The disappearing act is rife in the world of dating, but now there’s a new iteration on the rise: soft ghosting. Here’s how to identity the behaviour, and what to do if you find yourself on the receiving end.
You know the drill: someone you’ve been romantically involved with, or at least chatting to, suddenly backs off, slows down communication and replaces the buzz of their consistent replies to your messages with, well, silence. But, instead of completely cutting off all communication (aka ghosting you), they drop crumbs every now and then to keep you hanging.
Before online dating was a thing, our parents called this being strung along. In the digital age we call it soft ghosting, and you’ll probably recognise the signs. And considering our only option for dating is in the virtual world right now, it isn’t slowing down anytime soon.
Soft ghosting refers to someone ‘liking’ your last message or latest comment on their post on platforms like Facebook and Instagram where it’s possible to react to an interaction, but not actually replying and continuing the conversation. So, although they’re not ignoring you, they’re also offering no genuine response.
We spoke to Louise Troen, VP of International Media and Communications at Bumble (the female first dating app) to get her opinion on soft ghosting and how to deal with it.
Troen says that the real problem with soft ghosting is how unclear the signals being sent are. “Since your match has replied in some respect, it can be unclear if they are trying to end the conversation,” she says. “It also puts the person who sent the last ‘official’ message in a strange position, do you leave it? Do you double message?”
First of all, she says, don’t jump to conclusions and give the other person some time to respond. “Although technology has given us the ability to communicate all the time, it does not mean we are available all the time. Bumble has a ‘Snooze’ feature which allows users to update who they are speaking to that they are taking a time out from social networking because we know how important it is to prioritise yourself every now and then,” Troen explains.
If enough time has passed that you feel you want to reach out again, Troen says you shouldn’t feel awkward to do so, because “there are no rules about how long to wait before double messaging.”
Another thing to bear in mind is any cultural differences or ‘lost in translation’ scenarios. Troen knows from people all over the world using Bumble and its popularity in international cities like London that “cultural communication differences or generational nuances may play into how people respond.” She reminds us: “It’s crucial to not assume anything in the initial instance.”
If you’re confident that you want to try and restart conversation, and you don’t have any current plans to meet up, Troen suggests making this your focus and attempting to organise a date. If they don’t respond, then you know they’re simply not ready for your fabulousness.
“If you’ve not set plans to meet up, this doesn’t automatically mean they’ve ghosted you. Some people do need a more clear call to action so ignoring the liked messages and diverting to a meeting to assesses their seriousness is a good move. Suggest a time and place and judge the reaction from there. If there is no response – it’s likely a soft ghost and you can move on knowing it would have been a waste of time anyway,” she adds.
Another thing to bear in mind, though, is that no matter what they’re thinking, your needs are the most important. So if this level of engagement is unsatisfying to you, don’t be afraid to ditch it and move onto something else. Your time is bloody precious!
Essentially Troen’s advice is for dealing with this kind of situation is “don’t torture yourself by replaying the situation over and over again and remember it was probably a ‘them and not you’ situation.”
In fact, we’d be tempted to not even let it get to this point, because if this potential date doesn’t know a good thing when they see it, are they even worth the date? Personally, we prefer the attitude of this former NASA intern, who shut her dating app match down when he suggested that she wouldn’t be smart enough to work for the space station. Now, that’s how to play the dating game right.
Please be aware that this article was originally written in April 2020.