When it comes to the illustrious world of online dating, there are elements of the format that can be heavily admired. There is the incentive of being an armchair love-seeker, never having to leave the comfort of your own home to see if you and Timmy, who's four miles away, both prefer dogs over cats. There is the lure of the infamous buzz of the heart, when we match with doe-eyed Jessica, who like us, has stated in her bio she's looking for something more serious. There is the comfort that comes with knowing book-smart Stephen's message requires no immediate response, and therefore we can articulately plan out what we're going to reply with and avoid stumbling on our words.
Yet even with the instrument of online dating comprising of so many positives, like anything in life, it has its setbacks. Anyone who has ever downloaded apps such as Tinder or Bumble knows all too well the habits of its users. One day, we're talking to a cute guy who seems to be the embodiment of all we love in the world. Next day, he's disappeared off the face of the earth. Has he slipped into a wormhole and ended up in an alternate reality? Has he dropped his phone in the toilet and is frantically placing it in a bowl of rice as we fret? Nope. Chances are he's ghosted you. Ghosting, which is essentially where a person we've been virtually speaking to suddenly starts ignoring our messages without warning, is a fundamental problem of online dating in the twenty-first century.
But why do so many of us vanish without a trace on apps such as Tinder and Bumble? Why do so many of us seem so intrigued by a potential suitor's life one moment and then swiftly cut off all contact? Well, the answer isn't black and white. In fact, I'd say there's a number of reasons ghosting is so prevalent on the virtual dating scene.
Firstly, we have to consider the climate of inertia that is inherently presented through online dating. If you're speaking to somebody primarily through the medium of a screen, this can make your interaction far too casual. Since online dating requires no immediate response, we don't learn to treat it as a serious endeavour. We procrastinate. We schedule times of responses. This can even set a precedent in our brains through which we begin to treat online dating as if it's the same as replying to a work-related email. As a result, online dating swiftly becomes dull, boring, tedious. Granted, we may start speaking to somebody who we get on with fairly well, and we favour them out of all the other people we're speaking to on apps such as Tinder and Bumble. But let us not forget that dating is about chemistry. Sustained chemistry. How long can we sustain chemistry when five hours of lectures come between the times of responses? That sprocket of flirting you had before your seminar on European colonists in the seventeenth century died the second you put your phone in your pocket to walk to the classroom. You can't revisit the conversation later on and expect the flow of flirting to remain intact. Sure, you can try to get a new flow of flirting going, but you'll only be forcing it, sending out the implicit message there isn't much of a natural connection between the two of you.
Yes, you could argue that if two people are right for each other, any means of flirting will naturally occur again. Although, it's worth noting online dating deprives us of the natural, in-person chemistry that is so essential to maintaining interest between ourselves and our potential suitors. Speaking to somebody solely through the medium of screens means we are seeing only a superficial version of that person. We don't get to see the unique glint in their eyes. We don't get to see their quirks and mannerisms. We don't get to feel the warmth of their hand on our thigh telling us this is a person we could learn to trust. They become a character, a non-intricate entity. They become condensed into six selfies; those six selfies the only physical frame of reference for such a person. Even if their dating profile is linked to their Instagram, they're nothing more than a two-dimensional being on a screen. The interaction would have to lead to video calls, or phone calls, to enable a direct access to human connection. Otherwise, the intrigue cannot develop, and the ghosting begins. And given that more and more people are spending their time going to university, volunteering abroad, working longer hours, is it realistic to expect that regular phone and video calls can be given?
The rise of ghosting on the virtual dating scene can also be attributed to the burnout online dating presents us with. I remember the first time I downloaded Tinder. It was such fun, swiping left and right, enjoying my new-found power trip as I swiped right on Danny and left on James. It felt like I had a world of potential lovers at my fingertips. Well, after a few months, I finally found a boyfriend. But then six months later I was back on Tinder, heartbroken and crestfallen, ploughing through another sea of potential partners. The longer I spent back on the app, the more my mental health suffered. There were only so many vapid conversations I could tolerate. A simple, "Hey! How are you?" was becoming my new normal and it was driving me insane. The tides of creepy innuendos were starting to take their toll on me. The incessant cycle of profile after profile after profile was starting to overwhelm me. Eventually, I became so hollowed-out by the app, I didn't have the energy to converse with people anymore. I was tired of repeating the same questions, the same answers, the same conversation-starters. I ended up ghosting people. Good, attractive people. I genuinely think Chris Hemsworth could have matched with me and I would have ghosted him within a matter of days. Yes, Tinder is still very much an ornament on my virtual mantlepiece, but it's like that one ornament in your house where it's broken but has sentimental value, so you just kind of keep it there, nonetheless.
Finally, I would say ghosting primarily occurs in online dating because online dating allows us to cast our net wide and explore a broad range of potential suitors. The saying, "There's plenty more fish in the sea" has never been truer when we apply it to a technological context. If the person we're speaking to says they're not the biggest fan of Lana Del Rey, but we've done nothing but listen to the Born to Die album on repeat for the last five years, we may abandon our interactions with this person and swipe onwards until we find someone who loves her as much as we do. Online dating allows us to be extra critical simply because we can. It's not as if our only chance of meeting someone better than Harry the Architecture student is in an out-of-the-way bar these days, so we can afford to be picky, and ghost if our potential suitor doesn't meet just one of our key preferences. You see, with online dating, we're always searching for the next best thing, because we're routinely coming so close to finding it. We never know when to stop and just pursue one or two particular people online.
So, if you're one of the select few who has found love via online dating, congratulations! You would definitely stand a chance in winning the lottery. Although, if you haven't found love and serial ghosting is something you fall victim to on the virtual dating scene, realise it may not be your fault. There are a number of factors at play here and whilst online dating has its positives, we must remember that chipped chemistry, superficial connection, burnouts and virtual complacency are harder to encounter when we get to know someone in a physical setting.