Why Do Daters 'Haunt' Each Other? We Asked Some Of The 'Spooky' People Who've Done It.

We asked. They answered.

Just when you thought ghosting was the scariest thing that could happen to your love life, something wicked this way comes — a new dating trend called "haunting."

 ICYMI: a "haunting" occurs when someone ghosts a potential love interest, but then continues to interact with them indirectly on social media. Most often, haunting takes the form of liking Facebook and Instagram posts and/or watching Snapchat and Instagram stories. 

While some writers first noticed this new "horrific" dating trend back in April, and others have even recounted the experience of being haunted, I've decided to delve into the why (oh why) daters do it. 

Consider me your resident ghostbuster. 


Over the past few weeks, A Plus interviewed four admitted haunters about the rationale behind their spooky social media habits. Due to the personal nature of these stories, some of our interviewees requested being identified by only their first name or a pseudonym.

Not only did their reasons for ghosting, and then subsequently haunting, vary, but so did the real-life results of their actions. While some have since moved on to "a better place," others remain in the veritable hellscape that is being a single millennial. 

Whatever the outcome, each of their ghost stories can teach us an important lesson about the sometimes scary, sometimes simple, ways we deal with human connection and communication in the digital age. 

Reason #1: He lost romantic interest, but still shares enough mutual interests that he wants to maintain a social media friendship.

Alex, 25, a customer service manager in New York, became Facebook friends with his "hauntee" through mutual friends with theater backgrounds. "We ended up having a lot of political views in common, so we really followed along with each other a lot on Facebook," he told A Plus. "And so that was just a really strong connection …" The two men began commenting on each other's posts before sending messages back and forth, discussing their common interests in theater and politics. 

Soon enough, they exchanged numbers, and went out a few times in person. Eventually, however, Alex lost interest in his suitor because he felt their personalities didn't work as well together in person as they did on Facebook. 

So he ghosted, then haunted, him. 

"Now, we still regularly interact on Facebook," Alex said, explaining that they still like and share each other's posts. Occasionally, the hauntee will message Alex on the site, though he only responds with one word answers. "We still do share pretty much the same political ideology," he noted. "We just aren't a good match as people with dating potential."  

Reason #2: He honestly just forgot.

Tony (name has been changed), 22, a social media manager in Cleveland, told A Plus he haunted "like all the time" — mainly on accident. "For my job, I'm on my phone all the time, literally all the time," he said. "So I see people's text messages, no matter who you are, when you text me … I will never respond to them unless it's making plans, just because there's so much going on all the time." His close friends know this about him. New love interests, however, don't — and that's where the trouble begins. 

"One time, there was a girl I was talking to, and I got really bad at texting for like a week because I was just super busy with work," he explained. Though it was a brief ghosting period, he did end up haunting her via liking her Instagram posts. Soon, he became the victim of his own ghost story. "She got so mad to the point where she was about to just come to my house and wait for me to come home so we could hang out," he said. "I ended up blocking her number after that experience because she was so upset."

While the haunted's reaction was rare in its extremity, the situation that elicited it was not. "It's a pretty common thing. I think especially with guys," Tony said. For example, he recalled conversations among friends where a guy liked a girl's picture on Instagram, immediately followed by an "Oh shit" moment in which he remembered he hadn't texted her back in two days. 

"…It comes up a lot," he added. "It's definitely something that I feel like anybody that's around my age probably experiences fairly regularly." 

Tony thinks the ease with which he and his peers have ghosted, and subsequently haunted, is rooted in the lack of "that physical person-to-person connection," allowing for "so many different loopholes" to get out of an undesirable conversation. "... If you're just lazy, or if they bring up something you don't want to talk about at the time, you just forget to text them back," he concluded.  

Reason #3: She likes looking at pretty things.

Keri (name has been changed), a 23-year-old brand manager in Los Angeles, met her hauntee at a concert about a year ago. "I remember after the night we met, I texted all my friends that I had 'just met my husband' — that was how well we initially clicked," she told A Plus via email. That initial spark soon extinguished after one date and two "less formal" hangouts. "I still thought he was a good guy," she explained. "Then, the deal breaker came up: He was fairly conservative, and told me he wasn't sexually active and didn't plan to be." 

After hearing that, Keri knew the romantic part of their relationship was over, but she figured they could still be friends. Wanting to preserve the platonic part of their relationship, Keri "tried to pull back from him for a few months," but she didn't make the conscious decision to ghost him until "he became so clingy and, honestly, clueless" about six months after they met. "He has since texted me seven times — and called me twice — with no answer from me," she added. 

"I was so wishy-washy toward the end of our 'relationship' that I always held off on unfriending or unfollowing him since that seemed to mark it as 'over.' " 

Even now, a year later, she continues to haunt him for a surprisingly simple reason: "He's painfully, adorably, incredibly gorgeous… he's really pretty, and I selfishly like looking at his face." 

According to Keri, she's in good company on Instagram and Snapchat. "I know friends that are serial haunters," she explained. "I feel like they mostly fall into the second category — just want to look at hot people." 

While the physical attraction to her hauntee remains Keri's most compelling reason, a third, deeper reason endures as well. "I always like thinking of that first night we met," she explained. "And what could have been if that's how our relationship had stayed." 

Reason #4: He's on the rebound and dating around (and around and around).

Mitchell Keo, 28, a nursing student in Boston, only started haunting potential love interests after a bad break-up with his ex-girlfriend. "Why I ghosted was because I was always looking for something else. I was looking for something new, or something that I once had that made me feel good," he told A Plus. "I was with my ex for eight years, and when I was with her, I felt like I had everything." 

Eventually, he started "dating around," trying to recapture the feelings he'd had with his ex. Despite making connections with the women he met on dating apps, something still seemed like it was missing. "I knew that I couldn't get my ex, so, what I did was, I dated. I got what felt good at that time, and then I left … It was the same cycle over and over again." To keep that cycle going, he showered affection on each girl for a few weeks, maybe a month or two, disappeared, and then came back to haunt them.

"I was vulnerable, and a lot of the girls I dated, they were also vulnerable," he said. In Keo's experience, several of the women he met while online dating had just broken up with someone and were also on the rebound. 

Because he knew what they were feeling firsthand, he knew how to prey on it. "I know, sometimes, when you're vulnerable, and when you make that person feel good, they tend to drop their guard more," he further explained. Yet, despite whatever pain Keo caused these women through his ghosting, when he came back to haunt them, their romantic connection remained intact "because they dropped their guard for you for a reason," making it "a lot easier for [him] to get back with them." 

For Keo, haunting became a fool-proof way to score a "quick high" whenever he was feeling "down" and vulnerable. When he did choose to reinitiate conversation with someone he'd ghosted, he'd even reference a haunting moment (a 'liked' Instagram picture, for example)  in his opening line. 

As the haunter, Keo retained the power in the relationship, thus enabling him to reach out to these women, for however long or short, was convenient for him — just enough time to take his mind off what was really bothering him, before ghosting again. 

Of these four happy haunts, the one who is currently in a committed, monogamous relationship is, ironically, Keo (though not with someone he had ever haunted). Alex, Tony, and Keri all continue to date casually in their respective cities, though none were too keen on haunting for sport. If — or perhaps more realistically, when — they happen to do it again, it most likely will be out of necessity or forgetfulness. 

So there you have it: a few explanations as to why, why, and why oh why people haunt. Though this is certainly not a representation of the overall dating landscape, these first-hand perspectives can provide further insight into the effect of social media on modern romance. Whether you love or hate social media, it's likely to play some role in your IRL human connections — for better or worse, in sickness and health, on Instagram or Snapchat.    

What all these examples have in common, and what we can learn from them, is that dating isn't easy, no matter which side of the romantic interaction you end up. None of these daters truly enjoyed haunting another person, or even intended to haunt them. We all make mistakes in relationships, whether they're romantic, platonic, or familial, but that just means we all can learn from them. 

And perhaps the most important lesson anyone can all take away is that instead of ghosting or haunting others, the next time you want to end a romantic interaction, try appealing to the better angel of their nature. Or, if nothing else, be kind, yet honest enough, to let them down easy.

Cover image via Unsplash

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