You swipe, you message, perhaps you meet, and then — as if by magic — you never hear from them again. I am, of course, talking about ghosting, the modern day dumping technique that sucks, even at the very best of times.
Ghosting during a pandemic is even more troubling, however. Not hearing from someone you care about has a new meaning right now. It’s not something you can brush under the carpet and chalk up to poor dating etiquette. That silence could mean that a person is very unwell.
I spoke to people who’ve experienced ghosting during the coronavirus pandemic. Here are their stories.
Not hearing from someone you care about has a new meaning now.
About a month and a half ago, Cara, who prefers not to disclose her real name, met a guy on Bumble. Their first date went well, and they ended up going back to her place. They had sex and hung out until the following afternoon, spending the day watching TV and having a laugh together. At that point, Cara’s date seemed keen and invested. But over the next few days, things began to change.
Several attempts to arrange a get-together resulted in Cara’s date asking her to skip going out and come straight over to his place. Then, the week Boris Johnson announced the UK would be going into lockdown, Cara’s date fell silent. She texted him asking him how he was, but her message went unanswered.
A week later, Cara found out she was pregnant. She deliberated as to whether or not she should say anything to the man who was ghosting her. But in the end she decided to let him know. In her message, she referenced his ghosting of her as a reason for her hesitating in getting back in touch. The exchange that followed, however, only proved more infuriating for Cara. She does not intend to continue with the pregnancy. Anger is the dominant feeling Cara has right now, but she is otherwise doing OK.
Cara isn’t alone in her experience of being ghosted. Nor is she alone in feeling confused and upset about what happened. Take Lewis, who matched with someone through Tinder and met up with her a few times. They both have kids and live about 40 miles apart, but they tried to get together as much as they could. Lewis and his match would talk every day and got on really well. “Couple days ago she went kinda quiet but just assumed she had stuff going on. Went to message a friend and seen her WhatsApp picture was gone and when I messaged to see if everything was alright it didn’t send. It was just one tick,” he said.
“I really just would like an answer as to why. I’m a grown man, rejection isn’t anything new…”
On WhatsApp, if a sender has blocked you, you’ll only see one tick, rather than two, when you’ve sent them a message. Lewis tried to text her but got nothing.
“I reckon now more than ever isn’t the best time to be playing with people’s heads,” he said, referring to the pandemic. He now feels confused and a little sad. “Not sure how you can get on with someone like that then just vanish on someone but each to their own … I’ll just chalk it up to online dating and keep soldiering on,” he said.
“I really just would like an answer as to why. I’m a grown man, rejection isn’t anything new but it’s the not knowing if I did something or what went wrong that hurts the most if that makes sense,” he added.
The idea that this distressing point in history is perhaps not an opportune moment to be playing with people’s emotions is shared by other daters who’ve experienced ghosting during lockdown.
When Charlotte, who prefers to use her first name only, met a guy on Hinge, she figured she’d take things slow and enjoy the chat, with no urgency to meet up. “He was super keen and suggested a video call last weekend so we swapped numbers. I went to arrange the time and he just never got back, hasn’t even read the message on WhatsApp,” she explained. “I never get people who give you such a positive vibe and then just go completely dark. So off to me. But I think now people just seen you as an interface rather than a person.”
Charlotte describes herself as “quite thick skinned” and usually does a good job of separating the act of ghosting from anything personal. “But it is hard as this whole situation is incredibly difficult on the whole and even attempting to keep up the dating game is A LOT, so people should be kinder,” she said.
Kimberly, who prefers to use her first name only, got so concerned about her date’s health, she showed up at his flat after not hearing from him for five days. She started seeing a guy in the first few days of March, before coronavirus had been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation. “I dated him for approximately three weeks, and as the situation got more dire we started spending time together almost every day,” she said. “Social distancing hadn’t been called into effect yet where I am.” The pair went on a total of eight dates, the last few were all very close together. “I was extremely enamored by him and he seemed rather serious about me,” she said.
One morning, Kimberly’s match went quiet. She’d stayed at his the night before, and said there’d been no red flags in his behaviour. After a while, Kimberly started to worry. She knew her date had experienced health issues prior to meeting her, and she wondered if something was up. “I didn’t think I was being ghosted when I stopped hearing from him, I thought something serious might have happened to his health,” she told me.
Now is not the time to be causing uncertainty and upset for others.
After “five days of no sign of life” Kimberly decided to go to his home to check on him — and it went very poorly, to say the least. “When I went to his apartment, it wasn’t to resolve any feelings, I predominantly just wanted to make sure he was alive,” she said. It didn’t go well, however.
“He waved me away from his apartment, and sent me a text later that night from a burner phone saying I’d made him feel unsafe by going to his apartment, and if I ever tried to do that again he’d call the police and press charges,” she said.
Kimberly said she was pretty heartbroken and disappointed with the way he reacted because she cared for and wanted to be with him. “But I’m also relieved he cut it off before the pandemic got this serious. My friends all say I dodged a bullet. It happened so quickly that it feels like it wasn’t real,” she said. “I do still think about him, and find myself wondering if he’ll reach out once this is all over to make things right, but for the moment I’m mostly concerned with keeping myself safe and busy during quarantine.” She wonders if he regrets his behaviour now he’s had plenty of time to ruminate.
Dating during a time of coronavirus comes with its challenges. But it’s worth noting that some people are having positive experiences, and finding novel and innovative ways to adapt to dating from a distance. Dating apps are introducing video chats so you can date from home while social distancing.
Now is not the time to be causing uncertainty and upset for others. In a pandemic, silence from someone you care about is significant, even if it’s early days. It’s no longer far-fetched to be concerned about someone’s health if you haven’t heard from them. And being left to fill in the blanks about their wellbeing can be hugely stressful.
These are dark and lonely times for all of us. The least you can do is be compassionate and honest to others.