I thought, wow dude, no that's not ghosting. We've never met. We were just chatting online. My feeling is anyone where you've only chatted online, well, you have no idea who they really are. You've never met and they could be a dog, as in literally a profile made for someone's pet dog.
Level 0 : The Cold Breeze
What I just described. You chat with someone online a bit and then they disappear and don't reply. It's level 0 cause yeah it's a bit lame, but life gets busy, maybe they changed their mind and aren't sure how to explain why, maybe they're concerned you'll get mad and mean if they turn you down, etc. The critical bit here is you haven't met. You don't know each other. You've just chatted online, so dropping contact is lame, but a pretty minor thing in the grand scheme of things.
This is modified somewhat by how long you've talked online and what you said. E.g. talking for months and saying "I love you" is a lot more significant than just chatting lightly with someone. But, and this is a a big BUT, you should meet people fairly soon after chatting online if you want to get closer. Meeting in-person is really important to find out if you actually get along, if you're actually attracted to each other, etc. So it's best to do this early! Scientists and experts recommend meeting face-to-face within 1-3 weeks (7-21 days) of beginning to chat online.
Level 1 : Slightly Spooky
You chat with someone online, exchange info to make plans to meet, then they disappear. What? You've chatted enough to reach the point where you've both decided to meet in person. You've often exchanged some personal info at this point, like name, pics, phone number. You may have discussed a day and a place to meet. Then they disappear and don't reply. This is rude IMO. I think you should at least write something short saying you changed your mind, wish you the best, etc. It's quick, painless and you don't leave the other person wondering if you're some creepy stalker collecting photos and info.
You made plans to meet! The date and time and place are all set and you've both confirmed, then the actual date/time happens and they don't show up. I think this qualifies as some minor poltergeist activity. You've just inconvenienced someone and wasted their time. They bothered to show up for your dumb ass that is NOT there. Again, WTF? It's simple enough to send a message, at least 1 hour beforehand, saying sorry can't make it, changed mind, whatever and let the person know so they don't waste their time. Lots of people spend time getting ready, make-up, hair, choosing an outfit, etc. They put some effort into it. So if you don't plan to show, just let them know! Then they can do something more useful with their time.
Level 3 : Look, it's a Ghost!
You've actually met. You've become friends with the person. You've talked about becoming closer, whatever that is for you (relationship, sex, etc.). You've both expressed mutual interest and since you've met in real life, you know there's some substance to that. Then they disappear and don't reply...
Ok, this is a real ghost IMO. You've actually established some kind of relationship with the person. You've met IRL, probably more than once, you've probably known each other for weeks or months. You've talked enough to get into detail about what you want.
Again, if you've changed your mind or something came up, just talk to the person, preferably in real life. This is someone you actually met and established some kind of relationship with, some kind of emotional connection. So just talk to them. Yes, it does take a bit of effort. It's not as quick and painless as ending things early before you've met IRL. Still they deserve to know what happened. Much better than leaving them to wonder if your phone is broken or what?
This is the worst level of ghosting. The one that hurts you both the most. This is someone who were actually involved in a relationship with, not just thinking about it or talking about it. Someone where you actually spent lots of time together, had sex, exchanged "I love you"s and all of that. Someone you've been involved with for months, maybe years. Someone you were close to and on good terms with, then they suddenly disappear and don't reply. Sometimes they may send a short text/email breakup first, other times nothing. Sometimes you may have a conversation IRL that gives a hint about what's coming, then they disappear.
I'm not talking about relationships where you clearly end things; where you talk things over, resolve things, and decide to go your separate ways and never talk to each other again. That's actual resolution! If you resolve things clearly, you can both move on and feel good, or at least ok, about that. And if you're clear about not wanting to maintain contact, then that sets a clear expectation that you won't talk, you won't try to remain friends...
Ghosting is far more nebulous ending. Where conversations are half-broken because you send a text and they don't reply. Then maybe they send something weeks or months later that doesn't really reply to what you wrote. Usually there's a lot of confusion about what went wrong, what happened, how people feel, cause you haven't had an open, honest conversation about those things.
I've had several experiences where we specifically agreed NOT to ghost on each other and talked about wanting to remain friends, only to have the person ghost on me anyway... :(
And it's often unclear if the person is going to stay a ghost or not. This is an unresolved relationship. So it's something you're both likely to think about later and you may reach out to each other again to resolve things, apologize, reconnect, maybe try to be friends...
Or the ghost may disappear completely, leaving the other person wondering what the hell happened, what went wrong, did I say something wrong, did I do something wrong... Or wondering if you fell off a cliff or have amnesia...
True story! I really did have someone drop out of contact with me for over 6 months and ignore my calls, only to find out later they were hit by a truck and had amnesia.
I know this level is the *most* challenging to face and resolve. Still it's important for BOTH of you.
Here are two links I want to share on this topic:
- The first is a great post explaining how ghosting sucks for everyone involved.
- The second is a short guide to how to end relationships in a reasonable way.
I've heard this is the season for break-ups, so if you plan to break-up with someone, please be kind and actually talk to them and resolve things.