Is Ghosting The New Normal?

It was our second "first date."

Two and a half years ago, Steve hit me up on OK Cupid. Not my usual type––he had very long wavy hair, close-shaved beard and mustache, and tats, seemingly everywhere.


Substantially younger than me, he looked older, almost Willie Nelson-ish. Rock girl though I may be in moniker, and in sensibility, that look has nary been my leaning. But, there was something in his eyes, a softness, which softened me. Loving pictures with his young children added to his charm.

They also threw up a big red flag.

My youngest had just left home for college weeks before, and my oldest, although still living with me, was of age, and independent––and, any man who posts pictures with his kids on his dating profile, admirable in so many ways, doesn't exactly scream ready for romance.

I answered him anyway.

Coming off yet another long dry spell, figuratively and literally, there'd been a succession of matches which led to either no communication, conversations which evaporated into cyber air, or, men who did––even after a fun first date.

There was an intense brief romance with a sexy Parisian who said we were soul-connected until he very swiftly disconnected.

He kind of said goodbye before he checked out, which is more thanI can say for Don. His last text invited me to talk. That was three springs ago. He's yet to return the call.

Paul sent me a lovely message saying he wanted me to know he was interested in me but he was leaving the country and that's why he'd be temporarily MIA. Define temporarily.

Post my separation 8 years ago, after a 20-year marriage, I had no clue what dating was about. I'd never done it.

Back in the day, before the internet, and cell phone apps, we met in person. Eyeball to eyeball. Or, at least, eyeball to cute ass. Almost without exception, it was all in for both of us, from the get-go.

My business requires me to leave the sanctity of my kitchen and computer to attend social events; I'm sober, and attend meetings to remain so; I'm blessed to have some wonderful friends who invite me to do stuff with them. I enjoy being out in the world, in spite of my inclination to lazy out and isolate. So, I go.

And, yet, I was meeting no one. It seemed everyone who piqued my interest was either taken or too cool for the room. Or, at least, my room.

After four years of too many nights, weeks, months, alone, with a few dalliances sprinkled in between, my therapist encouraged––badgered me, to get on the dating sites.

I must have had beginners luck because pretty much everyone I matched with reached out and wanted to meet. I had no idea at the time what an anomaly that was. I consumed enough Starbuck's to drown a rhinoceros. Of all the men I connected with, I discovered without exception, all of them had lied about at least one thing in their profile. And none yielded or warranted a second date.

Seeking substance, Tinder led to OKCupid, where profiles were more in-depth and there were questions to match compatibility. But, unlike Tinder, OKCupid, not linked to Facebook, or corroborated by anything, quickly proved to be filled with men who either stole their pictures from others, or, were involved with others, and were just looking for some online intrigue––like maybe some naked pictures, or, a playmate to sext with.

After innumerable connections with men who upon being asked the most basic question, like, "What's your name?" disappeared into the night, I decided to focus elsewhere. Not before being blindsided by a seemingly real, genuine good guy who romanced the shit out of me before pulling a Houdini whenI asked to switch to text.

Doing a reverse Google Image search (I amassed a few tricks after being repeatedly burned) I learned that he was a Mormon, dating a gorgeous 19-year-old who clearly assumed she had his undivided attention. When I messaged him on Twitter, he panicked, claimed someone stole his pics, and within a week, proposed to said girl.

OKCupid, I decided, was stupid.

Back to Tinder, which at least connects to one's Facebook, and eliminated the total imposters. Except Ryan, who was actually Patrick, discovered accidentally when he said he was in one state but the app disagreed and placed him in another. He was gone faster than a box of Krispie Kremes at an AA meeting.

Photo by Jewel Samad/Getty Images.

This time around, matches either never begat a word, ceased after a hello or so, or, they'd provide an unsolicited dick pic within moments.

I was schooled by my male friends that "What are you looking for?" is code for hookup. When I wasn't game for that, they were gone into the ether.

Granted, I lean young, but even when I made a conscious effort to make more appropriate choices the results remained pretty much the same.

It's me. Right?

Speaking to just about every single and seeking person I know––not so much.

When Steve, the single dad appeared, in spite of his hair and tattoos, he was a successful creative businessman and he seemed relatively normal.

After a few days of intense text exchanges, I pushed away a few warnings of deviancy, encouraged by his seemingly sane life, and his dogged appreciation and pursuit of me.

We met at a park on a cloudy afternoon. From the first moment, any reservations I'd had were gone––a bolt of connection and attraction struck hard and fast. We talked for hours, without breaking eye contact.

When he had to leave to pick up his kids, he kissed me, gently, briefly, yet it was sparky and memorable. He said he'd like to take me on a proper date––at night. I was thrilled and yet, without thinking or taking a pause, I asked how this could work with his full-time responsibility to being a dad and my newfound freedom. He assured me that he could work it out, that's what babysitters were for.

I left him, hopeful and high-flying, my gut nagging, "Why did I pose that question when things felt so damn good?" Fear? Self-sabotage?  Nah! The way he looked at me. It was ok. As if to confirm that, a lovely text exchange followed.

When days later, the texts we're becoming frequently less inspired, and less, period, I was still shocked when without notice, they ceased completely, except mine to him which went unanswered.

I blamed myself.

I obsessively checked his Instagram seeking an answer, garnering none. Eventually, I stopped looking. When I'd scroll past his posts in my feed I'd get a pang of WTF and move on––until this one night two and half years later. An artful, ridiculously sexy image of a man and woman kissing appeared. Without intending to, my mouse lingered a bit too long over the photo and somehow Liked it without my knowledge or consent. Mortified, I instantly reversed it.

Too late. A moment later he private messaged me as if a few days had passed since our last date.

Still, somehow, liking the guy, wanting answers, and not wanting to kibosh it again (because of course, it was my fault last go ‘round), I made no reference to the passage of time or his vanishing act. We went out again, this time on that proper date for dinner; making out like teenagers on the sidewalk afterward, maybe not so proper. So, we took a drive. If we had heat the first time, this time we had fire. When we said goodnight, we talked about picking it back up soon, not before I again brought up his kids. Oh yes, I did.

For the next couple of days, there were a few lame texts, initiated by yours truly. Then silence. When a few days later he reached out, I was ecstatic, this time was different.

That was the last I heard from him.

Boo.

Three weeks ago, Jon asked me out the very day we matched.

I was freshly smarting from a painfully abrupt break up with a guy I'd actually been seeing for a few months. I was determined to get back on the dating horse and not suffer. This was quick, but Jon was intelligent, funny, accomplished, and like-minded. Why not?

Over dinner, we talked about online dating, and ghosting. He admitted I was his first physical date after months on the app. He said he'd ghosted more than a few women after messaging them.

When pressed, he explained his reluctance to start anything––it seemed more effort than it was worth––or he was willing to take after a messy divorce. He said I was different. Walking me to my car he asked permission to kiss me. That's kind of weird, and not very sexy, but he said he’d been thinking about it throughout dinner and wanted me to know this wasn't a friend thing. He added, "No ghosting, ok?" He wasn’t kidding, there’s no friend thing, there’s no no-thing.

It's been radio silence ever since.

I've spent the last couple of weeks talking to everyone I can think of who online dates in an attempt to understand what the hell is going on.

Is ghosting the new normal?

It appears to be sadly more true than not. I'm not the only one having these kinds of experiences. And yet, there seem to be plenty of stories of people who meet online and not only date but mate––some even partnering for the long haul.

Is it a numbers game and I picked a really high one?

It seems in part to be a Mars/Venus thing. Some men swipe every single woman, and then, after they match, look at her pictures. If they like her, maybe then they read her profile. I don't know these men personally, or at least none of the ones I do will cop to that behavior. But I do know quite a few who've said that matching alone is the conquest, and once that's done they lose interest and it's on to the next.

What?

Or, they're so interested that fear takes over and worry about money, their car, career, their sex, and whether they'll measure up, drives them to give up before they start. And yet, one friend admitted that if he connected with a woman who really rang his bell he'd push through.

So it's true, he's just not that into you.

Or me.

I know women have ghosted in kind. Myself, included. But I can explain mine. Can too. If a guy's creepy or inappropriate, I feel justified in not responding. And, a few times I realized I’d made mistake and it was easier to just drift away. Shoot me. From the left. It’s my good side.

So where does that leave us?

It leaves me ghosting my machines. I’m done. Finished. I can’t take it anymore.

I’ve said that at least 37 times.

Then I get stuck in traffic, or in line at Ralph’s, and while the cashier swipes my groceries, I’m back swiping my next future ghost.

Could he at least look like Patrick Swayze? Please.

Courtesy of Elaine Ahn

True

The energy in a hospital can sometimes feel overwhelming, whether you’re experiencing it as a patient, visitor or employee. However, there are a few one-of-a-kind individuals like Elaine Ahn, an operating room registered nurse in Diamond Bar, California, who thrive under this type of constant pressure.

Keep Reading Show less
via Pexels

If you know how to fix this tape, you grew up in the 1990s.

There are a lot of reasons to feel a twinge of nostalgia for the final days of the 20th century. Rampant inflation, a global pandemic and political unrest have created a sense of uneasiness about the future that has everyone feeling a bit down.

There’s also a feeling that the current state of pop culture is lacking as well. Nobody listens to new music anymore and unless you’re into superheroes, it seems like creativity is seriously missing from the silver screen.

But, you gotta admit, that TV is still pretty damn good.

A lot of folks feel Americans have become a lot harsher to one another due to political divides, which seem to be widening by the day due to the power of the internet and partisan media.

Keep Reading Show less
Connections Academy

Wylee Mitchell is a senior at Nevada Connections Academy who started a t-shirt company to raise awareness for mental health.

True

Teens of today live in a totally different world than the one their parents grew up in. Not only do young people have access to technologies that previous generations barely dreamed of, but they're also constantly bombarded with information from the news and media.

Today’s youth are also living through a pandemic that has created an extra layer of difficulty to an already challenging age—and it has taken a toll on their mental health.

According to Mental Health America, nearly 14% of youths ages 12 to 17 experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. In a September 2020 survey of high schoolers by Active Minds, nearly 75% of respondents reported an increase in stress, anxiety, sadness and isolation during the first six months of the pandemic. And in a Pearson and Connections Academy survey of US parents, 66% said their child felt anxious or depressed during the pandemic.

However, the pandemic has only exacerbated youth mental health issues that were already happening before COVID-19.

“Many people associate our current mental health crisis with the pandemic,” says Morgan Champion, the head of counseling services for Connections Academy Schools. “In fact, the youth mental health crisis was alarming and on the rise before the pandemic. Today, the alarm continues.”

Mental Health America reports that most people who take the organization’s online mental health screening test are under 18. According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 50% of cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and the tendency to develop depression and bipolar disorder nearly doubles from age 13 to age 18.

Such statistics demand attention and action, which is why experts say destigmatizing mental health and talking about it is so important.

“Today we see more people talking about mental health openly—in a way that is more akin to physical health,” says Champion. She adds that mental health support for young people is being more widely promoted, and kids and teens have greater access to resources, from their school counselors to support organizations.

Parents are encouraging this support too. More than two-thirds of American parents believe children should be introduced to wellness and mental health awareness in primary or middle school, according to a new Global Learner Survey from Pearson. Since early intervention is key to helping young people manage their mental health, these changes are positive developments.

In addition, more and more people in the public eye are sharing their personal mental health experiences as well, which can help inspire young people to open up and seek out the help they need.

“Many celebrities and influencers have come forward with their mental health stories, which can normalize the conversation, and is helpful for younger generations to understand that they are not alone,” says Champion.

That’s one reason Connections Academy is hosting a series of virtual Emotional Fitness talks with Olympic athletes who are alums of the virtual school during Mental Health Awareness Month. These talks are free, open to the public and include relatable topics such as success and failure, leadership, empowerment and authenticity. For instance, on May 18, Olympic women’s ice hockey player Lyndsey Fry will speak on finding your own style of confidence, and on May 25, Olympic figure skater Karen Chen will share advice for keeping calm under pressure.

Family support plays a huge role as well. While the pandemic has been challenging in and of itself, it has actually helped families identify mental health struggles as they’ve spent more time together.

“Parents gained greater insight into their child’s behavior and moods, how they interact with peers and teachers,” says Champion. “For many parents this was eye-opening and revealed the need to focus on mental health.”

It’s not always easy to tell if a teen is dealing with normal emotional ups and downs or if they need extra help, but there are some warning signs caregivers can watch for.

“Being attuned to your child’s mood, affect, school performance, and relationships with friends or significant others can help you gauge whether you are dealing with teenage normalcy or something bigger,” Champion says. Depending on a child’s age, parents should be looking for the following signs, which may be co-occurring:

  • Perpetual depressed mood
  • Rocky friend relationships
  • Spending a lot of time alone and refusing to participate in daily activities
  • Too much or not enough sleep
  • Not eating a regular diet
  • Intense fear or anxiety
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Suicidal ideation (talking about being a burden or giving away possessions) or plans

“You know your child best. If you are unsure if your child is having a rough time or if there is something more serious going on, it is best to reach out to a counselor or doctor to be sure,” says Champion. “Always err on the side of caution.”

If it appears a student does need help, what next? Talking to a school counselor can be a good first step, since they are easily accessible and free to visit.

“Just getting students to talk about their struggles with a trusted adult is huge,” says Champion. “When I meet with students and/or their families, I work with them to help identify the issues they are facing. I listen and recommend next steps, such as referring families to mental health resources in their local areas.”

Just as parents would take their child to a doctor for a sprained ankle, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help if a child is struggling mentally or emotionally. Parents also need to realize that they may not be able to help them on their own, no matter how much love and support they have to offer.

“That is a hard concept to accept when parents can feel solely responsible for their child’s welfare and well-being,” says Champion. “The adage still stands—it takes a village to raise a child. Be sure you are surrounding yourself and your child with a great support system to help tackle life’s many challenges.”

That village can include everyone from close family to local community members to public figures. Helping young people learn to manage their mental health is a gift we can all contribute to, one that will serve them for a lifetime.

Join athletes, Connections Academy and Upworthy for candid discussions on mental health during Mental Health Awareness Month. Learn more and find resources here.

Screenshot taken from a live video of the trial.

A recent (and fairly insensitive) sketch from “Saturday Night Live” said it best regarding the widespread fixation many have on the Johnny Depp and Amber Heard trial:

“It’s not the most pertinent story of the moment, but with all the problems in the world, isn’t it nice to have a news story we can all collectively watch and say ‘glad it ain't me?’”

Johnny Depp and Amber Heard Trial Cold Open - SNL www.youtube.com

Schadenfreude, celebrity fascination and previously inaccessible information now being at our fingertips is a potent combination in this trial, making amateur lawyers and psychologists of all who feel compelled to unleash their hot takes. And though the right to converse and speculate exists, is it always in our best interests to do so? Especially when it means potentially spreading misinformation, or at the cost of empathy and compassion?

Keep Reading Show less
Photo from Upworthy Library

A proud sloth dad was caught on camera.

Teddy the two-toed sloth has become a proud papa and thanks to a video posted by the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park, we all get to witness the adorable reunion with his newborn son.

Mama sloth, aka Grizzly, gave birth to their healthy little one in Feb 2022, which delighted more than 3,000 people on Facebook.



The video, posted to the Florida zoo’s YouTube page, shows Grizzly slowly climbing toward her mate, who is at first blissfully unaware as he continues munching on leaves. Typical dad.

Keep Reading Show less