I was getting very personal with my hairdresser the other day (as women do with their hairdressers), when she mentioned a friend of hers bawling her eyes out over a guy. My hairdresser said, “She’d only been out with the guy a few times, and I think she really expected it to go somewhere. But they met online so that’s an unrealistic thing to expect from online dating.” Why is that? I wondered. Why is it any less realistic to expect things to go somewhere with an online date than it is to expect that with someone you meet in real life? I met my guy in real life so, I’d never really thought about this before. It almost sounded like my hairdresser was giving the guy an excuse for letting her friend down. But then she explained to me her thinking. She wasn’t giving him an excuse—she was just pointing out the inherent flaky nature of online dating. Here is why online dating encourages flakiness.
You can blame the Wi-Fi
If you lose interest in someone and decide to ghost, but then change your mind a week later, you can always just blame your Internet—say it had been on and off that week. You can’t just stop talking to someone who is in front of your face in real life and blame the Internet.
You can blame not having checked messages
You can also just explain that you hadn’t checked your online dating messages in a long time. Maybe you got insanely busy and forgot to log on. Maybe you got a new credit card, forgot to input that information into the app, and that was a whole thing. Again, nobody can really call you out on your BS.
Often, you don’t exchange phone numbers
Many online interactions never make it to the phase of exchanging phone numbers. That means someone feels perfectly safe just blocking someone on the app, knowing they have no other way to contact them.
No common friends to complain to
Here’s a big one: online dating puts us in touch with people with whom, really the only thing we for sure have in common is functional Wi-Fi. We don’t have tons of common friends or acquaintances, the way you often do with someone you meet in real life. So nobody worries that, by ghosting someone, that person will go talk badly about them to all their common friends. Those don’t exist.
Something better always comes along
Online dating is distracting, kind of like online shopping. You know when you’re shopping on a website, and at the bottom of the page, it suggests five other items similar to the one you’re viewing? That’s how online dating is, but with people.
Everyone else is doing it
Everyone you know talks about ghosting the people they’re talking to online, and even ghosting the online dates that became in-person dates. If everyone else is doing it, it can feel kind of okay to follow suit.
You know they have more options
You don’t feel so bad going ghost because you know the person has plenty of other options online. You know this because you’re on the same site and saw how many people are on there.
The date is easily acquired
If we don’t work hard for something, we aren’t as attached to it. If all it takes to get a date is to send a few well-constructed direct messages, it’s easier to just bail on that date if something better comes up. It’s not like you had to buy that person a drink at a bar or make any real effort to get that date. You’ll drop it as easily as you got it.
The “Sorry, just saw this!” excuse
Should you feel hot and cold about somebody, you can always disappear for a few weeks, and then go back claiming you, “Just saw” their last message. How can they prove that you’re lying?
Facebook stalking comes second nature
The mere fact that you’re already online, at your laptop, when talking to someone makes it so easy to do a little social media stalking. But then you may discover information about this person you don’t like, and go ghost.
People online don’t feel real
The Internet is dehumanizing. You experience it every day. You see someone’s plea for money for a surgery or someone’s invitation to a birthday party. You easily ignore all of these because the person on the other end just doesn’t feel real.
Nobody calls you out
Since everyone has heard that being flaky online is normal, nobody feels like they’re allowed to call out the flakers. That means nobody ever feels punished or confronted for their actions.
You can do it while on an actual date
You can online date, via your smartphone, while literally on a date with somebody else.
You do it on your device
You online date on your computer or smartphone, both of which are inherently distracting devices. Social media or email grab your attention, and you forget all about the online dating conversation you were just having.
You don’t see the disappointment
You never have to face the disappointment you cause when you flake on someone. You don’t do it in person or even over the phone, so you don’t have to see the person’s face or hear his voice.