What does it mean to be looking for a connection in a world where it’s so easy to delete emotions, and people, from your life?
Do you think the concept of being ghosted existed before the internet? The act of cutting – or, more accurately, blocking – a person out of your life so utterly that there is no way to contact them unless you have the gall to hunt them down and talk to them face-to-face? Could you see long-distance lovers in the 1940s being ghosted by their significant other by just having their letters shredded, burnt and never replied to? Or if a knight vowed to rescue a damsel in distress from some far-away tower and he just…never turned up?
It’s had to equate the act of ghosting existing in anywhere but our digital generation, simply because as our lives have become more and more digitised and our interactions (and emotions) more open via social media, the more it seems our empathy and understanding of other people has shifted. We see a message from someone who needs a quick answer and we leave them on read, we see someone we don’t find attractive and we swipe left, we come to realise that we’d rather not spend time with that one person anymore and so we just block their number, their Facebook, their Snapchat, their Twitter, Instagram…until every scrap of our connection has been erased.
This sounds like an intense experience, but the worst about it is that it happens and you don’t even realise what you’re doing. We live so much of our lives – and amplify our emotions – through our screens that when we make decisions to cut off or end relationships, it somehow seems removed from our real lives. Like it doesn’t matter and like our actions, whether warranted or not, have no consequences.
Over the past year, two of my encounters – I would hesitate to even use a world approaching relationship at the risk of sounding like a complete and utter idiot – have been ending by what we’ve come to realise is ghosting. It was a shit thing to go through, yes, but the experience is only amplified when I repeated myself the actions of what had happened to me a few weeks later.
I made the same excuses – ‘it just wasn’t going anywhere,’ ‘there was no spark,’ ‘I wasn’t into it as much as he was’ – that I’m sure were used by those who have ghosted me in an effort to ratify their actions against me. And do you know what? I could never, would never, do that to someone’s face. I couldn’t look someone in the eyes and tell him he wasn’t good enough just because he caught on an off day, or it just wasn’t the right time for me, or whatever. it’s so much easier to ghost someone because you feel like all the emotions surrounding your actions have been somehow magically removed. You have the agency of your actions removed, or at least you think you do. You know it will be easy, because you’ll never see that person again.
Until, of course, you do. And it hits you. If you are the ghoster or the ghosted – and, trust me, I have been both – the feelings are pretty much always the same. Mostly that you can’t look him in the eye, you pretend to be gazing at something in the distance but, really, you’re looking at him. To see if he’s reacting to you too. To see if he’s showing signs of regret. Or if he seems upset. Or if he’s just as happy to ignore you in real life as you were to ignore his constant WhatsApps asking if you were alright.
The biggest side-effect of ghosting, however, is how much it makes you second guess everything. Especially if there were the remnants or the little blossoming seeds of, emotions there to begin with. You begin to think that maybe one day, far from now, when your actions will be forgotten and your triple texts a mere glimmer in the distance that a stray message will pop up on your screen. Hey. How are you? It’s been a while. Because I think if, and when, you ghost, you’re admitting to yourself that there are feelings you don’t want to address; be they negative or positive. So they’re filed away, never to be looked at.
The dichotomy between love and lust – especially, I seem to find, in gay culture – has not become further apart, the lines have just blurred. People just want to fuck, all the time. Sometimes they want to fuck without knowing those little interesting tidbits about you and sometime they’ll want to fuck without even knowing your name. Or they want to get to know you, they really do, but they also want to fuck because they think that a physical connection is the best type of connection.
Why? Because you are physically and emotionally present, not just hiding behind a screen. They, or you, hope that this fuck isn’t just a fuck – it’s the start of something more. You’ll exchange numbers, details, maybe even follow each other on Twitter, and it’ll go on and on. Communication through a screen because who has the time to see each other constantly? And even though you might get hung up if they don’t reply for two hours – even though they were clearly online and liked someone else’s post on Instagram – and even though they may send you amusing little Snapchats that you always open but never reply to, that you’ll find that physical – ‘real’ – connection in real life once more.
But feelings, just like people, are fickle. Sometimes they can last for a while – for ages, long since conversation has stopped and you still think of them, of what could have been, in some wistful late-night moment – but they can burn out just as quickly. And who knows why? Maybe it happens for a reason, your heart trying to tell you, no matter how much you want to believe it, that they’re really not the one for you. Or maybe it’s because we are the generation of instant gratification – our food, our television, our sex – and we get bored very easily. Too easily. And the person you couldn’t wait to talk to suddenly becomes the person you dread hearing from. And to spare their feelings, you just…stop. Because who can blame you, really? Everyone’s done it, no harm intended. Right?
If you were expecting some grandiose statement about how, even though I’ve been ghosted in the past, I’ve managed to move on and eventually find love, you’ll be sorely disappointed. Because I haven’t, at this point, I don’t expect to. But ghosting, if anything, shows us that maybe we do still believe in love. Or at least our own twisted concept of it. I’m blocking you because I know, deep down, that there’s someone better out there for us both, so let’s stop wasting both our time and go find them.