IMG_2271I went on my first date when I was a freshman in college. In typical millennial fashion it was a Tinder date and to say that he was hot would be a gross understatement. He looked like an Abercrombie model. He was tall, tan, and muscular and had this cocky charm that danced between endearing and obnoxious. The date itself was so perfect it felt like it had been ripped from a romantic comedy starring Sandra Bullock. We went to this trendy Mexican restaurant with hipster waiters adorned in flannels and facial hair before walking to The High Line, the most cliché of all NYC date spots. We held hands and walked under the stars and when he leaned in to kiss me, a Japanese tour group came by and blinded us with camera flashes. It might as well have been scripted. We both seemed to like each other and conversation flowed smoothly throughout the evening so we agreed to go out again.

We talked and went on more dates in the coming weeks and things seemed to be going well. But about eight weeks in he let it slip that he had never been in a relationship before and wasn’t sure what he wanted. I became a little concerned but didn’t think anything of it as the dates were still going well. The next day I hadn’t heard from him so I reached out with a simple “Hey what’s up?” No response. I kept reaching out over the next couple of days with texts and phone calls but each to no avail. I had been ghosted.

Ghosting is when someone fades away from a romantic relationship without ever officially ending it. The ghost stops responding to texts or phone calls and will block their “ghostee” from all social media. And these ghosts are nothing like paranormal spirits. They don’t want to stick around and resolve any unfinished business or haunt you from beyond the grave. These ghosts want to move on to the other side fast and more people are falling victim to these apparitions. Researchers expect this trend to grow as more people turn to online dating.

Around 11 percent of Americans have ghosted someone according to a study by You Gov and The Huffington Post in 2014. And in a recent survey conducted by Elle Magazine, they found that about 16.7% of men and 24.2% of women had been ghosts at some point. Patrick King, an Amazon best-selling dating and relationships author, believes these numbers are probably very low estimations. “Ghosting is a natural inclination to avoid confrontation. Despite everyone saying they would never do it, everyone does,” King said.

King believes that while ghosting has always been around, dating apps have given people more options than ever which can make it is easier to ghost someone. “Everyone is always searching for the next big thing. There is a presumption now of ‘no commitment’ in dating, and thus no need to end something that never quite was,” King said.

One of these ghosts is Kelsey G, a 22-year-old college student, who says that she ghosts people all the time. “I hate confrontation and I guess I think it will hurt them less if I just stop talking to them instead of having some weird conversation,” Kelsey said.

For people like Kelsey, ghosting comes from a strong desire to avoid hurting the other person and often comes from not knowing what to say. “Most times I feel like I don’t have a valid enough reason. I just don’t want things to get serious and it’s nothing they specifically did so I feel guilty,” Kelsey said.

While the ghost gets to vanish from the relationship, the “ghostee” is left totally unaware of what happened. Love notes, cute stuffed animals won at carnivals, and other remnants of this past relationship are all still there but that person is gone without a trace. For all I know my Tinder guy from freshman year might be an actual ghost, dead in some freak accident.

Andrew Nietes, a senior at NYU studying sociology, said it is the uncertainty that makes ghosting so harmful. “It doesn’t allow that person any closure. If you ghost you’re basically just leaving them on the hook and they don’t know what to do,” Nietes said.

Not knowing why it happened is the worst part of ghosting for many. Daniel Gittler, a 20-year-old college student from New Jersey, still wonders why several ghosts have disappeared. “Breaking up with someone is hard and awkward but ghosting someone is a lot worse,” Gittler said. “Even if you just send them a text I think anything is better than flat out disappearing. Have some decency and talk to the other person.”