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Isabel Chun / Staff Illustrator

"Will he ever text me back?" I ask myself as I check my phone for what seems like the thousandth time. I soon realize that the cute text I had been hoping for would never arrive and the good morning Snapchat I sent would never be opened. My perfect love story would soon be nothing more than a forlorn gaze over the tables in John Jay.

I, with all my inner turmoil, would never gain closure.

This deafening silence is what the youth like to call "ghosting." Ghosting is a relatively new cultural phenomenon that Urban Dictionary defines as "the act of suddenly ceasing all communication with someone the subject is dating, but no longer wishes to date. This is done in hopes that the ghostee, i.e the unfortunate victim getting ghosted, and will just 'get the hint' and leave the subject alone, as opposed to the subject simply telling them he/she is no longer interested."

For millennials, there is no way to completely fall off the face of the earth—there are simply too many ways to contact us. But these modern forms of communication aren't really making us more connected; instead, they disconnect us from our peers and perpetuate the attitude that people are disposable. We are hardwired to constantly search for the best thing possible, even if it's at the expense of someone else. This has resulted in a new social norm: to suddenly pretend like that person doesn't exist, even if their Snapchat story begs to differ.

Ghosting is the worst.

A lot of us ought to be familiar with the typical college hookup trope: You meet someone cute, you hit it off over your mutual love for that pseudo-hipster band (whom you obviously listen to all the time and whose songs you definitely know beyond their most popular one) and an appreciation for "This American Life." Maybe you share a milkshake and some fries at Tom's or even make plans to study in Ref—the Mel's of the daytime—together. You exchange numbers, and you wander off to fantasize for the next few hours about your future life together (two kids, brownstone walk-up in the Village, summers in Montauk). Maybe you even picked out your wedding dress (Vera Wang silk-satin ballgown with a sweetheart neckline) while you wait for your new love interest to reciprocate those same feelings on some form of social media.

But then the next day comes, and you haven't heard anything. Every vibration emanating from your phone is always just a notification from your mom asking if you finished your econ problem set (no, Mom). Obviously, your love interest must have a really important test, or they must be too busy volunteering at a soup kitchen.

A few days pass. Perhaps they are deathly ill, or their phone broke, or they lost your number, or they might have had to flee the country. Your hope wanes, but a shred remains that keeps you checking your Facebook messages. Over time, that hope dissipates into a bitter feeling of rejection.

Yet this isn't your run-of-the-mill rejection. This is rejection that leaves you in a state of utter confusion. The kind that makes you analyze your entire conversation like you would an international politics lecture. You think, did I not talk about Tolstoy enough?

No, you probably talked about Tolstoy an adequate amount. It's not you, it's our generation. I promise.

Our generation is inundated by a ludicrous amount of messages dictating how to live our young adult lives, from which trendy new restaurant (Cosme, obvi) to dine at to which socks to wear, (if you wear anything other than Stance, I'm judging). We can document every experience and share it with the best filters. We consistently have an abundance of texts, Snapchats, Facebook messages, tweets, or even emails (for the determined ones) to respond to. It seems that people just have too many options. It's hard to settle on just anything when there could be something out there that's better.

This same rule applies to dating. Why settle on some person I just met when there are thousands of other people waiting to be asked out in my back pocket? This idea of disposability directly leads to ghosting.

I understand that, for the ghoster, it's easier to just do nothing. The worst case scenario, after all, is simply making awkward eye contact in line at 1020. But a subtle head nod and pretending as if you didn't recognize someone "with their hair like that" is not the same thing as ending things cleanly and maturely. The ghostee lacks the valuable closure of a traditional breakup—the closure that leads to self-introspection, personal growth, and a deeper understanding of what you are looking for in a potential partner (hopefully one that wears trendier shoes).

But every relationship requires mutual respect between both parties. Ghosting denies one party this respect and marginalizes their time, energy, and ultimately, feelings. To be sure, it is easy to become myopic about your own problems and become jaded about the dating realm at Columbia (which, to be honest, is not ideal). Still, it is in everyone's best interest to be more aware of the feelings of our fellow peers and to be more connected in our in-person social interactions—not just the ones on our screens.

So, at the risk of sounding like a bad Drake lyric: Don't constantly look for the next best thing. You could be missing the one right in front of you.

The author is a Barnard College first-year majoring in American Studies. This piece is part of an ongoing seriesLove, Actualized.

To respond to this op-ed, or to submit an op-ed, contact opinion@columbiaspectator.com.  

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