'Soft Ghosting' Feels Just As Sh*tty As Ghosting

by Sa'iyda Shabazz
Originally Published: 
Julia Meslener for Scary Mommy and shapecharge/Getty

We’ve all heard about ghosting, when someone retreats from our lives until they just don’t exist anymore. Maybe you’ve ghosted someone or known someone who was ghosted. Hopefully you’ve been spared the pain of being ghosted, because it can be absolutely brutal.

Being ghosted isn’t for the faint of heart — it makes even the most secure people feel like shit. And as if ghosting isn’t bad enough, now we have soft ghosting, which is seen as a lesser level of ghosting. Just what we need, another form of ghosting. Because you can never have too many ways to be an asshole.

Soft ghosting is basically ghosting-lite. The other person reacts to your messages, usually with a “like” or a thumbs up, but doesn’t say anything. So they’re acknowledging the message, but not actually responding. You’re still the last one texting, which means if you text again, you have back-to-back texts. So it’s awkward as hell if you’re communicating with someone who can’t be bothered to properly respond to you. It may be ghosting-lite, but make no mistake, it’s still ghosting.

Any sort of ghosting is nothing short of soul crushing. There’s no real closure, and you’re left wondering if you’ve done something wrong. Sometimes you can see it coming and have time to prepare yourself, in which case you can mutually ghost each other.

Soft ghosting or straight up ghosting can apply to any kind of relationship too, which makes it even more awful. Maybe you have a friend you like but just can’t deal with anymore. And you don’t know how (or don’t want to) tell them that you can’t continue your friendship. But let’s focus on romantic endeavors for now. Because ghosting your friends is a whole different level of awful.

Soft ghosting while dating completely sucks and usually comes out of left field. You think things are going well and then the other person just disappears. When things are going great and then suddenly the relationship is reduced to thumbs up responses to your messages, you’re left with a million questions. Especially if the other person seemed every bit as into the relationship as you were. You have what you thought was an awesome time together, only for them to fall off the face of the earth the next day.

“We are animals designed to seek pleasure and avoid pain,” Chantal Heide, a dating coach, tells HuffPost. I see this kind of communication all the time with my clients. Today’s communication has changed quite a bit as we try to balance phone life and real life,” she adds.

Now that we’re beginning most romantic relationships in a digital space, we don’t have to directly reject someone. Chances are, you’re not regularly seeing that person, if you’re seeing them at all. When you don’t run the risk of actual confrontation, leaving someone hanging is almost expected. It’s like an “out of sight, out of mind” kind of approach. In dating app culture, if you don’t take the conversation off the app, it’s like it never happened. It’s easy to soft ghost someone that way and not have to give an explanation.

Being brutally honest and rejecting someone doesn’t come naturally for many of us. No one enjoys hurting someone’s feelings. And that’s especially true if you’re getting along with the person. Since getting back into the dating world, I’ve ghosted people and been the victim of soft ghosting. Does it suck? Absolutely. But do I expect it? Definitely.

Let’s say you’re talking to a potential romantic interest and things are good, but not necessarily great. You may not be feeling it anymore, of maybe you realize they just aren’t what you’re looking for. But you don’t want to walk them through the complexities of why you’re changing your mind. So, while you’re talking, you may hit “like” or send them a thumbs up and leave it at that.

Basically, soft ghosting is your way out of a relationship that just isn’t fulfilling. And you know it sucks, but it’s the easiest thing to do in the moment.

“I just don’t have the spoons to walk someone who has been very insistent (and kind too) with me through an easy let down,” Candice Montgomery told Scary Mommy. “He wants to chat on the phone, I said ‘ok, lemme try to wrangle my schedule into something decent today.’ I have zero plans to wrangle anybody or anything into anywhere. In general I don’t do this sort of thing because it sucks. But I just went through a really bad breakup and my energy is no good to anyone right now.”

Soft ghosting certainly falls into the category of pain avoidance. But, while straight up ghosting can cause a lot of pain, soft ghosting does seemingly lessen the blow a little. By reacting, even if in the most basic sense of the word, the person doing the ghosting is at least acknowledging you. Their reaction may be frustratingly non-committal, but at least they didn’t just simply walk away.


Obviously, having a direct conversation with someone is preferred. Then again, if you’re going to indirectly reject someone, soft ghosting is probably the nicest way to do it. So if confrontation is too scary or you’re uncomfortable with the straightforward approach, this may be the least painful way to end things.

“It’s just so hard to have the time to deal with everyone’s emotions. I just think it is not okay past a certain point,” Kat Rutkin, a non-profit director and single mom to two young children, told Scary Mommy.

Even though it’s vague, soft ghosting is still a definitive stance. Nowadays, no answer is really all the answer you need. But even then, it’s hard not to wonder whether you’re truly being ghosted or if the other person is just busy. This leads to wasting time wondering if you should text them to check in or just take the hint after a week of no communication. And that feels super shitty.

If you’re investing time into cultivating a relationship, even if it’s just through early conversations, you’re committing to something, or to the potential of something. And to have someone’s interest, only for them to pull away without warning, is a mind fuck.

“They reacted. They saw. And they chose to cut the line. They said you aren’t worth the response. Honestly i don’t know which is worse, whether someone ghosts altogether or leaves you hanging like this,” Freyja Brooks told Scary Mommy.

And she’s right. When it’s happening to you, it’s hard to decide if soft ghosting is really the better option. Honestly, we have enough to deal with in relationships. Just be direct and honest so we all can move on with our lives.

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