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Ghosting: When to do it and when to text back

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Let’s talk about ghosts. One of the most infuriating things in dating these days is when the person you’re seeing just disappears. One minute you’re texting or hanging out, then poof, they’re gone.

According to a YouGov/Huffington Post poll last year, just over 10 percent of Americans have “ghosted” on someone they were dating. It was more common among 18- to 29-year-olds (16 percent) and 30- to 44-year-olds (12 percent) than for folks 45 and older. Independents seem most likely to ghost: Twelve percent had ghosted on a partner, compared with 9 percent of Democratic and Republican respondents in the survey.

In Sherry Turkle’s new book about how technology is affecting our conversations, she writes about why ghosting is so tough to handle. “It is a way of driving someone crazy. … “You don’t exist,'” Turkle quotes an 18-year-old as saying. 

Turkle describes ghosting as being “like a conversation with someone who simply looks away because they don’t understand that human beings need to be responded to when they speak. Online, we give ourselves permission to behave this way although we know that this kind of behavior will lead to hurt.”

Is it ever okay to end a relationship — or potential relationship — by not responding? If your safety is in danger because your partner is abusive or dangerous, then by all means — get out as fast as you can. If ghosting is the safest way to do it, go ahead.

Or if you’ve been talking to someone online but haven’t met up yet, you can ghost in good conscience. You haven’t formed enough of a bond to be obligated to explain yourself. This happens on dating apps all the time.

What about once you’ve met? If you’ve been out once and twice and neither person gets in touch afterward, that’s not ghosting — that’s just two people reading the situation accurately.

But if you’ve had some sort of contact in real life and one person follows up to hang out again, then text back. Write that you’re not interested, too busy, seeing someone else — whatever feels most accurate. I promise it’s not that hard; it even gets easier with practice.


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