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What Is Orbiting in Dating? When “Ghosting” Leads to an Online Orbiter
Dating in the current social media world is tricky. Imagine you’re dating someone and, one day, they suddenly cut off all direct and meaningful communication with you. Sounds a bit like ghosting, right? Well, say they break it off but, all the while, continue to engage with you more subtly on social media. Long-term relationships that end in a break up come with even more social media fallout. And this all relates to a common phenomenon in today’s digital (dating) age known as orbiting.
Your ex may no longer be actively commenting on your photos or sliding into your DMs, but maybe they like your posts, view your TikTok uploads, or continue to engage with you in other superficial ways on a regular basis. It’s possible they’re seeing your content thanks to those pesky algorithms. And, maybe, they’re interacting with your socials in good faith. Still, it can sting. Not to mention, maybe you’re also being fed their posts and photos, making it harder to move on post-breakup or ghosting.
Orbiting is certainly a newer dating occurrence — something we’re just starting to put a finger on. Now that we’ve named it, though, let’s delve into everything you need to know about orbiting and how the trend might be impacting your mental health.
What Is Orbiting?
Orbiting in dating is when you cut off direct contact with the person you’re dating but continue to engage with their content on social media. It’s been dubbed “the new ghosting,” and, following an essay by Anna Iovine in 2018, gained more momentum in the pop-culture discourse.
Maybe you haven’t been the orbiter, but have found yourself being orbited. No matter the case, orbiting generally stems from a person’s desire to keep a former romantic partner or ex in their “social orbit.” Engaging in orbiting can make you feel closer to your ex, which can ultimately lead to some real pitfalls and toxic behavior.
For example, an orbiter can track who their ex has been with and where they’ve traveled. Mostly, orbiting gives the perpetrator a fake sense of comfort — the feeling that their former lover is still on their radar.
The concept of orbiting is gaining tremendous popularity, especially online, because of the increased interconnectedness between dating apps and social media. As a result, many people experience a situation where they’re ghosted — or one of the partner’s calls it off after a few dates — only to find they’re still very much connected.
Because of the interconnectedness of it all, social media platforms might suggest you follow your now-ex or serve you their content because you still follow each other and, presumably, once talked a lot. Not to mention, if you’ve ended things with a Tinder date, there’s no guarantee that you won’t stumble upon them on Hinge or Bumble, too.
Multiple studies show that social media boosts the brain’s feel-good chemicals, all while providing a false sense of intimacy. For instance, using social media for just 10 minutes increases oxytocin levels by 13% , causing you to feel happier. A “like” on Twitter, Instagram, or Snapchat can be exciting when it comes from a crush or someone you’re actively dating, but the same form of interaction can feel extremely confusing, uncomfortable and infuriating when it comes from an ex.
So, Why Do People Orbit?
Orbiters do what they do for a variety of reasons, but Iovine, the author of the 2018 article on the topic, suggests three theories for why someone would suddenly end direct communication and still maintain a social media presence and connection. The first theory? It’s a power move. Psychologists suggest that maintaining a presence on somebody’s social media profile is a diplomatic measure. It’s a way of letting them know you’re on good terms.
Maybe you’ve stayed friends with distant relatives or old friends on social media, despite differing opinions and interests, just for the sake of smoother sailing, but, when it comes to dating, it’s not so simple. According to The Daily Beast ’s Taylor Lorenz, an orbiter might be deploying this so-called “power move” in order to keep the door open with an ex.
But that’s just one of three reasons for orbiting. Iovine suggests that someone can orbit because they lack awareness of why that might not be okay. Maybe the orbiter didn’t take the break up as hard and can’t see why cropping up on their ex’s social media would be so hurtful, for example. But staying friends on Facebook or Instagram with an ex is more than just “keeping in touch” — it can feel challenging to untangle your feelings and move on if you’re constantly seeing what the orbiter is up to post your relationship.
And, finally, an orbiter might start circling you for the fear of missing out . Maybe they don’t feel ready to date you, but they’re concerned that if they were to eliminate you from their orbit completely, they’d miss an opportunity to reconnect later. After all, social media platforms allow for voyeurism and orbiting, at least in this case, is a way to keep tabs on a person the orbiter might want to date in the future.
Orbiting and Mental Health
Online dating and the various apps we use can already contribute to poor mental and emotional health. But, in many ways, turning to Tinder might feel like the only way to connect with potential partners. As we’ve noted in other dating discussions , “Match Group, the parent company of popular dating apps like Match, OKCupid, Tinder and Hinge, has seen a reported ‘15% increase in new subscribers’ during 2020.”
In Online Dating Is a Blessing and a Curse — But Mostly a Curse , Caleb Bailey writes that, “Dating app burnout was on the rise for a myriad of reasons in 2019 BC (Before COVID); verbal, emotional, and sexual harassment were par for the course that year. But once the pandemic hit, online dating became the sole recourse for millions of people around the globe.” So many of us are engaging in online dating, connecting our Instagrams with various dating apps. And that makes the toll all the worse when it comes to break ups and orbiters.
The relationship between orbiting and mental health has not been widely explored — yet. However, the existing scientific evidence on the phenomenon suggests that it has a negative effect on emotional and psychological well-being.
For instance, orbiting leads to mixed messages. Cutting off communication but keeping tabs on social media is… confusing, right? It raises a lot of questions. If you’re the one who is being orbited, these mixed signals might result in some conflicting feelings . Breaking off communication — no texts or calls — is a common way to help both parties move on after a break up. But keeping that social media presence — and, worse, passively “liking” an ex’s posts — might imply the orbiter does still care. Without a doubt, orbiting makes healing harder. After all, orbiting blurs boundaries and keeps you thinking about the person you’re supposed to be moving on from.
But it’s not just an orbiter’s direct actions that can mess with you. Sometimes, just seeing their posts pop up in your feed can be troubling. The phrase “no one posts their failures” on social media is true. Instagram users only post their best moments (and best lighting), so, when you get an ex’s highlights, it can lead to some big feelings.
Maybe you’ll feel they’ve curated this near-perfect feed to make you jealous, or, on the other hand, maybe seeing them having fun in the immediate wake of your breakup hurts your self-esteem. Did the relationship mean as much to them if they can seemingly move on so quickly?
Orbiting can also trigger a psychological response — confirmation bias . If you already hold a certain belief or feel a certain way, for example, searching your ex’s social media profiles for clues to support your perspective could lead you to spiral and ruminate. You might not even realize you’re orbiting someone. After all, taking a quick peek at someone’s social media reveals a lot, but it’s so commonplace that you might justify it as harmless. In reality, orbiting — no matter the intensity — can hurt all parties involved.
While it may be difficult to avoid orbiting altogether — especially the more passive forms of it like Instagram suggesting you follow an ex time and again — muting your ex could be the best course of action. A full-on blocking might seem intense and unnecessary, but intentionally tuning them out for a bit will likely do wonders for your mental health.
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A Guide to Ghosting: What It Looks Like and How to Avoid Doing It
By Jessika Roth
Modern dating definitions have become scarier than ever with terms like ghosting, Caspering, and zombie-ing, all of which are used to describe today’s bad behaviors. But just because these habits are labeled with playful names, it doesn’t make them any less real or painful in practice. It’s time for ghosting to be the one to vanish; here’s a field guide to what it looks like, feels like, and how to avoid being a ghost.
What is ghosting?
In dating, ghosting is when someone ends all contact without explanation — profile unmatched, messages unanswered, calls avoided. The “friendlier” version of ghosting is called Caspering, named after the beloved cartoon ghost. You’ve been Caspered if you’ve received a rejection message before your match disappears completely , meaning you got some clarity but no conversation. And if you’re not spooked enough, there’s also zombie-ing, which is when a ghost returns from the dead and resumes communication with a passive “hey.”
What it feels like to be ghosted
If you’re dating, chances are you’ve experienced ghosting or one of its relatives. When you’re left in the wake of the disappearing act, you might naturally feel concerned for the person’s wellbeing. With enough time, that concern will transform into resentment, anger, or confusion. Left with no information other than your own imagination, you’ll likely blame yourself or assume the worst-case scenario.
Why people ghost
The good news is that most people ghost due to their own shortcomings — not yours. Either they decide that you aren’t the right match or dating isn’t a priority. Instead of communicating that, they opt for silence. Maybe they couldn’t find the right words, don’t have the courage to be honest, or can’t pinpoint what the issue is. No matter their reason, move forward knowing that they’re not the right match for you if they couldn’t muster the respect to kindly exit the relationship (no matter how casual).
Why ghosting sucks
Ghosting may feel like a gentler way to spare someone’s feelings, but the silence will cause more pain than intended. If you’re prone to ghost, keep in mind that the reason you started talking to your match in the first place is because you liked them. Use words and behaviors so that if you crossed paths, you wouldn’t feel anxious or awkward. Even better, being direct could leave the door open for when timing is better in the future.
How to avoid being a ghost
If someone you’ve connected with reaches out and you’re no longer interested, let them know you’ve had a change of heart. Craft a friendly message to have on hand in place of the silent treatment. “Hey __ , it was really nice hanging out with you. You’re great, but I’m not feeling a romantic connection. I don’t think we should go on any more dates. If you want to try being friends, I’d love to be in touch.” You can also check out our tips on writing kind break up texts .
Rejection can be kind and compassionate in its delivery. Be a human, not the image of one.
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Why People Ghost — and How to Get Over It
Time to go ghostbusting.
By Adam Popescu
Something strange happened at the coffee shop the other day. The gentleman in line in front of me — mid-40s, suit, bad haircut — ordered a latte. “Whole milk,” he said before changing to half and half, then almond milk. “For here,” he mumbled, then shook his head. “No. To go.”
I ordered an espresso. Our drinks arrived at the same time and I picked up mine, added sugar, sat, sipped. The latte remained at the counter, the barista calling his name over and over. But the man in the suit was gone. Why would someone order a drink and disappear?
Ghosting — when someone cuts off all communication without explanation — extends to all things, it seems. Most of us think about it in the context of digital departure: a friend not responding to a text, or worse, a lover, but it happens across all social circumstances and it’s tied to the way we view the world.
Asking for a beverage and then jetting may not seem equal to ditching an unwanted romance, but it’s really the same behavior. Uncomfortable? Just don’t respond. A ghost is a specter, something we think is there but really isn’t. We’ve all probably acted like this if we’re honest. We’ve all probably been ghosted, too, though sometimes we probably didn’t notice. These are supernatural times.
Last week, my sister and I got in an argument and her boyfriend didn’t text me back — a micro-ghost move.
“There are different levels of ghosting,” said Wendy Walsh, a psychology professor named one of Time’s 2017 people of the year for her whistle blowing that helped promote the #MeToo movement. My sister’s boyfriend is what Dr. Walsh calls lightweight ghosting. Midweight is when you’ve met a person a handful of times and you engage in deep avoidance , which hurts their feelings more. “Third wave is the heavyweight, when you’ve entered a sexual relationship and you leave, blindsiding the other.”
The pace of modern life makes it hard enough to maintain real life friendships; it’s impossible to actually be friends with everyone you’re supposedly simpatico with online. (Here’s a good test: How many of your Facebook friends are real? If you’ve met someone once and now they’re on your feed for life, get rid of them! If a friendship feels like too much work, maybe it is. The good ones shouldn’t feel like a chore on your to-do list, or that one side is doing all the communicating). Sometimes the best course is to let someone go, even if you were once close. Growing apart can be a friendship’s natural evolution; ditto for lovers, an even touchier discourse. But it’s the way you let go that matters.
Belief, destiny and growth
Studies have shown that social rejection of any kind activates the same pain pathways in the brain as physical pain, meaning there’s a biological link between rejection and pain. That goes for friends, partners and, if it had feelings, that lonely latte.
Staying connected to others has evolved as a human survival skill. Our brains have what’s called a social monitoring system that uses mood, people and environmental cues to coach us how to respond situationally. But when you get ghosted, there’s no closure, so you question yourself and choices which sabotages self-worth and self-esteem.
That ambiguity, said the psychologist Jennice Vilhauer , is the real dagger. She calls ghosting a form of the silent treatment akin to emotional cruelty (the pain it causes can be treated with Tylenol, according to multiple studies ). So, how do you avoid it in the first place?
“Well, I think I’m particularly choosy about who I tend to interact with,” said Dr. Vilhauer, the former head of Los Angeles’ Cedars-Sinai Medical Center psychotherapy program. “You can get a sense early on of what kind of individual you’re dealing with.”
There’s no checklist, but watching how people treat others is a good indicator.
“Ghosting has a lot to do with someone’s comfort level and how they deal with their emotions,” she added. “A lot of people anticipate that talking about how they feel is going to be a confrontation. That mental expectation makes people want to avoid things that make them uncomfortable.”
When it comes to complex relationships, the ease and sheer volume of choice is making us numb emotionally, Dr. Vilhauer said.
“In the dating world where people are meeting a lot of people outside of their social circles, that creates a level of feeling that you don’t have a lot of accountability if you ghost someone,” she said. “Their friends don’t know your friends so it’s easy to do if you’re never going to run into them again in real life.”
What we really want
According to Dr. Vilhauer, who is in a long-term relationship that began on a dating site, the flip side is a subset of the population looking for real connection.
“People are craving authenticity,” she said. For those looking for love in online emotional echo chambers, “the more you date, the more it feels unsuccessful, the more you get discouraged.”
She added: “Being vulnerable is the number one thing that creates intimacy between people and if you worry about being hurt all the time, you’re not able to be vulnerable and it affects the quality of connection.”
That fear is the same thing causing so much ghosting, said Gili Freedman , who studies the language of rejections at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. One eyebrow-raising tip she offers when you’ve made a mistake and ghosted someone is to not say “Sorry .” Why, I wondered? It only makes the injured party feel more aggrieved, she said.
In a 2018 paper , Dr. Freedman discovered ghosting has a lot to do with how we feel about our future — or whether we think our mate is the “one,” which is a question of belief versus destiny. Either someone believes the relationship is capable of growing or they’re seeking an archetypal partner (what’s typically called a soul mate).
“Individuals who have stronger destiny beliefs are more likely to ghost,” she said. “If you’re with someone and you realize they’re not the one for me, you’re going to think it’s not much of a point to put in the effort, so you ghost. These people believe relationships are either going to work out or not.”
Those with less of a fixed mind-set exhibit fewer feelings of helplessness and express themselves in conflicts with romantic partners.
Her work’s most counterintuitive finding?
“People seemed to think it was more acceptable to ghost in a friendship than a romantic relationship regardless of destiny of growth belief,” Dr. Freedman said. “We think of friendship as these long lasting relationships that provide social support and it’s interesting to think people are saying it’s a little better if you do it in a friendship. How you look at relationships affects how you look at ghosting.”
“It’s really important to remember if someone ghosts you that behavior says more about them than you,” Dr. Vilhauer said. “It’s about their discomfort. You have to keep trying.”
One way to avoid this cycle is modifying how we reject people, suggests Dr. Freedman.
Don’t apologize, she said, but be honest about boundaries, whether it’s going to a movie with someone or spending the rest of your life together. Just be real.
“The good middle ground is explicitly rejecting someone and telling them ‘no,’ not ‘I’m sorry,’” she said.
It may sound harsh, but it’s better than being left in limbo. That may be why so many daters don’t get the hint and keep texting. That ostracism leads to rage, frustration and further alienation.
“If you’re apologizing, you’re enforcing a social norm and if you say ‘sorry,’ it’s very normal to say ‘that’s O.K., I forgive you,’” she said.
Taking a risk to tell someone how you really feel — even if it’s not what they want to hear — has benefits. Self-esteem, stress, blood pressure, spending more time with people you care about. And getting that time back opens up self-discovery. Maybe you’ll find what makes you most fulfilled is nature , which promotes alpha brain waves, fuels creativity and reduces depression (my personal fix).
Perspective can be a good path to empathy, Dr. Walsh said. Our always-on culture has eroded a lot of empathy, which is why we find ourselves stepping on each others’ feelings. Yet for all the choice, we’re all still seeking connections. The power of the internet and its ease in upsetting our lives is only poised to grow. It’s how we use this intoxicant that will determine its impact.
“We are wired to bond,” Dr. Walsh said. “The phenomenon of love, our greatest drug and delusion evolved for two people to get together and have offspring. The great survivors will be the ones who still figure out love.”
Adam Popescu is a Los Angeles writer whose debut novel, “ Nima ,” based on his BBC reporting from Mount Everest, publishes in May. Follow him @ adampopescu .
A Guide to Building and Nurturing Friendships
Friendships are an essential ingredient in a happy life. here’s how to give them the care and attention they deserve..
How does one make meaningful friendships as an adult? Here are some suggestions , useful tools and tips from an expert .
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It’s quite common for people to feel jealousy or envy toward their friends. Luckily, there are ways to turn those emotions into an opportunity for growth.
Being a good friend means offering your support in times of need. Just remember: Sometimes less is better than more .
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Being Ghosted: Why It Happens and How to Cope
Barbara is a writer and speaker who is passionate about mental health, overall wellness, and women's issues.
Verywell / Laura Porter
Why Do People Ghost?
- How to Cope
What Does Ghosting Say About a Person?
Is ghosting emotional abuse.
Ghosting occurs when someone you are dating or getting to know disappears without a trace. This could happen at the very beginning of a relationship or in the middle of one, whether in person or online. Dealing with being ghosted is incredibly difficult—especially because you usually don't know the cause or know how to react.
The person suddenly quits all contact with you—they won’t respond to texts, emails, calls, or social media messages. The mental health effects of being on the receiving end of these actions can be very challenging.
Learn more about why people ghost and how to move forward if it happens to you or someone you know.
People ghost for a variety of reasons. Relationship experts and psychologists agree that people who ghost are avoiding an uncomfortable situation. This evasion, while perceived as a lack of regard, is often because they feel it’s the best way to handle their own distress or inability to clearly communicate .
Ghosters themselves admit they don’t want to hurt you or they don’t know what to do. Sometimes they don’t think discussing a situation was necessary or they became scared. Ghosting is a passive way to withdraw.
But some ghosters perceive that to disappear completely might actually be the easiest and best way to handle the situation for all. Others ghost because now that it’s common, it’s an almost justifiable way to exit a relationship nowadays.
In today’s dating culture, being ghosted and ghosting is common.
How to Cope When You've Been Ghosted
It's not always easy, and it often takes time, but there are things you can do to start to feel better even if you've been ghosted by someone in your life.
Rid Yourself of Blame
After someone disappears suddenly, it’s hard to not feel regret, embarrassment and shame. After all, you risked for the sake of growth and it backfired. While ghosting feels so personal, it’s not about you. It’s about them.
Because you usually can’t find a cause and there is no explanation furnished, you may blame yourself. You might want to put up walls so you don’t get hurt again in the future. Or you may tell your friends you will stop dating completely, using a cognitive distortion like all-or-nothing thinking .
Now is the time to regroup, be kind to yourself and take a break. You are not to blame for someone walking away without a peep. Nor is it your fault that the other person couldn’t maturely give you the truth.
Nix the Shame
Shame comes about sometimes when we are reminded of previous rejections. But is ghosting rejection?
Meredith Gordon Resnick, LCSW
Ghosting carries an echo of old rejection. It's painful because it activates—and emulates—a previous hurt or betrayal by someone we didn't just think we could trust but whom we had to trust, often during our formative years. Here's the catch: It's not necessarily about the betrayal but about our not having processed and integrated that early memory, and what it meant to us.
Resnick, whose trauma-informed books about recovery from the effects of narcissistic relationships have helped tens of thousands of readers, reassures those who were ghosted and bids them to take care.
“Understood this way, we can see why self-compassion is in order,” she says. “Being dropped and feeling unseen is always painful, and there is never shame or embarrassment in feeling what is real.”
How do you move forward? You need self-compassion and self-care. Invest in time with friends and family who can support you. Also, you might indulge in activities that make you happy like taking a yoga class or returning to a hobby that you love. You can also try homeopathic treatments or acupuncture.
Elena Klimenko, MD, and Integrative Medicine Specialist sometimes uses a "broken heart" homeopathic treatment for a heartfelt loss . She says, “In traditional Chinese medicine like acupuncture, the heart meridian—which starts at the heart and runs to the armpits, then down each arm—is responsible for heartfelt matters and some deep emotions. Proper acupuncture treatment can also facilitate recovery and take the edge off the difficult feelings."
When you think of the ghoster, be sure to reframe your ideas about them and the relationship. After all, they violated the contract of what it takes to be in a mature, healthy relationship. That includes mutual respect, good communication and thoughtfulness. Therefore, this wasn’t the right person for you, anyway.
David C. Leopold, MD DABFM, DABOIM, and Network Medical Director for Integrative Health and Medicine at Hackensack Meridian Health says, “When patients experience any emotional or mental health challenges, I focus on helping them build resilience and enhancing their self-compassion and self-care."
Dr. Leopold uses a comprehensive approach, including engaging in physical activity, prioritizing sleep, optimizing nutrition, cultivating meaning and purpose, and, reducing stress through practices like mindfulness and meditation.”
Therefore, if you’re emotionally exhausted and stressed, where do you start in taking care of yourself? “Multiple studies clearly show that eating healthy improves mental health—reducing stress, anxiety and even depression. And any form of exercise, even just walking, is a potent natural anti-depressant,” says Leopold.
If you’re ruminating too much, use an app to increase mindfulness or begin a meditation practice . Leopold suggests you don’t forget about finding meaning and purpose. “Studies show focusing on meaning and purpose increases oxytocin, our 'feel good' hormone, which increases feelings of connection and improves mood.” Overall, he advises that you take this time “as an opportunity to focus on you and enriching your resilience.”
Despite ghosting being normalized, it's more about the problem the ghoster is having than it is about you. Ghosting says a lot about the person in many different ways. For instance, it could say that they lacked the courage to do the right thing by explaining why they could no longer continue a relationship with you.
The person or people who ghosted you didn’t treat you with integrity, therefore, did not consider the implications of their actions. It could also signal that they may not care about their actions and are inconsiderate or unreliable.
Or, it could be none of the above. The ghoster may be dealing with a mental health or medical condition (of a loved one or their own) that is making it difficult for them to reach out at the current time.
Whatever the case may be, being ghosted is not a reflection on you or your worthiness. Nor should it render you powerless.
Ghosting is a form of silent treatment, which mental health professionals have described as emotional cruelty or even emotional abuse if done so intentionally. You feel powerless and silenced. You don't know to make sense of the experience or have an opportunity to express your feelings.
This cowardly act, unfortunately pretty normalized by our culture, can cause immense pain. As you have no clue about what happened, your mind first jumps to many possibilities. Was your new love interest injured in a car accident? Is their family okay? Maybe it’s just a crazy busy time at work and they will contact you again soon?
You might feel a wave of different emotions: sadness, anger , loneliness , confusion. Mental health professionals find that no response is especially painful for people on an emotional level. You feel helpless and shunned without information that could guide your understanding.
Being ghosted might result in exhibiting a variety of negative emotions and questioning yourself. Don't play the blame and shame game. Hold your head up high, hold onto your dignity, and let them go. Someone better could be out there looking for you.
Practice self-care and build your resilience during this painful time. If you’re still struggling to cope after being ghosted by a romantic interest, a friend, or someone in the workplace, reach out to a doctor or a mental health professional for assistance.
Press Play for Advice On Dealing With Negative Emotions
Hosted by therapist Amy Morin, LCSW, this episode of The Verywell Mind Podcast shares how to stay mentally strong when you're dealing with negative emotions. Click below to listen now.
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By Barbara Field Barbara is a writer and speaker who is passionate about mental health, overall wellness, and women's issues.
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8 Reasons People Ghost In Relationships, From Experts & Research
Despite becoming a term only in the early 2000s, ghosting has always been a frequent occurrence in the dating world. The term has gained popularity over time with the increasing presence of online dating and dating apps.
According to Merriam-Webster, ghosting is "the act or practice of abruptly cutting off all contact with someone (such as a former romantic partner) by no longer accepting or responding to phone calls, instant messages, etc."
Since ghosting doesn't come with an explanation, it's easy to feel insecure and isolated when on the receiving end. However, being ghosted is an incredibly common side effect of dating. A 2016 survey from PlentyOfFish reveals that almost 80% of single millennials between the ages of 18 and 33 have been ghosted while dating.
The abruptness of ghosting can give the false impression that it's a clean break, but it's actually a pretty messy one that tends to leave singles confused and wary of putting themselves out there again. Although ghosting is never the right way to go about breaking up with someone, the reasons for doing it can be complicated:
What is ghosting?
Why people ghost, they're just not that into you.
People make time for the things they care about—even if that means making time to break up with someone. According to a 2019 BuzzFeed survey , 81% of participants said they ghosted someone because they weren't into them, 64% said the other person did something they disliked, and 26% said they were angry with them.
If someone's not interested in you or feels like they haven't invested that much time in the relationship, then they may feel they "don't owe you anything or owe you that ending conversation," explains counselor Shae Ivie-Williams, LPC, BC-TMH, CCTP . It's also hard to gauge someone's level of interest in or expectations for a relationship without having upfront conversations. Getting ghosted becomes less shocking when you've already set expectations and have a clear understanding of what page the other person is on.
They got too busy, and dating stopped being a priority
While it's true that people make time for the things that are important to them, it's also true that life sometimes gets in the way. A tough time at work or family issues can easily distract you from a still-early courtship with a person you haven't met more than once.
With all the apps and different mediums to connect with people today, dating can also feel extremely overwhelming in general at times. A natural reaction to that is to remove yourself from certain spaces, and for some, that space may be dating. Ending communication altogether isn't the most effective way to go about things, but in the moment it can seem like the least complicated. Sometimes taking breaks from dating due to dating burnout is necessary, and unfortunately, people can be collateral damage in the process.
Too much time passed by
Have you ever stepped away from a conversation for so long that it becomes hard to navigate your way back into it? Well, that's a common occurrence when dating and can be brought on by many things: basic forgetfulness, a busy schedule, juggling too many potential partners. In the beginning stages of dating, a text or call can easily slip through the cracks—especially when conversations are facilitated through dating apps . Once a decent amount of time has passed, it may just seem easier to let that relationship go and not address the silence.
They couldn't see it working out
Surprisingly, believing in the idea of fate may play a large role in whether people ghost or not. In 2018, psychologist Gili Freedman, Ph.D. , conducted a study analyzing people's belief in destiny and how that correlates with attitudes toward ghosting . According to her findings, people with stronger destiny beliefs were 60% more likely to see ghosting as an acceptable way to end a relationship. Those who believe in "soul mates" and "the one" are more willing to abruptly end a budding relationship if they think it's just not in the cards for this particular relationship. In this case, it's no one's fault. It just wasn't meant to be.
RELATED: 3 Positive Ways To Respond When You've Been Ghosted
The impersonal landscape of dating makes it easy
Dating has become almost synonymous with online dating , and with online dating, in-person interactions can become replaced by more impersonal modes of communication . "Text messaging and dating apps can make it impersonal. And therefore, ghosting has become a lot easier," explains Ivie-Williams. The role technology plays in dating can also make people feel more detached from the process and those they are dating, so there may be fewer feelings of investment. When that happens, disappearing on someone can involve little to no guilt.
It's baked into their attachment style
Attachment theory was originally developed by British psychoanalyst John Bowlby while examining the intense distress infants experience when separated from their parents. There are four attachment styles in adults, but when discussing the act of ghosting, Ivie-Williams focuses on two: anxious attachment and avoidant attachment . Those who are anxious tend to crave intimacy and feel insecure about their relationships, while those who are avoidant are uncomfortable with closeness and value independence most.
People who have either of these attachment styles "may not want to have those hard conversations because maybe their family didn't have hard conversations when they were young," says Ivie-Williams. "And so having those types of conversations involves vulnerability or being truthful with how you feel about that person."
It has to do with timing
Some people may feel they don't owe the other person anything, including a conversation explaining why the relationship is ending, because of the amount of time they were seeing each other. If they feel they haven't invested a lot of time or emotion in the relationship, then there's no need for an explanation.
They may have experienced a trigger
Certain people can bring up different emotions in others and act as triggers based on some personality traits they present. Ivie-Williams uses the example of a potential or current partner coming off as threatening because they remind someone of something from their past. "It's a trigger, where a stress response or a trauma response was elicited in them," explains Ivie-Williams. "And so maybe they felt like if they continued to talk to this person, or if they were honest with this person, it wouldn't be safe for them."
These trigger responses have a lot to do with anxiety. And while anxiety can be helpful because it acts as a threat detector and pushes people to seek out safety, "some people may have so much anxiety that is overriding other parts of their system that they perceive threats where there are none," says Ivie-Williams.
RELATED: Have You Been Zombied? A Closer Look Into The Dating Trend
How to move on from getting ghosted
Some people handle rejection and feelings of abandonment better than others, but that doesn't mean they aren't hard pills to swallow. When ghosted, a lot of people tend to feel insecure and question themselves rather than the person who did the ghosting. Licensed psychologist Laura Louis, Ph.D. , tells mbg that it can lead to extreme sadness and bring about depressive symptoms such as interrupted sleeping patterns, changes in eating patterns, and overall difficulty in functioning.
Ghosting can create unease and leave situations with loose ends, and those looking for feedback may have appreciated a conversation. But Ivie-Williams also points out that "it takes a level of emotional intelligence and maturity to be ready for those types of conversation, because you have to be ready to potentially hear something about yourself that you didn't know or wasn't something you wanted to hear." So, do a mental check-in with yourself and ask, if the person who ghosted you came back to give you an explanation, would you be ready to hear it?
If you're planning to respond to someone ghosting you , Louis suggests practicing deep breathing techniques and rehearsing what you want to say to in your mind so that you're able to have a clear understanding of "what you want to communicate to the other person."
No matter how you slice it, ghosting should never be the answer to ending a relationship . It signals that you have little respect for the other person and their time. When breaking up with someone , most people deserve the courtesy of having the talk—no matter how uncomfortable it may be.
That said, it's important to remember that while you're at the center of your dating life, you're not responsible for every little thing that goes on within it and you can't take responsibility for everybody's actions toward you. "It may be the time to get more introspection into what's going on in your life and make sure that you have a healthy attachment with yourself and others," suggests Ivie-Williams.
The conclusion of any relationship can come with a grieving period . Everyone holds onto and moves on from rejection differently, but it's important to treat yourself with grace and give yourself time to feel better about the situation.
Amari D. Pollard is a writer and audience development strategist. She is currently a Roy H. Park Fellow at the UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media and previously worked as the Head of Audience Development at The Week . Her writing focuses on politics, culture, relationships, and health, and she has been published at Bustle , PopSugar , Reader's Digest , and more. She has a degree in communications and creative writing from Le Moyne College .
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Here's Why You Got Ghosted After a Great Date—And What to Do About It
Vanishing has become easier than ever–but it's not okay.
It's called ghosting, it happens WAY too often, and it occurs between friends and romantic prospects alike. It's so common it's inspired a 2019 TV reality series called Ghosted: Love Gone Missing , in which two hosts track down a person who's vanished from someone else's life—without so much as a Sex and the City - style " I'm sorry, I can't, don't hate me " Post-It note—to sort out exactly why they did it. That premise is bound to appeal to the thousands of people who are checking their phones this very second, waiting for a message that'll never come.
Here's what an expert has to say about ghosting, why some people do it, and how to deal with the action.
More From Oprah Daily
What counts as ghosting in the dating world?
Ghosting is officially defined as "the act or practice of abruptly cutting off all contact with someone (such as a former romantic partner) by no longer accepting or responding to phone calls, instant messages, etc."
While my most brutal ghosting experience wasn't a date but a childhood friend who dropped me out of nowhere, it runs particularly rampant in the world of online dating . Stan Tatkin, psychotherapist and author of Wired for Love , says that's because apps have created a consequence-free environment—or at least, the illusion of one.
"It used to be when we dated people, we met them at work, or school, somewhere in their neighborhood, friends of friends, and so on. So our behavior would reflect badly on us if we treated somebody poorly, such as just disappearing," he explains. "It's much easier today, because people are more anonymous, and they're getting away with more."
Maggie's personal rule of ghosting involves what she calls a "two-date cutoff." If either party isn't feeling it after two dates, they can slip away without explanation. "After date number three, you’ve invested a not-insignificant amount of time and energy in interacting with this person, so the least you can do is send a quick text, call, or email saying you’re not into it."
But according to Tatkin, it's not about a quantifiable amount of time invested; it's about how their vanishing act made you feel—even if you were strictly exchanging messages for a few weeks. "If it felt to you that the person just disappeared mid-sentence, and you sensed the jarring effects, then yeah, that's ghosting."
What's the psychology behind ghosting?
The reasons people choose to abruptly halt contact—meaning, the rationale they told themselves to justify it—can certainly vary, since no two situations are the same. But as Tatkin explains, many believe these budding relationships are somehow less real in the age of dating apps and text-based communication, and can be treated as such.
Despite Maggie's negative experiences as a ghostee (Ben was just one of several instances), she says the majority of men in her social circle insist it's become a perfectly acceptable practice. "My guy friends maintain that ghosting is a result of us becoming culturally desensitized to meaningful communication while throwing things around in a digital-only environment," she says.
From a psychology standpoint, Tatkin believes there's often a deeper motivation—especially for those who are habitual ghosters—and it has to do with something called an attachment style . Attachment theory is a psychological model that aims to identify the different ways people bond with others, going back to their earliest interactions with parents as a baby. In adult romantic relationships, the theory goes, there are four main attachment styles that affect everything from which partners you choose to why your relationships end: Secure, anxious/ambivalent, dismissive-avoidant, and fearful-avoidant ( read more about each attachment style here ).
Ghosting falls squarely in the realm of "avoidant" behavior, Tatkin says. "People who are dismissive and avoidant are more likely to 'rotate' people," he continues. "Ghosting is another way of basically not having any conflict, right? People who are conflict avoidant would be natural ghosters, because no muss, no fuss—you just disappear. So it's 'good for me, and if it's not good for you, then sorry.'"
The bright side? You might have dodged relationship challenges down the road, had you continued to see each other. "The group of people who are most likely to do this have a hard time with dependency, and with commitment," Tatkin says.
Some people ghost to protect themselves from rejection.
Here's where Tatkin blew my mind: Some people cease communication not because they're commitment-phobic, but because they're scared you'll hurt them. "There are people on the other side of the spectrum who are much more afraid of abandonment and rejection," he says. Those with an anxious or ambivalent attachment style may ghost as a sort of preemptive strike—either out of fear that you'll disappoint them in the future, or because of a perceived slight on your end (regardless of whether you actually did anything wrong).
"If I was really sensitive to abandonment, withdrawal, and punishment, I may try to get even," Tatkin says. "So in doing that, I would ghost you, and that would give me some satisfaction—the idea that I've hurt you in the way that you've hurt me."
Try not to blame yourself if you've been ghosted.
Due to what psychologists call negativity bias —the natural human impulse to dwell on negative events over positive ones—those whose texts and messages go unanswered often wonder what they did to deserve it. "What's particularly cruel about this, is that without knowing why or what happened, the person is now left with their imagination, which is more likely to be negative," Tatkin explains. "They reflect on themselves. 'This person feels aversion towards me. I must be ugly, I must be stupid. It must be something I said."
Tough as it is, the healthiest thing is to avoid self-blame, cultivate the self-love you deserve , and keep it moving.
Confronting them isn't the best option.
Yes, telling them off would be a gutsy, *possibly* gratifying move. Or, it'll reopen the emotional wound, particularly if the ghoster acts cagey about why they did it. "To confront somebody who's ghosted you risks further rejection," Tatkin says. "So it would take a lot of courage to do that, hopefully with the realization that it's not going to turn out well."
Getting even post-ghosting isn't the best idea, either.
Calling them up to tell them off may leave you feeling worse, and spreading the news of their poor behavior might not make you feel better, either. "Some people will make sure this person has a bad reputation, if they can," Tatkin says. But that won't soothe your rejected feeling. "It just sucks, because ghosting is an aggressive, cruel thing to do. There's no other way of looking at it."
Surround yourself with people who care about you, and reconsider your dating strategy.
As with an actual breakup , this too shall pass, and in the meantime, you'll want to spend time with friends who'll build you back up. Trying to meet new people offline , while taking a break from dating sites, can't hurt either. "If I'm going to play on a field that's anonymous, then this is going to happen, because people abuse this whole thing," says Tatkin says. "If you can be just a picture and words on a screen, you can be dispensed with easily."
Know that ghosting in dating is absolutely rude.
Tatkin will say it one more time for the back row: Ghosting is lousy. "It should bother people doing it, and it should bother people when it's done to them."
As painful as it is, Maggie's learned this herself. "It sucks to be on the receiving end, but it gives me clear information on where to direct my energy so I don’t waste any days, she says. "Ghosting is a really great way to tell someone that you don’t respect their time."
*Name has been changed
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Samantha Vincenty is the former senior staff writer at Oprah Daily.
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The Surprising Secret to Connecting with Anyone
From ghosting to ‘backburner’ relationships: the reasons people behave so badly on dating apps
Senior Lecturer in Psychology of Relationships, University of South Wales
Martin Graff does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
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There’s no doubt that online dating and dating apps have transformed the way we initiate, form and end romantic relationships. We might also question whether the convenience of these apps has encouraged us to behave differently than we would in “real life”. More specifically, do mobile dating apps breed bad or antisocial behaviour?
If you use dating apps, you’ve probably been “ghosted” on occasion (where someone withdraws all contact) – or maybe you’ve ghosted somebody yourself. Perhaps you’ve found out that someone you’ve been chatting to on an app was in a relationship. Or if you don’t use these apps, you might have heard horror stories from friends.
Let’s take a look at some of the bad behaviours that we see most commonly – and how psychology can explain them.
One of the main themes is how common it is for people to be using dating apps while in relationships. Data from the US has shown some 42% of people with a Tinder profile were either in a relationship or married.
In a study of American undergraduate students, around two-thirds revealed that they had seen someone on Tinder who they knew to be in a relationship. Further, 17% of participants said they had messaged someone on Tinder while in a committed relationship, with 7% engaging in a sexual relationship with someone they had met on Tinder while in a committed relationship.
Read more: How will dating change after coronavirus? Psychology offers some clues
There’s also evidence that people are using dating apps to keep up what we call “ backburner ” relationships. This is when someone on a dating app maintains contact with another person in the hope of some day pursuing something romantic or sexual.
Surprisingly, the authors of a 2018 study involving 658 undergraduate college students found that the number of backburners reported did not differ significantly between those who were single, casually dating or in a committed relationship. Around 73% of all respondents reported they had at least one backburner.
Online communication, of course, makes keeping in contact much easier. Researchers have suggested that relationship maintenance in a backburner relationship involves positivity (being compassionate to the other person and ensuring that interactions with them are fun and enjoyable), openness (disclosing personal information to them, maybe even sharing secrets) and assurances (demonstrating a wish for the relationship to be sustained over time).
Online dating has also made ghosting much easier. A 2019 study found that respondents had ghosted 29% of the people they had dated, and had been ghosted by 25% of dates themselves. In addition, 74% of respondents said they believed that ghosting was an appropriate way to end a relationship.
Participants in this study reported both instances of sudden ghosting (abruptly ceasing contact) and gradual ghosting (slowing down contact before disappearing altogether). Gradual ghosting increased the degree of uncertainty for the person being ghosted.
Ghosting probably occurs so frequently because of the ease of ending a relationship in this way, particularly if the couple is yet to meet in person. The authors of the same study also highlight that online dating offers an abundance of possible partners, and that people who “ghost” one partner may do so because they have moved on to someone new.
Read more: Falling in love in virtual reality could be a deeper experience than real life
People don’t just use dating apps for seeking a relationship or for sex – many people report using them simply for fun. As such, more genuine users of these apps may be easy targets for trolls, who merely wish to create conflict and cause distress to other online users for their own amusement.
A 2017 study found that dating app trolls scored highly on measures of sadistic behaviour, showing a disregard for the pain or suffering inflicted on other people; and highly on dysfunctional impulsivity, characterised by not following up on promises.
Some general reasons for bad behaviour
The convenience and abundance of choice in online dating perhaps encourages a culture of “disposability” – being able to “trade up” in the dating market and abandon a current partner more easily. Personal mobile devices, equipped with a passcode or face recognition protection, allow for and might even encourage more surreptitious and secretive behaviour.
Online behaviour generally is often characterised by disinhibition – we’re inclined to behave more freely online than we do in a face-to-face context. In part, this is because of the feeling of anonymity we have online.
Finally, the way people use dating apps is very much related to personality characteristics. For instance, people with open (open to experience, adventurous) and less agreeable (less caring and thoughtful towards others) personality styles are more likely to use dating apps in a more casual way.
If bad or dysfunctional behaviour now seems commonplace on dating apps, social media and online generally, the technology which has given rise to this behaviour is here to stay. We may need to adjust our expectations accordingly.
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7 Unspoken Reasons Why People Ghost
Convenience, lack of communication skills, and more..
Posted February 17, 2023 | Reviewed by Davia Sills
- What Is Ghosting?
- Find a therapist near me
- Ghosting is a frustrating experience that can leave the other person feeling confused, hurt, and rejected.
- Some reasons for ghosting are convenience, lack of communication skills, and a desire to protect other person's feelings.
- No matter the reason, ghosting can be a hurtful, and it is important to be open and honest with dating partners whenever possible.
Online dating has become increasingly popular in recent years, and for good reason. With the rise of technology, it’s no surprise that online dating has become an attractive option for many. While it can be a great way to connect with new people, it also has its downsides—one of which is ghosting .
Ghosting can happen in any interpersonal relationship—but in the realm of dating, the term is typically used when someone you have been talking to or dating suddenly stops responding to messages or calls without any explanation. It’s a frustrating experience that can leave the other person feeling confused, hurt, and rejected. It’s especially common in online dating in particular, where people can easily move on to the next potential match without any explanation.
Why Do People Ghost?
Why not engage in a more direct and honest conversation about not wanting to pursue the relationship further? Findings from scientific research offer several answers to this question, suggesting that one or more of the below factors are often at play.
1. Convenience. One of the main reasons why people decide to ghost someone instead of engaging in direct conversation is pure convenience. Ghosting is practical and less confrontational than other strategies.
2. Perceived lack of skills. In a recent study, Thomas and Dubar (2021) revealed that one motivation to avoid confrontation is that ghosters may believe they don’t have the communication skills needed to engage in open and honest conversations about the relationship.
3. No alternative solution. In some cases, people have tried other strategies to end the relationship before deciding to ghost someone. For example, in a study by Timmermans et al. (2021), ghosters revealed that they had ghosted someone because this other person refused to accept their reasons for rejection, and they felt they had no alternative solution.
4. Undesirable behavior by the other person. Timmermans et al. (2021) also found that the question of why people choose to ghost can often be explained by the undesirable behavior of the person being ghosted—including, but not limited to, pushy, racist, or disrespectful actions. They also found that some ghosters became afraid for their own safety, fearing verbal abuse or even stalking if they continued the relationship or tried to end it in a more direct way.
5. Justified by the length and intensity of the relationship. Some ghosters believe that ghosting is justified when they have invested very little time and effort in the relationship, thinking that, in this case, no explanation is needed for breaking off contact (LeFebvre et al., 2019).
6. Protect the feelings of the person being ghosted. While most motivations for ghosting concern the ghoster’s feelings and wishes, some people decide to ghost someone because they want to spare the other person’s feelings and don’t want them to feel hurt and rejected (Thomas & Dubar, 2021).
7. It’s the "new normal." In their study, Timmermans et al. (2021) also found that some people ghost because they believe it has become a default way to end a relationship in online dating. This belief is strengthened by the fact that some key features of dating apps, such as the option to simply delete a match, facilitate ghosting.
These research findings offer some insight into the reasons why people ghost others. But no matter the reason, being ghosted can be a hurtful and confusing experience and may even lead to a lack of trust in future romantic relationships . Except in cases where you fear for your own safety, it's generally best to be open and honest with your dating partners about your feelings and intentions to avoid hurt and confusion. This way, online dating can become a more positive and enjoyable experience for all.
Facebook image: Eak.Temwanich/Shutterstock
LeFebvre, L. E., Allen, M., Rasner, R. D., Garstad, S., Wilms, A., & Parrish, C. (2019). Ghosting in emerging adults’ romantic relationships: The digital dissolution disappearance strategy. Imagination, Cognition and Personality, 39(2), 125–150. https://doi.org/10.1177/0276236618820519
Thomas, J. O., & Dubar, R. T. (2021). Disappearing in the age of hypervisibility: Definition, context, and perceived psychological consequences of social media ghosting. Psychology of Popular Media.
Timmermans, E., Hermans, A. M., & Opree, S. J. (2021). Gone with the wind: Exploring mobile daters’ ghosting experiences. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 38(2), 783-801.
Janneke M. Schokkenbroek is a Ph.D. researcher at Ghent University in Belgium. She studies the role of digital technology in the way we initiate, maintain, and end intimate relationships—and how this may be harmful.
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Ghosting: Why People Do It, and How You Can Avoid It in Online Dating
Hinge’s director of relationship science explains the modern dating phenomenon..
Ghosting, the act of cutting off communication with someone you were romantically involved with, is common in online dating . If you’ve ever been a victim of the phenomenon, here, Hinge ‘s Director of Relationship Science Logan Ury gives us the lowdown on ghosting and how you can potentially avoid it in the future.
“Before the Internet, people would say they would call and then they wouldn’t,” Ury tells HYPEBAE. Now, as we communicate on smartphone apps , it is just as easy to ghost someone you’re no longer interested in because you get to hide behind a screen. In a survey conducted by Hinge, some find it less hurtful to disappear than to reject someone directly, while others simply find it uncomfortable to explain why they don’t want to see that person again. However, the irony of it all is that 85 percent of the users said that they would rather be rejected immediately than be left in the dark.
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