that you, yes you, have been ghosted — again.
Possibly the worst part about these Expert Ghosts is that they don’t block your number, or even delete it. Sometimes they even read your messages. What they don’t do — under any circumstances — is respond. It’s confusing. Did you do something wrong? Did they meet someone else? Was it just not working for them? Will they ever get back to you? You may never know.
In my most recent ghosting event, I felt it pending in the darkness. It has happened so many times now, I should have some kind of paranormal investigation show. I noticed the subtle, almost imperceptible, longer delays between reading and responding to messages. The “I think I’d like to keep you on the bench” message that says they cant see you because they are sick, only when you ask if you are still meeting at the same place. And then nothing.
Being the “ghost investigator” that I am, I am not afraid to ask if I am wasting my time. I’m yet to have someone respond with “yes” even when I know that is the answer. But let’s be honest, they didn’t have the courage to stay alive in our worlds, why would the ghost be any different.
It still pisses me off though. Because more than the fact that they clearly don’t think it will work, or at worst just used us, they deny us the dignity of even acknowledging that they have ever exited.
When did it become OK to treat people that you have formed a bond with, sometimes over many months of dating, like they never existed in your world? How can you simply decide that you won’t even reply “stop” to opt out of their dates and messages, but you will do so for the telemarketing campaigns that you despise?
In truth, I have been ghosted so many times, and had to fling myself on and off the dating carousel that I don’t even know what a real relationship requires any more. I worry that the more I do this, the less I will be able to allow someone to really get to know me, because I am just waiting for them to disappear.
I have decided I can’t let that happen, and that I must at least turn these ghosting moments into lessons. So far I have attempted to get the ghosts to communicate with me via what can best be described as a ouija board method. I ask a question and hope they respond via text. I keep playing by the online rules, hoping to get a real world response. Perhaps I need to grow up and go old school in these things. Perhaps I need to phone the ghost. Sure they can ignore the call, but if they answer, at least I should get some kind of response.
I won’t have any intention of mending things, that ship pretty much sails when you reveal you are a ghost of a human. I just want to learn. I want to know where they felt things weren’t right, so that I know what to look out for in the future and I can finally get off this nauseating carousel for good. And hopefully they will also learn that confrontation is ok. People can take rejection.
*NOTE: if you are going nuts because you got rejected, you need to put down your phone, and texts, and step AWAY until you are OK with rejection.
Causing people to care for you and then disappearing is a special form of cruelty, and if you have done that to someone, please let them know why it wasn’t working for you.
I have never met anyone who enjoys online dating, so why do we end up trying to conduct our relationships and breakups using the same tactics and behaviour? We need to be better people. We need to understand and value that we are interacting with, and affecting other people. We need to recognise that even if we don’t want to date someone any more, we are still on the carousel together and we need to be helping each other, because no one wants to be here forever.
Whether you are a ghost, or you are haunted, or maybe both, be kind and talk to your people. They deserve to sleep free of hauntings and ghostly mysteries just as much as you do. Be brave. Be kind. Be alive.