why young people are so bad at texting back

A new study finds that 80% of people born after 1981 have experienced being "ghosted."

by Hannah Ongley
29 March 2016, 10:30pm

"If DJ Khaled can update his snapchat story while lost at sea on a jet ski at night I think you can text back," read a tweet some time in December that has so far been RTd and rephrased in about a thousand different ways. The premise of the story, which has been viewed over 1,600,000 times since being uploaded to YouTube on December 14, is hilarious enough on its own. But "I think you can text back" also just resonates with a generation that studies have now confirmed to be not the greatest at texting back. 

The dating site Plenty of Fish recently questioned 800 American and Canadian individuals between the ages of 18 and 33 about their texting habits, and found that 80% of millennials have experienced being "ghosted" — basically being ignored via text message, Facebook message, or Instagram DM. The ghosting phenomenon can be most easily explained by the fact that it's easier to stop texting back than it is to actually tell someone you don't want to see them any more. It's also, fittingly given this particular dating site's promise, the belief that there are bigger fish in the sea. One anonymous user explained their reasoning thusly:

"It's the fear of missing out on the thing, or person that is coming next. Because it's so easy to swipe or like new people, whatever's next could be better, and it's easier to just dip out. It may be a little mean, but we're dating; it's not like we're in a relationship," they said. 

This FOMO on better opportunities seems to be confirmed by the fact that 15% of people surveyed reported scheduling multiple dates for the same night. And while the study focused on ghosting in the context of romantic relationships, the phenomenon is equally applicable to friendships. Further, while ghosting a date is widely accepted be a shitty practice, doing it to a friend doesn't mean you're trying to sever ties. It's annoying to the person sending the text, but if the message is important, you'll know it as soon as you receive it. Either that or you'll get a snarky followup text when they see you've been tweeting and liking things on Instagram. 

Another reason for the the text message radio silence is that more people are meeting online rather than through friends or family. Of course there's less concern about an awkward run-in at your local café if you don't run in the same circles. 

"10 to 15 years ago, the people we dated were part of our social circles, introduced to us by family or friends," said Kate MacLean, Resident Dating Expert and PR Coordinator at Plenty of Fish. "Online dating has provided a large pool of potential partners we may have never met otherwise. The extensive number of people we're able to meet now, paired with the convenience of hiding behind a device, and lower likelihood of running into someone after a breakup, are all points that we can attribute to the rising trend of ghosting in younger generations."

Then there's the fact that ghosting isn't an entirely new phenomenon — just a buzzword for a technique that our parents probably used back before texting even existed. Honestly, we should be glad that calling things off politely can now be as easy as sending a text message, rather than making an unannounced phone call to someone's landline. 


Text Hannah Ongley
Photography Ash Kingston

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