Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Nicole Mazzeo, founder and director of the sex-positive activist group Pleasure Pie, with group materials in 2017. (Photo: Nicole Mazzeo via Facebook)

Dating in the age of smartphones and social media has made connecting with others easier than ever, but technology has also made it effortless to “ghost” people by breaking off communication without explanation. Whether you’re the one avoiding someone or the person being left in the dark, it’s never pleasant. Nicole Mazzeo, founder and director of the sex-positive activist group Pleasure Pie, leads a workshop Thursday at the Democracy Center to look at other ways to break ties.

The conversation has been edited and condensed for publication.

What are you going to be teaching? What can participants expect?

We’re gonna be talking about different ways basically to either cut ties someone or tell them you don’t want to be dating them, whether it’s super casual – even someone that you’re just messaging with on Tinder versus someone you’ve gone on a date with or even someone that you are seriously dating. A lot of times there’s similar skills and approaches that you can apply, and we’ll talk about what kind of thing is appropriate in each one. Like, if you’ve just gone on one date with someone, maybe it’s okay to just tell them over text. Basically the workshop is trying to give people the skills to communicate about this stuff, because so often people end up just not knowing what to do, just avoiding the whole situation and never saying anything. It’s just a fear.

What inspired the workshop?

I have heard so many people say they hate it when they’re ghosted, but I’ve also heard them say that they feel guilty because they’ve ghosted other people. A lot of people are not seeing their actions line up with their values and beliefs. In my own dating life, I very much err on the side of being upfront with people about when I want to stop seeing them – and I’ve definitely had some bad reactions, but largely people have been respectful and said, “Thank you so much for being honest with me about it.” 

I also want to be clear that this whole workshop is talking about ghosting and rejection in situations where you feel safe. If you’re in any sort of situation where you feel threatened, that isn’t really what this is about. 

Why is ghosting bad?

Because it leaves a lot of people feeling confused and hurt and sometimes betrayed a little, just not having any closure. It sends a message that you don’t want to keep interacting with me, but I have no idea why. I’ll just keep thinking, “What did I do wrong, and what happened? Where did this go wrong?” It can be a lot harder to let it go and feel okay about the fact that it didn’t work out if you have so little information about what happened.

Are there any key points you hope people take away?

Just realizing that they can communicate about difficult and uncomfortable topics. Even though it’s difficult, it is okay, and you can do that. And to kind of challenge people to push themselves past the discomfort of just avoiding awkwardness.

“How To Stop Ghosting” is at 6 p.m. Thursday at The Democracy Center, 45 Mount Auburn St., Harvard Square. Admission is on a sliding scale from $5 to $15. Information is here.