Humanizing the Ghost: A Q&A With Comedian Michael Yo

Michael Yo Has Become an Unofficial Ghosting Expert

No behavior better captures the current dating climate than ghosting. Of all the ridiculous dating terms crowding up our feeds – breadcrumbing, benching, orbiting and so on –  ghosting remains at the forefront.

First established in 2004 as a slang term by Urban Dictionary, ghosting has grown to become such a phenomenon that it was recognized by Merriam-Webster in 2017. This is to say we’re familiar with ghosting, we know it’s unethical and yet it’s more popular than ever before. 

So popular, in fact, that it’s gone on to become the main topic of conversation for Ghost Stories, the first podcast by dating app Hinge.

RELATED: 10 Brand New Terms to Add to Your Growing Dating Dictionary

In each episode, comedians Michael Yo and Syndee Washington examine certain ghosting stories, serving as narrators, coaches and referees as those who’ve been ghosted confront their ghost (or vice versa) live in studio. In hearing these testimonies, Yo and Washington act as unofficial experts on the subject, bringing a certain sense of light and understanding to this often polarizing circumstance. 

We spoke with Yo to discuss what he’s learned about dating’s most infamously reprehensible behavior since he started hosting the podcast.

AskMen: In hearing so many ghost stories, have you found ghosting behavior defensible in any way? In the first episode, it was easy to side with both Ben and Lindsay for separate reasons. 

Michael Yo: That’s what I love about this podcast. Though every story starts from the same place, they end up totally different. I thought anyone that ghosts another person, that person would be mad, but you see growth in different people and how different people approach getting ghosted.

One thing I’ve noticed is you need to set your intentions from the beginning. Lindsay was in it for fun, but Ben was like, “Oh my God. She’s the one!” And they never talked about it. If you’re on a first date and they say, “I’m looking for a person I can settle down with,” and you’re not in that mode, you would be like, “Oh my God, they’re a stalker.” But if you’re in that mode, you’re like, “This is the best thing ever!” Set the intentions upfront, even on the first date.

The podcast does a really great job of humanizing the ghost. Do you agree that the ghost isn’t always the bad one in these situations?

Everybody has been in the ghost role. It’s funny, when you’re the ghost you’re like, “I’m not a bad person.” But if you get ghosted, “Oh my God, that person is horrible.” Ghost Stories shows this balance. Once you hear both sides of the story, you begin to realize they’re humans. 

Hinge Ghost Stories graphicHinge

What’s your opinion on those who ghost?

Ghosts are cowards. I know that’s a harsh word, but they’re being cowardly. What’s funny is ghosts will say, “I don’t want to hurt their feelings.” Where the truth is, you don’t want to be put in that awkward situation. You may not want to hurt their feelings, but that’s not the main reason you’re not telling them. You don’t want to look like a bad person. It’s more about you than them. 

And why do you think ghosting has become so popular? Has the digital era influenced us to cut people off without explanation? 

I think it’s easier to do now because it’s so easy to find dates. When I was growing up, you had to go to the mall food court and actually talk to girls, write their numbers down on paper, call them on their home phone, and then their dad would answer and you would hang up. I think this ease and the plethora of people you can date has made people impatient, and they decide they don’t like someone before they get to know them. 

Texting somebody is different than talking to somebody. I think calling people is more effective. When you’re texting somebody, you take your time to send the perfect text, but is that really you? They’re getting the heightened version of you, not the real you. At least when you’re talking on the phone, you get a vibe of their style, sense of humor, etc. But these days, calling someone is so strange to people.

Is there a common thread weaved throughout these ghosting narratives? 

Everybody has their shields up and nobody wants to put them down. Getting ghosted or ghosting someone puts our defenses up and suddenly nobody wants to show their human side, so everybody projects this bigger version of themselves. Ghost Stories takes these shields down and features a person telling another how they really felt and you get a real human emotion. In doing this podcast, I’ve found it’s easy to meet people, but hard to connect. 

Care to hint what’s been the most intense ghost story to date? 

There was one episode where two people really fell out and one of them was really, really hurt. But at the end, they talked it out and went on a date after the podcast! I paid. They’d gone from hating each other to talking it out because everybody’s got their shields up.

Do you think one gender is more likely to ghost than the other, or does their approach to ghosting differ?

When it was a guy and a girl, one side couldn’t understand the other. But when it is same-sex, that wasn’t the case at all. We had two ladies on and I’ve never heard a more uplifting podcast in my life. The way they handled it and talked it out was so mature. It was very enjoyable to hear two adults putting their hearts on the line and really saying what they meant. We were cheering at the end for them to get together. 

Have you come across any instances where the ghoster comes off more like a  victim than the ghostee? 

I’m surprised at how many versions there are of what dating means to different people. You’ll see throughout these podcasts (because we interview them separately) that they have totally different definitions of dating. They’re starting off in the wrong place, and it’s part of the reason they didn’t see eye to eye. You could ghost somebody because you found out they’re dating a bunch of people and you were only dating them, so you’re not going to waste your time.

Have you found that there is a certain type that ghosts?

No! That’s what’s great. They can be the sweetest person in the world. I feel like every ghost has their own personality. Lindsay was the one who turned in the story and she was the ghoster, but she was super nice, pleasant and I can see any person wanting to hang out with her. 

What is your advice to people who ghost? Is there any case where telling the truth is worse than ghosting?

There shouldn’t ever be a ghost story. We do this podcast to show people that you don’t need to ghost, you just have to be honest. Say, “Hey, I don’t think we really match, but I loved meeting you – maybe we can be friends, or hopefully I’ll see you sometime.” You can even do it in a text. 

In every case, the truth is worse than ghosting because you’re hearing about why they don’t like you or why it didn’t work. That’s why it’s easier to ghost because the truth hurts.  If you’re the deliverer of that, it’s even worse sometimes. Unless you’re just an a-hole or don’t care, which we’ve had on the podcast too. 

Do ghosts actually feel better when they come clean, or is ignorance bliss in this case?

As soon as the ghoster said everything they had to say, you could physically see them sit up straighter. It was like a weight was taken off. As soon as they say things aren’t going to work out, they’re back to their normal selves. They feel better knowing they can continue with their lives.

I think that’s one thing this podcast does so well is it gets people to the point where they can move on from that relationship because we all need closure in one way or another. Even the ghoster, because they think they were shitty to that person and need to wrap things up. And if you’re the one who got ghosted, you’re wondering what happened. That’s what I love, both sides get closure. That’s what this show is all about. 

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