In the world of online dating, it's not uncommon for a conversation to progress to exchanging phone numbers or talking for hours or even scheduling a date, only to have the other person inexplicably disappear.
It can leave you feeling frustrated, even disrespected. You try not to take it personally. After all, the opposite of love is not hate but indifference. Sometimes, indifference can sting, like when offering to trade face pics, instead of reciprocation, you get blocked.
Or when someone demands a cock shot. When I politely explain I don't take those (call me old-fashioned), the conversation abruptly ends, and with it, any chance of meeting.
When did it become mandatory to preview every pubic hair before connecting with another person? I asked the last guy who did this why an X-rated pic was a prerequisite. He explained, "I've been burned before." I wasn't sure if that meant he caught an STD, encountered a penis limp from leprosy, or just was wholly disappointed by someone's anatomy, but I couldn't imagine that when he met a guy at a bar he demanded a sneak peek before taking him home.
Perhaps the sheer volume of people online has made it easier to abandon someone once it's clear all their boxes won't be checked. This behavior, while not ideal, predominates the digital world. It's part of playing the game, whose rules have taken a considerable dive in decorum.
The problem of the broken transmission has now reached pandemic proportions. It has successfully made the leap into the physical world, and it's no longer the result of an awkward coffee date or drunken mistake.
The last two guys I met at social events pulled the same stunt. Online avoidance is one thing, but when a guy strikes up a conversation in a bar and gives you his number only to disappear after texting, it's simply rude.
If you've actively dated in the last 10 years, you've likely felt the sting of ghosting -- when someone ends a friendship or a relationship by cutting off all forms of communication, without so much as an explanation, a reason, or a sayonara emoji.
Ghosting is the ultimate silent treatment, and it can even occur after several months or years of dating. It had me wondering how often ghosting occurs when meeting in person versus meeting online. So I crunched some numbers. I went through all the phone numbers I received in my first 18 months in Los Angeles and divided them into two categories: met in person and met online.
Out of the 16 individuals I met in person and had a romantic interest in, I met only eight for dinner, drinks, or coffee. The rest ghosted me. Out of 93 phone numbers I received from chatting with individuals online, I met 45 for coffee, drinks, or frozen yogurt. I was ghosted by 35. And I admit to ghosting three.
Next I broke down the online sites to see which had the highest ghosting rate. The following is the percentage of ghosting out of total cell numbers received:
Adam4Adam: 50 percent
Scruff: 50 percent
Jack'd: 33 percent
Grindr: 25 percent
OKCupid: 25 percent
Tinder: 20 percent
In person: 50 percent
That's right -- for me, the likelihood of being ghosted is greater when meeting in a bar than when meeting on Grindr.
Ghosting is essentially avoidance that stems from fear of confrontation. When the ghost avoids the formality of a breakup, he may spare himself discomfort, but it is magnified for the ghosted, who never achieve a sense of closure. They are left to obsess over their insecurities, second-guess their behavior, and misattribute what went wrong.
Just as people with avoidant personality disorder avoid activities that involve criticism, disapproval, or rejection, ghosts withdraw to protect themselves. It is the coward's way out. And the price we pay is empathy.
According to psychologist and science journalist Daniel Goleman, emotional intelligence can matter more than IQ in the measure of one's abilities and success. EQ is characterized by empathy, impulse control, and social competence in our interpersonal interactions. It's about managing our feelings and communicating effectively. These are qualities we, as a species, should be getting better at, not worse.
But in the world of romantic relationships, the silent treatment is the new Dear John, without the effort or common decency of penning a letter. In an age when so much communication is impersonal (texts, emails, Facebook), these digital tools facilitate and reinforce the inconsiderate behavior. It's a lot easier to ignore a phone message or a tweet than it is a human being. This is painfully clear on social media, where the ghost continues communicating with everyone else in cyberspace, avoiding the ghosted much like we ignore the homeless on our streets. There's a bitter irony that as gays we demand a level of respect from the straight world, but we often don't give each other that same respect.
SAMUEL C. SPITALE is a Los Angeles-based writer and founder of ItGetsWorseBlog.com. Follow him on Twitter @ItGetsWorseBlog.