LeFebvre's observations about the impact of one's appeal matches Wang’s experiences. When Wang first began dating in college as an 18-year-old, he felt he had fewer options. When his first ghosting occurred, he said he felt rejected. Upon sending multiple texts to the man he had been spending romantic time with and receiving no answer, Wang said he felt like he did something wrong or wasn’t good enough. Since his first year, Wang said he lost weight and that he now feels ghosting is just something most people do, including him.
“I didn’t ghost on people because, I guess, it almost felt like my options were more limited versus now, if I don’t feel anything with a guy, I don’t find myself invested enough to try to talk it out,” Wang said. “It’s just like, 'I hope you get the hint,' and I’m just going to move on from there.”
LeFebvre said despite the fact that some say ghosting has existed for a long time as a cease in communication, ghosting is different now because of the constant access people have with others through phones and social media. Even with the negative effects ghosting can have on a person, those who have been ghosted are still likely to ghost others, she said.
“It shouldn’t discount the experience that’s actually taking place,” LeFebvre said. “Some other things we found are that it was pretty painful for most people who experienced it, but funny enough, most people who experienced also did it. They say they don’t like it, yet they’re going to do it even after they had been ghosted. So, it doesn’t necessarily change any sort of sympathy or empathy for their future person and/or partner that they’re going to interact with.”
Junior Justin Do is one of many other students who has come in contact with ghosting, both from dating apps and after a break up with an ex-partner a year ago. Do said ghosting is non-confrontational, but for the victims of ghosting, uncertainty persists.
“For me, the worst part about ghosting is sometimes, it’s just the uncertainty of it and the not knowing necessarily that you’re being ghosted because the action you’re receiving is inaction," Do said. "So, you don’t really know until a certain amount of time passes that’s long enough for you to think that you’ve been ghosted."
There are a few reasons people decide to ghost, including safety concerns and the general sense the relationship is not serious enough to warrant an intense conversation to end contact, LeFebvre said.
“Oftentimes, they just don’t want to have that uncomfortable conversation of ending a relationship or truthfully telling someone the reasons or rationale for not wanting to continue to engage or communicate with that person and they find that this is, lots of times the initiator particularly, they may have even given clues,” LeFebvre said. “‘I’m slowly disengaging from the conversation. Maybe I’m texting you less, meeting you less,’ and sometimes they feel they’ve given those clues enough."
To both LeFebvre and Do, the intersection of technology and online dating seems to allow ghosting to occur more frequently. Do said the prevalence of ghosting also speaks to the increasingly casual dating culture, especially in college.
“I think it’s become prevalent because we live with the connections we have now and how easy it is to meet people," Do said. "I think it’s easier to see people as numbers rather than real people, and so it’s easier to just turn on a switch to avoid them forever than actually talk to them about, ‘Hey, this was cool, but I don’t really want to talk to you anymore.’”
Although gender does not appear to be a factor in likelihood to ghost in LeFebvre’s research, she speculates those who are more averse to conflict and those who are less experienced in dating may be more inclined to ghost.
Wang said for him, he is bad at confrontation and ghosting is a way to avoid being the bringer of bad news.
“I think someone who wouldn’t ghost is probably a lot more emotionally mature,” Wang said. “I think they’re probably more empathetic towards people’s feelings and they are just better at confrontation and just being adults about how they feel. I think people who ghost, including myself, are just very, very scared of confrontation.”