It’s been called the “Irish goodbye” and the “French exit,” but it may be newly coined as a common Provo dating technique. It’s called ghosting, and its original definition refers to leaving a social event or awkward date without any parting words.
The Irish goodbye stems from the joke that a person was too intoxicated to say a proper farewell. Other connections to the Irish involve the Potato Famine and the excursion to America, a sudden departure from home.
Provo ghosters may have taken this term and made it all their own.
Social media, Tinder and other online mediums allow ghosters to disappear fast and without fear. Ending a relationship becomes easier with a screen in the way.
Lindsey Elmont, a senior studying communication disorders, said she has never experienced ghosting personally but her roommates and friends have.
“One second all seems well and they just kind of disappear unexpectedly with no real reason why,” Elmont explained.
BYU sociology professor Kimberlee Holland said this high prevalence of ghosting could be due “in part to the influx of technology.”
Holland said people do this often, whether it’s blocking someone’s texting, unfriending on Facebook or ignoring email messages. “I don’t have to explain why I don’t want to have a relationship with you any longer,” Holland said. “I can just virtually disappear with the click of a button from any social media sites with little to no accountability.”
Some believe BYU students take dating too seriously at the beginning, using complicated techniques to send signals. As social media usage increases, sending a winky-face emoji becomes the equivalent of holding open a car door.
The post-date text has also become a more recent element to dating. Men and women often send hints by texting someone after the date has ended, usually as a “thank-you” for the date.
Drew Starr, a junior from California studying political science, said the post-date text could be either a courtesy text or a hint at wanting to do something again.
“Regardless of what is actually texted, you can usually tell from the date if you’d want to date again or not,” Starr said.
BYU Family Studies professor Jason Carroll spoke to incoming freshmen at BYU’s Foundations of Leadership camp. Carroll taught a class on dating and relationships, and he said many people in the BYU dating culture have the impression that a second or third date means marriage.
Carroll said more people should view dating as having fun and getting to know someone instead of viewing it as a future-spouse interview. He said the “Tinderisation of dating” has changed how we feel about it now.
And the way some people feel about dating moves far from tradition. Ghosting is just one example of this shift.
The earliest Urban Dictionary definition on ghosting appeared in 2006 and centered on friendships alone. A more recent explanation throws relationships into the mix.
Starr said he has never heard the official term “ghosting,” but he knows it does happen. “Guys don’t use that term. Maybe it’s because we ghost more. It’s an easy way to end things,” Starr said.
BYU men may “ghost” more often because they’re the ones being chased, according to Tinder statistics released Aug. 26. The Tinder list is called “Most Swiped-Right Campuses,” and BYU ranks fourth in the “Top 50 Guys” category.
Others are just beginning to learn what this word really means. Buzzfeed has been dropping the “ghosting” term since early 2015. A recent Buzzfeed post showcases parents guessing what “ghosting” really means.
The Huffington Post analyzed this trend further by exploring technology reaching into relationships.
“But in an era of Tinder, OKCupid, JSwipe and Hinge, matchmaking often happens by swiping right and left, making potential daters literally disposable,” reporter Jessica Samakow wrote. “The ease of app and online dating has allowed ghosting to take new form.”
Holland said ghosting is likely another indication of declining commitment in society. “Sociologists have long studied the increase in cohabitating,” she said. “Most sociologists argue that the increase is due to a lack of commitment ‘to the other’ in society.”
She explained that cohabitating couples have somewhat of an open door to stay or leave with no legal sanctions. “I’ve often joked in my classes that ‘hanging out’ is to dating as cohabitating is to marriage. When one “hangs out” there is no financial commitment to the other, no time commitment to the other and no social commitment to the other — I don’t have to hang the whole night with the same person.”
Slate author Seth Stevenson focused on ghosting at parties, which most college kids are already guilty of. But some in the dating world feel more comfortable behind a screen instead of engaging in conversation and traditional dates.
These techniques could be on the forefront of an emerging social stigma, or they could be detrimental to the way people communicate. Some voice frustrations over the CIA-style process to finding someone to date.
Elmont said she thinks technology makes the beginning stages of dating more difficult. “You don’t know how to interpret a person’s texts or response time. You don’t know if you should even text a person or not. It just adds a lot more uncertainty and confusion to the process,” she said.
Others enjoy the challenge of dating, or they don’t find it a challenge at all.
Starr said technology helps in the dating world. “It’s easy and works well for convenience. But dating should not be a convenience, at least in the beginning when you want to get to know someone,” he said.
He suggested being bold, calling people and establishing a real connection at first. “At least start on speaking terms,” he said.
Hanging out is a social pattern, Holland said, that requires little commitment to another person. “I can ghost … and I believe ghosting is an even further movement in this completely noncommittal direction of relationships, as sad as that is,” Holland said.
One woman created a standard text to send when someone feels the relationship isn’t going anywhere. In a Connections.Mic article, this woman strongly preferred this technique over ghosting.
Her text reads, “Hey, I had a really good time at [whatever date we went on], but I don’t see this going anywhere romantic. So I don’t think it would be right to go on another date.”
Perhaps this solution will give college students who hide behind their screens another chance at communicating instead of ghosting.