If you’ve ever used a dating app — and let’s be real, in 2019, who hasn’t? — chances are, you’ve probably heard of, or experienced, ghosting: when you connect, have a great conversation, or even a great date, and then, POOF — your match falls off the face of the Earth, never to be seen or heard from again.. at least not by you.
But there’s another spooky-sounding dating trend, and it takes the ghosting phenomenon to the next level— it’s called zombie-ing.
So what, exactly, is zombie-ing?
Zombie-ing is the dating trend where a potential partner ghosts you, and then unexpectedly reemerges weeks or months later. In other words, if ghosting is the term for when a date disappears, zombie-ing is when they “rise from the dead.”
So, what does zombie-ing look like in action? Let’s say you match with someone on an app, exchange some flirty back-and-forth banter, get together, and have a good date.You see real potential, and make plans to connect and get together. You reach out a few days later...and then...nothing.
Three months later, they randomly ask you to grab drinks. This infuriating pattern of date, disappear, and randomly reemerge? That, my friends, is the zombie-ing trend in action.
Why are people zombie-ing people?
So, what gives? Why is zombie-ing a trend in today’s dating landscape?
The way we date plays a huge part. “Dating apps and dating through social media are creating a paradox effect in dating; it’s giving off the illusion of many choices while making it harder to find viable options,” Clarissa Silva, behavioral scientist, relationship coach, and creator of Your Happiness Hypothesis Method, tells O.school.
It’s a cycle: When new potential matches don’t pan out the way a person expected, they may circle back to old matches they ghosted weeks, months, or even years before. Thus, a zombie is born. The cycle may even repeat itself if the zombie finds a new potential match who they then ghost to pursue the newer match until that excitement dies down. Then, they’ll come crawling back to the original match a second time. It’s not the most empowering dating pattern as it can feel really disheartening and disrespectful when you’re the one being zombied.
“We’re treating people like we do our social media streams. The shiniest object is what we stop at, then move onto the next shiny object,” says Silva.
How to deal with a zombie in your dating life
The bad news is zombie-ing is a thing. But the good news is you don’t have to put up with it. If you find yourself dealing with a zombie, simply disconnect. “Your self-esteem will thank you for it later,” says Silva. “Being connected to the person that has ghosted or zombied you can have detrimental effects on your self-esteem.”
While most zombie situations don’t deserve your time and energy, there are exceptions to every rule. Maybe there was a real connection and you want to give the person another chance. Maybe they’re extremely apologetic or have a valid excuse for going off the grid. Whatever the case may be, it is your prerogative to give things another go — just make sure you set boundaries and let them know that kind of zombie-ing behavior isn’t going to fly in the future.
“When they return, let them know how that absence made you feel,” says Silva. “If you proceed, establish boundaries around communication. Things like ‘If you don’t respond after X days, I will assume you have decided to exit again and X will occur.’”
What to do if you’re the zombie
Now, you might be reading this article and thinking “Oh my god. I’M the zombie!” And if that’s the case, take a deep breath. You’re not a horrible person. But if you’re in the cycle of zombie-ing your matches, dates, and potential partners, it’s time to start re-examining your behavior.
Before you reach out to someone you ghosted, ask yourself why you’re re-initiating contact. Do you have a valid excuse for going MIA, and are you ready to apologize for your less-than-stellar communication? If so, it might make sense to reach out. Explain what happened, the reasons you’ve been out of touch, and that you understand it wasn’t fair or considerate behavior. Then, respect their response. They might be willing to give you another shot — but you should also be prepared that after your radio silence, they might not want to hear from you.
On the other hand, are you reaching out only because you’re lonely, bored, or looking for attention? Do yourself (and your date) a favor and delete their number. If you’re not reaching out because you’re genuinely interested, chances are, you’re going to fall out of touch again—and that kind of emotional Russian Roulette just isn’t fair to the other person.
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