Ghost­ing, cat­fish­ing and other dat­ing traps

The com­plex world of on­line court­ing comes with its own lan­guage

Midtown Post - - Currents - DR. JESS Jess O’Reilly is a sought-af­ter speaker, au­thor and sex­ol­o­gist (www.SexWithDrJess.com).

Dat­ing in the dig­i­tal age in­volves keep­ing up with evolv­ing trends and ter­mi­nol­ogy. It’s hard enough keep­ing up with the slang your kids are us­ing, but for those of you get­ting back into the dat­ing game, there’s a whole new lan­guage to learn. So we’ve en­listed a few Toronto daters to share their sto­ries, in­sights and ad­vice.

High Park dater Sara says she’s been on both sides of some un­de­sir­able on­line dat­ing phe­nom­ena.

“With­out be­ing aware of the term it­self, I ghosted a guy af­ter five dates last year. I met some­one else and just didn’t know how to tell him dur­ing that awk­ward phase.” She adds, “But re­cently an­other guy ghosted me, and it was aw­ful to be on the other side.”

Ghost­ing in­volves dis­ap­pear­ing with­out ex­pla­na­tion and can af­fect self-es­teem, as you tend to blame and ques­tion your­self. Rest as­sured that it’s likely not about you, but speaks to your date’s in­abil­ity to ef­fec­tively com­mu­ni­cate his or her feel­ings. I sug­gest block­ing the ghoster on all dig­i­tal sites to avoid the po­ten­tial of hav­ing that per­son haunt you. Haunt­ing is when the ghoster con­tin­ues to fol­low the per­son they ghosted on so­cial me­dia and of­ten leads to the ghosted’s de­sire to reach out to the ghoster for clo­sure or val­i­da­tion.

Dater Chris ad­mits to play­ing games when he jumped back into dat­ing af­ter his di­vorce.

“I think the whole dat­ing app thing was just over­whelm­ing, so I took it too far. In ret­ro­spect, I was a bencher, a bread­crum­ber, a fu­ture-faker and more.”

Bench­ing refers to dat­ing some­one in a low-ef­fort, non­com­mit­tal way that puts that per­son on the back burner.

Bread­crumb­ing is sim­i­lar and of­ten en­tails send­ing spo­radic and en­tic­ing mes­sages to keep some­one in­ter­ested while avoid­ing any real con­nec­tion. If some­one is string­ing you along or send­ing mixed sig­nals, ad­just your replies, so the per­son doesn’t ben­e­fit from your im­me­di­ate at­ten­tion. Re­ply the next day or ask to meet in per­son, to gauge that per­son’s level of in­ter­est. State your ex­pec­ta­tions (e.g., “Text me if you want to meet up Sun­day.”) or ask ques­tions that force the per­son to con­front his or her own in­ten­tions (e.g., “Are you look­ing for a text-only re­la­tion­ship or some­thing IRL [in real life]?”). If you’re only get­ting bread crumbs, let the bread­crum­ber know you’re look­ing for more or ig­nore the per­son al­to­gether and move on.

The fu­ture-fake in­volves sug­gest­ing that you go on an­other date but not fol­low­ing through. It may be un­in­ten­tional (you sim­ply change your mind) or pur­pose­ful, as you don’t want to con­vey re­jec­tion. If you have trou­ble with face-to­face com­mu­ni­ca­tion, use texts and get a friend to help you send a clear and con­sid­er­ate mes­sage (e.g., “I had a great time! I don’t feel a ro­man­tic vibe, but you’re great, so I know many oth­ers will. Wish­ing you all the best.”).

Chris also ad­mits to the catch-and-re­lease ap­proach.

“I loved the chase, so I’d work hard to reel them in, and as soon as they took my bait, I was out.” He at­tributes this to his own self­es­teem and com­mit­ment is­sues.

“If some­one does this to you, call them out. I needed to be called out, and af­ter an ex fi­nally spoke up dur­ing a breakup, I smartened up. I have my ex to thank for forc­ing me to look in the mir­ror, and now I’m in the best re­la­tion­ship I could imag­ine,” he says.

Other daters re­port be­ing hurt by both cush­ion­ing and cat­fish­ing.

Cush­ion­ing is a ma­nip­u­la­tive way to keep some­one in your back pocket while you’re dat­ing an­other per­son in order to soften the blow if the first prospect doesn’t work out. You may not know you’re be­ing cush­ioned, so it’s im­por­tant to ask a po­ten­tial part­ner if he or she is see­ing any­one else and in­quire as to whether the po­ten­tial part­ner is still on any dat­ing apps.

Park­dale’s Safiya ad­mits that she and her friends al­most al­ways have a backup plan:

“We don’t call it cush­ion­ing, but I sup­pose they are re­ally a safety net. I’ve never been asked, but I don’t think I’d lie if some­one asked me point-blank.”

Cat­fish­ing in­volves cre­at­ing a fake pro­file, and kit­ten-fish­ing is a toned-down ver­sion in which peo­ple fal­sify parts of their pro­file from their photo to their job ti­tle. You can avoid be­ing cat­fished by ver­i­fy­ing a per­son’s in­for­ma­tion through so­cial me­dia or per­form­ing Google re­verse im­age search on a pro­file pic. Sug­gest­ing an IRL meet­ing early on will force the cat­fish­ers to the sur­face.

Nav­i­gat­ing the ever-evolv­ing world of dig­i­tal dat­ing may seem daunt­ing, but with 19 per cent of re­cent en­gage­ments and mar­riages bud­ding on­line, there are mil­lions of mean­ing­ful con­nec­tions to be made. If you’re un­sure about some­one, en­list the help of a friend or crowd-source ad­vice from your so­cial net­work. And when in doubt, be di­rect. Di­rect ques­tions can dis­arm the cat­fish­ers, bread­crum­bers and sub­mariners (ghosters who reap­pear with no ex­pla­na­tion) alike. And if you do run into a game player, don’t take it per­son­ally. It’s not you. It’s them.

On­line dat­ing is re­spon­si­ble for 19 per cent of re­cent en­gage­ments and mar­riages

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