So, you’ve been ghosted. Once. Twice. Three times. Going on seven times. The weight of rejection sits heavy on your consciousness. At first, you think it’s because they didn’t get your message. So, you resend your text asking how their day has been going. You get nothing back. You send another one three days later, a simple “hey” with a smile emoticon. Silence. It rends your insides, makes you ask the questions you really wish you didn’t have to ask: is there something wrong with me?
Of course, there’s nothing wrong, you say, but, despite all the love and esteem you afford yourself, the thought festers in the shade of your discontent. If only you could alter, just in the slightest, your personality, your appearance, your standards—shape yourself into the thing to which everyone around you gravitates.
You realize, too, that such an aspiration is hopelessly narcissistic, and you beat yourself up forever being so self-indulgent. Someone with whom you share hardly any connection leaves you flapping in the wind—so what? You should be enough for yourself. You are enough for yourself. Yet the possibility that you may not be pokes, prods, pierces you like a bramble.
The contours of love and romance in the digital age are a challenge to pin down; the impersonality of online communication has granted people protection from the consequences of their actions. Cutting someone clear off has never been easier—a profile picture doesn’t have any feelings, right? If suddenly, you find your interest waning, you can surely exit wordlessly out the back door, leaving the person who has chosen to devote a portion of their energies to you spurned and at a loss, no harm done?
Ghosting is a cowardly move, a way for those who want nothing more than to shirk their commitments to decency to do so. For those at the receiving end, ghosting can blow your self-esteem to ash, and for those who run out of fingers counting how many times they’ve been left on “read,” it may seem as if there’s no way out of the romantic purgatory to which they’ve been condemned. How is one supposed to recover a modicum of the dignity they’ve lost?
For starters, recognize that there is nothing wrong with you—the one with the real problem is your ghoster. People who ghost without good reason are cowards, plain and simple, too afraid to utter those sad, but ultimately helpful, words “sorry, I’m just not interested.” However, at the end of the day, a ghost’s pusillanimity is their own and is nothing of your doing. There’s no use in trying to figure out what you could have done differently because there’s nothing you really could have done to prevent it, as devoid of hope as that sounds.
Realizing that a ghost’s behavior is out of your hands, though, is incredibly important: you don’t want to veer into the unseemly territory the question “is there something wrong with me?” occupies, for that is where your self-esteem goes to perish. Besides, if you’ve put yourself out there, been kind and generous in your interactions, and done the best you could to maintain a conversation, you’ve already done so much right.
Nevertheless, it might be beneficial if you do a little soul-searching. Not, of course, to find out what’s wrong with you, but to instead see if you need to manage your expectations, get a better understanding of what exactly you’re looking for, or puzzle out how to bolster your faith in your character.
After some soul-searching, maybe you’ll find that changing your approach to interacting with people online might be useful or perhaps you’ll discover that what you want more than anything else is a sense of closure, so mustering up the courage to reach out to your ghosts and let them know how they’ve hurt you may do wonders for you. Try not to spend too much time in your head, though (again, you don’t want to be entertaining unhealthy thoughts), but if you think you can find any sort of consolation from within, go for it.
Once you’ve completed a bit of introspection, do what you need to fill yourself back up. Read a book, go for a run, watch a movie, knit, crochet, paint, sculpt—dive into your hobbies and passions. Your worth as a person (and, one day, romantic partner) derives from what brings you joy, not from what brings you down. No one wins when you trudge through the romantic world online bitter and empty, so take the time to regroup. You don’t want to miss an opportunity to connect with someone you’d really like because you’re too tired and upset, so build yourself back up so you know that the version of yourself you’re broadcasting to the world is a version of you that is whole.
That being said, the best course of action may very well be getting off dating apps for a while. People conduct themselves very differently online than they do in world offline and you don’t want to let online dating mar your perceptions of real-world interactions. Despite what companies claim, online dating (and social media, too, for that matter) is terribly superficial and often lacks any kind of serious emotional inflection.
The sexist and misogynist harassment women suffer on Tinder is a well-documented phenomenon, as is the racism and general awfulness trans and queer folk, people of color, people with disabilities and people whose body types don’t fit strict standards of beauty experience on dating apps. Sometimes, the smart thing to do is to cut yourself off from the negativity of online dating and just enjoy some peace and quiet for a bit. Take this time to meet people out in the real world—the connections you make there tend to be stronger than the ones you make in the realm of ones and zeroes.
Finally, remember this period in your life once you’re in a relationship. Call me a wishful thinker, a sap, if you will, but I firmly believe that everyone who wants love will find it one day or another. You might be getting ghosted on what seems like a daily basis now, but, as nineteenth-century Lebanese poet and father of the inspirational fiction movement writes, “the deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.”
Whether you like it or not, you will come out the other end a stronger and, hopefully, a more caring person. You know what it feels like to be treated with utter disrespect—when you finally find that special someone, you’ll know how to treat them with the dignity and honor you deserved when you were out there searching for love. It’s a lesson many must learn through trial and error, engaging in relationship after failed relationship. Of course, no one can expect a lifetime without pain, and you will experience heartbreaks much greater than ghosting in the future, but, at the very least, you’ll know your worth and acknowledge that you are not defined by your misery.