What is Ghosting and How Not to Do It

Woman on beach wearing a tank top, holding her phone and looking into the distance.

By Dina Cheney 

At Bumble, we’re committed to creating a world where relationships are healthy and equitable, and there’s no place for ghosting in that. But unfortunately, this unsettling behavior is something many of us have experienced, or have even done ourselves.

So, what actually is ghosting? Why do people do it? And how can you avoid it? We’ve spoken to experts to get to the bottom of this once and for all. Read on for more ghosting insights and learn what you can do to help make the Bumble community a safer place to date. 

What does ghosting look like?

If you’ve been lucky enough to avoid it in your life so far, ghosting is when someone ceases all communication with you and doesn’t give any explanation. It’s almost as if they disappear off the face of the earth.

As with any dating experience, there are some nuances to ghosting: “The key point is that there was some contact to begin with,” says media psychologist Dr. Pamela B. Rutledge. “Not answering a first message isn’t ghosting.” Additionally, a slow fade of communication may not constitute ghosting. Instead, this could be a form of breadcrumbing, or leading someone on without an intention to pursue a serious relationship.

Why do people ghost?

When you’ve been the victim of ghosting, it’s natural to assume you’ve done something wrong. But in most cases, this behavior reveals more about the ghoster—specifically, what’s going on in their life and how they approach dating. 

Sometimes, people ghost inadvertently. “They might be talking to several people and lose track of the conversations,” says Dr. Michelle Drouin, Professor of Psychology at Purdue University Fort Wayne. They may even ghost because they aren’t sure what they want out of a relationship or don’t know how to respond to a message. By ceasing communication, they’re taking a pause, she adds. 

Other people ghost when they know they’re no longer interested, but don’t know how to communicate that with the other person. “Some see direct communication with the purpose of ending the connection as confrontational or as a form of rejection,” says relationship therapist and professor, Dr. Marisa T. Cohen. “They share that they wouldn’t want to be the one to be broken up with, so by ghosting they feel that they are protecting the other person’s feelings.”

Why is ghosting bad?

Even if there was no bad intention, “repeatedly ghosting is an abusive behavior pattern and can show a lack of maturity and interpersonal skills,” says Dr. Rutledge. “And it can have significant negative effects on the person being ghosted.” 

Specifically, ghosting can undermine our needs for social connection and a sense of control, which are both important for our mental and physical health. “People ghosted on dating apps may experience decreased self-esteem through a lack of confidence about their romantic appeal,” says Dr. Rutledge. “This is especially true if the ghosting takes the person completely by surprise.” Being ghosted can also leave daters facing unanswered questions about what could have gone wrong.

How do I avoid ghosting someone on Bumble?

“To make sure you don’t unintentionally ghost someone, limit your in-app conversations to people you’re really interested in and keep track of those interactions,” says Dr. Drouin. Be sure to respond to messages, and if you don’t want to pursue a relationship with someone, let them know as soon as you can. Dr. Cohen suggests sending a message such as, “I really enjoyed speaking with you, but I don’t think we’re a romantic match. Wishing you lots of success in your relationships!” You can keep your note short and sweet, and don’t feel as though you need to go into detail about why you don’t want to continue the connection. See here for more tips on how to kindly end a connection via text message.

Ending connections properly can also help with personal growth. “The ability to be honest and express how you’re feeling is foundational to healthy relationships,” says Dr. Rutledge. “Instead of avoiding conflict, you can practice dealing with it positively by saying ‘no’ in a relatively safe way.”

Can I report being ghosted on Bumble?

Yes, you can now Block & Report someone on Bumble for ghosting if they don’t show up to an in-person meetup (despite clear plans agreed by both of you). You can find the Block & Report button by tapping on the three gray dots in the top right corner of the chat screen with your match. To report them for ghosting, tap “Off Bumble behavior,” and then “Stood me up.” You can also report someone you’ve been unmatched with, even if you’ve forgotten their name, by contacting our support team—either on our website or in the app—and providing as much information as you can. 

Ghosting might seem like an easy way to save time and reduce your own stress. Yet, this method of avoidance is ultimately more harmful—and disrespectful to your match. By directly (and politely) expressing your disinterest, you’ll help others find closure and move on. Plus, you’ll be taking the kindest, most mature approach.