Micro-Ghosting: The Dating Trend That Proves Ghosting Can Get Even More Frustrating

If the person you're dating has started to become distant and detached — or has fully disappeared while also completely cutting off communication — then they may be ghosting you. Or, if it seems somewhat less drastic than that, but you've been experiencing seemingly minor versions of the same sort of behavior, they may be doing what's known as micro-ghosting. To help you decide whether or not this is happening to you, it's important to know that micro-ghosting is specifically when someone indulges in smaller, sporadic acts of ghosting, like not bothering to return your text. Although the two kinds of ghosting are similar, and there's no doubt that both are unpleasant, micro-ghosting might be even more frustrating due to the fact that it can be an ongoing and confusing situation.

"There are different levels of ghosting," Wendy Walsh, a psychology professor, told The New York Times. Indeed, she noted that the most extreme involves a person who is in an intimate relationship and suddenly, unexpectedly, and permanently cuts off all contact. On the other end of the spectrum is micro-ghosting. While it may not be as severe, it can still be incredibly hurtful and leave the person on the receiving end of the behavior wondering what's really going on.

Although it may turn out to be something that's relatively harmless if it only happens occasionally, micro-ghosting can also be a sign that there's a deeper issue within the relationship that has started to manifest in little ways.

Why micro-ghosting happens

It may be easy to brush micro-ghosting off as the same kind of behavior as normal ghosting but on a smaller (perhaps less harmful) scale. Because of this, you might try to minimize its meaning and, therefore, its effect on you and your relationship. However, there may be more to the behavior than you realized, and it's definitely something that you need to be aware of. In fact, micro-ghosting might be even worse than extreme ghosting, and that has to do with why it happens in the first place.

"Full-blown ghosting is uncivil, but at least the ghoster shows a level of immaturity by taking the easy way out and never returning," Mandy Mee, a dating coach and founder of the MME Agency, told Stylist. "Whereas with micro-ghosting, there's an element of narcissism: it's as though the ghoster has mixed intentions and wants control over the type of relationship they have with you instead of having the courage to express how they genuinely feel."

This kind of activity may also make you feel worse. Instead of being able to move on, micro-ghosting keeps you hanging on. Mee explained, "Even though they ignore you for days or do not want you around, they still want access to you, hence the need to respond in their own time. It's like breadcrumbing: they show a little engagement, flirt, but never truly commit to either a lengthy conversation or want to meet up."

The difference between micro-ghosting and breadcrumbing

Micro-ghosting may sound a lot like breadcrumbing, however, there are a few key differences when it comes to these dating behaviors. For instance, while the former involves a person pulling back in small ways, breadcrumbing does the opposite. It involves doing little things — like sending quick texts or leaving a comment on their Instagram post — to keep someone thinking you're still invested in the potential relationship while you actually have no intention of following through on a larger commitment.

Then there's the motivation behind each. When it comes to micro-ghosting, it tends to be sparked by the fact that one person is feeling unsure about the future of a relationship. As for breadcrumbing, April Masini, a New York-based relationship expert, told Elite Daily, "People breadcrumb because they want the other person in their life — so they can feel that they're there if they need them, but they have no intention of dating them at the moment, or ever. Sometimes they breadcrumb others because they're lonely, sometimes fearful of being alone, and sometimes sadistic, or simply selfish."

In the end, breadcrumbing is purposefully deceitful while micro-ghosting might be motivated by uncertainty. That's why you may be able to forgive the latter but not the former because while micro-ghosting can be addressed and resolved if it doesn't keep happening, breadcrumbing is a sign of selfishness and a possible red flag.