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'Ghosting' is on the rise thanks to technology
Technology allows us to communicate more easily with people than ever before - but also to avoid them and vanish.
"Ghosting" - the abrupt, unexplained disappearance of a paramour or potential employer after an initially promising courtship - is on the rise, say experts.
While some say narcissism and selfishness is a new social norm, at least some blame can be traced to an increasingly impersonal digital world that allows people to pull an Amelia Earhart simply by failing to respond to a tweet, text or email.
Moreover, the incessant onslaught of digital demands - as well as the ephemeral nature of online expression - leaves some people feeling too overwhelmed to explain a change of heart, they say.
"For Millennials, 'and then I never heard from him again' is one of the most common endings to great date stories," Sara Ashley O'Brien wrote this March on thedatereport.com.
Enver Hayward, 37, a hip-hop artist who performs under the name, Dutch 40, dated a woman who stopped returning his texts without explanation. Six weeks later, she reconnected with him with an apology that she had "gotten caught up with life" and wanted to reconnect. They did.
Then she disappeared again.
"It made me sad," recounted the now-married Newark resident, but also taught him "not to be so giving with my heart."
Vanishing acts from those who fail to explain their change of heart aren't limited to romantic pursuits.
Aicha Reid, 22, a student and actress from the Upper East Side, was upset after a "very enthusiastic" manager for a restaurant told her he wanted to interview her within the next 48 hours and then stopped responding to emails. "He just fell out and left me hanging," she recounted.
"Ghosting represents an institutional trend," said Roy Cohen, a Manhattan career counselor and executive coach, noting that recruiters and headhunters are notorious for vaporizing in the midst of negotiations. Time-pressed employers buried under resumes rationalize that "their ability to bestow a job opportunity allows them to be rude and to ignore social rules for follow up," Cohen added.
And no wonder: "We live and work in a world where people break up via text and instant messages," - if they bother to break up at all, said the career coach.
"For millennials especially, much of their behavior mimics the behavior they do every day on social media," flitting from one post to another, with quippy, hit-and-run communiques that rarely reach the level of considered discourse, explained Anna Akbari, a sociologist who studies technology's effect on relationships.
Ghosting is rampant in online dating, in part because "we live in a culture of 'nexting,'" in which every plan - and person - is conditional because the lure of something or someone even better forever beckons, Akbari continued.
"Technology turbocharges that: Everyone becomes disposable," she said.
While the mysteriously jilted may experience disappointment, frustration or even heartbreak at being abruptly snubbed after initially warm interactions, it's helpful not to take vanishing acts personally: MIAs are usually unable to handle confrontation, fearful, desperate to save face or lack critical social skills, say experts.
"There's a level of immaturity," to people who can't give another party clarity with a "thank you for your time, but we're going in a different direction," or conclude a courtship with a sensitive explanation, said Akbari.
But pulling a Houdini can be a form of self defense - especially with men who don't listen, some women said. "There's no need to have 'the talk.' Just don't pick up the phone - because that's what they do," when jilting women, said Thembi Costa, 40, a single yoga instructor from Jersey City.
It may seem that few repercussions are likely to arise from putting a job applicant or romantic prospect in suspended animation, but "the chances of encountering that person again are actually very high," even in New York City, said Akbari.
"If you can't be motivated by empathy and your own humanity, you should be motivated by your own self-serving needs, because the chances are you will encounter these people again, in some way, in the future, and from a survival perspective, you need allies," said Akbari.
In all dealings, said the sociologist, "it behooves you to act kindly."