What’s the difference between ghosting and cloaking?
A colleague recently shared this video posted by the dating app user who coined the term “cloaking” and asked for commentary.
While the jilted dater shares an honest, vulnerable dating vignette and helps other dating app users feel less alone, what seems most noteworthy about her experience is how common it has become to experience strong feelings for unknown individuals with whom all contact is virtual. Today, it is standard to connect through apps like Hinge, Tinder or Bumble and spend a tremendous amount of time and emotional energy communicating virtually with someone who quite possibly may not be whom they say they are, and may even be a fake avatar or internet troll. As flirtatious introductions evolve into sharing likes, menu favorites and facial hair preferences, the risk of wasted emotional energy is unfortunately high. Ironically, this pattern of experiencing the majority of early flirtations in the virtual realm correlates with fewer face-to-face interactions, fewer moments exposed to basic eye contact, reduced comfort with intimacy, and therefore, a crisis in empathy. The greater the virtual buildup before two people meet, the greater the risk of a let down when the connection shifts to real life.
Cloaking, like ghosting, is substandard behavior that represents a lost opportunity to experience and express empathy and to develop basic relationship skills. Cloaking is simply high-tech ghosting that fits, psychologically, with a growing crisis in empathy. Telling someone that you are not experiencing certain feelings and thus do not think it is wise to continue communicating is an intimate, vulnerable, empathic act and daters are shying away from this important growth opportunity.
Dating apps offer a wealth of potential suitors, but excessive virtual contact is manufacturing an epidemic of avoidance. To reflect on the pattern honestly, cloaking and its cyber strategy should be considered in the context of the mushrooming virtual element of courtship that the cloaked app user describes so well. The more emotional energy a dater directs towards the screen, the harder it becomes to be fully present, intimate and empathic in human relationships. If you match with someone appealing, text briefly and make a plan for coffee or a walk in the park to see if the two of you can sustain and enjoy an in person interaction. Save the wine and tortellini for date number two or date number three.