Ghosted with Emma Sato

Exploring modern dating habits in the online era

Published Feb 17, 2024
Emma Sato from Roger That joins us for a conversation about modern dating culture in the virtual era, communication habits, and neurotic social media behavior.


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USURPATOR: Emma, thank you for coming on. Your podcast is Roger That, how long have you been doing it?


EMMA SATO: Kelly and I have been doing the project for over a year, but the podcast, I think we released our first episode in December of last year.


U: What's the nature of the whole project?


ES: The nature of the project is that we were intrigued and frustrated by the trends of communication in modern culture, specifically ghosting. Dating communication, I think is where it's most easy to talk about ghosting. But we started doing a bit of research into it and got a lot of feedback from people that they were experiencing ghosting in their friendships and their family relationships and also in work contexts as well. But we were surprised with the veracity that people were coming to us with in terms of wanting to talk about it and having a lot of thoughts and feelings about it.


U: People have a lot of grief. Was it all mostly people expressing their frustration?

ES: There were a lot of people expressing frustration, but I think the most interesting part was that when we did our first survey, a lot of people expressed guilt and shame around, but around having ghosted someone else. Our thesis was that the experience of getting ghosted and the experience of ghosting someone else, the emotional toll is actually kind of similar in terms of loss of confidence and sense of self that you end up with people.


U: You think that people suffer a loss, the loss of confidence when they ghost other people.


ES: Well, I don't think it's always as severe. I think the impacts of getting ghosted are maybe more consistent but a lot of people who ghosted and who replied to our survey and talked about how they had ghosted people, they felt a sense of guilt and shame around it and it impacted their feelings about how they were able to be in relationships. But I do think there's probably a self-reporting bias, where people who are down to admit that they ghost are also maybe already a bit over it.


U: They're the ones who have already felt bad about it. They’ve reflected on their behavior.

ES: Yeah, exactly. It's a really weird thing to try to get data about because it's so hard to say if only the upset people are coming forward


U: I was thinking about the times that I've ever been ghosted or have ghosted someone. I don't remember ever being ghosted… I'm sure that I’ve ghosted people and don’t remember.


ES: That is like something I was thinking about when I was like adding to our list of topics, the ghosting industrial complex.


U: Yeah, what did that mean?


ES: It's literally just like a joke. I was thinking of the fact that the ghosting happening in our culture relationships leads to this cycle where you either get comfortable with it and kind of grow stronger and grow more confident, grow into someone who also maybe goes people and doesn't care, or you kind of become this like slimy, sad shell of a person and you look like kind of a loser.


U: Yeah, I'm picturing people who have this infinite roster. People who are using their phones to get a sense of validation to the point that you can't even keep track of all the people in there. Things are slipping through the cracks. That is kind of a shell of a person, you can sniff those guys out.


ES: It feels like sometimes from the outside, especially in dating, the people who are the most likely to ghost are also the people who are least affected by rejection. I don't know if that's true or not, but that's the feeling you get like, “Why am I so sensitive? Why does this bother me?” Yeah. And then you, I think, often ultimately just become someone who is better at handling rejection, which is probably positive, but it can often feel like it's forced on you. Like, why can't I just be sensitive? Why do people treat me like this? And I'm the one who has to change? You're saying people who aren't sensitive?


I'm saying that people who aren't really bothered by ghosting, it canfeel like they're the ones with their  thumb on the scale of where culture is going. 


U: Yeah, it does kind of feel like we are forced to start taking part in this society where you have to be so careful about other people's feelings. You have to take responsibility for other people a lot. It feels like people are a lot less resilient and you have to play into everyone's neuroticism.


ES: Well, that's kind of what I was wanting to somehow form a connection to—neuroticism. Let’s break that down because I think it's such a fun word.


U: Individuals who score high for neuroticism are more likely than average to be moody, to experience feelings of anxiety, worry, fear, anger, frustration, envy, jealousy, pessimism, guilt, depressed mood and loneliness.


ES: That's all of us.


U: And everyone loves chalking it up to the phone.


ES: The device! I almost wonder if the phone gives us more of an outlet for it, which lets us romanticize more. Whereas in the past, being neurotic was kind of frowned upon, you had to be more outward with it instead of being able to be neurotic and obsessive in private.


U: There's something there about the constant availability of everyone else. We expect people to be constantly available to us. But also, they can be constantly available to us if they like us enough.


ES: Yes. Which is probably the biggest flaw in technology. It's a crazy expectation. It's a crazy possibility. It's insane that it happens and then it inevitably ends. You could be with the love of your life and once you've been together for a while, there's no way you're texting each other every 5 minutes. It’s not how life works. I think the “talking stage" happening over text is messing with a lot of people.


U: I mean, I do love talking.


ES: I just think it's really challenging, especially for neurotic people. You're always wanting a little bit more. I think I'm often projecting onto this person their emotional capacity or even just how they are.


I've had one relationship where the person was boring in person, but they were better over text. There were two different relationships going on, and they weren't progressing equally.


U: Every time I've ever been ghosted or I've gone on a date with someone, I've gone on a few dates or like, I'm seeing someone and it falls off, I 100% safely assume they just got back together with their ex. Everyone has other people that they're talking to, there's always someone else who's in the rotation. People have whole other lives going on. They have a bunch of shit that I don't know about. And I’ve definitely done that too.


ES: I think that maybe my take on that is that in having those beliefs, and in knowing those things, which are often just truths about dating, is part of what makes it possible to date without losing your mind. I think a lot of people are in the process of learning that through life experience.


U: Trial and error.


ES: Yeah, exactly. Of course people are going out with multiple people and you should probably always assume that, especially if you're on an app. If you don’t assume that, then you end up getting yourself hurt, which is something that was on your list: Why do people want to get their feelings hurt?


U: Why do people want to get their feelings hurt? I think that people are kind of unable to sit with the mystery and they really want a specific reason for why they’re being rejected. Personally, I never want to know specifically why someone doesn't like me. I want to stay in my own delusional bubble, I try not to take it personally.


ES: That's a good delusion to have. To be clear, though, you'd rather maintain mystery rather than getting a text, like, “Hey, I didn’t feel like we clicked.”


U: It's such a firm rejection, instead of just like, letting something go and losing touch because it didn’t feel right.


ES: I mean, just to be clear, I don't think you should be telling people why you don't like them. I don’t think that is tactful. It's not graceful, it's not even kind.


 




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USURPATOR is an online magazine sharing essays and interviews about the user experience of our current virtual landscape

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