If it’s been too long since a dating trend made you low-key lose faith in humanity, allow me to fill you in on the meaning behind cloaking: Coined by Mashable reporter Rachel Thompson, it’s a steroid-pumped version of ghosting wherein one party cuts off even the potential for communication after a seemingly successful match has been made. Though the term is new, the story it tells is a tale as old as, well, at least 2016—based on my roommate’s Bumbleventures.
Unlike the linger-focused trends of orbiting or breadcrumbing, cloaking is about severing all ties. Thompson details her experience of someone not only standing her up for a second date, but unmatching with her from Hinge and blocking her on WhatsApp. In effect, it can seem like someone believes they can wear an invisibility cloak, à la Harry Potter, and just slink into the ether with no evidence they were ever there in the first place. Rude, right?
And yet, in the right hands, the cloak can be used for mostly good—in Potter’s case, to hide from whatever magical monster is haunting a given page. Indeed cloaking seems like a great way to hide from the worst kind of dating mismatch: an unsafe one. Even a bona fide etiquette expert agrees that in this case, it’s totally okay to invoke the clearly impolite dating trend.
“When personal safety is a concern, I am a proponent of every measure available to protect yourself.” —Diane Gottsman, etiquette expert
“If it’s something as simple as not wanting further communication with someone because the two of you didn’t mix, or there wasn’t the right chemistry, while cloaking might be an extreme measure, it’s also a good indicator that they are SERIOUS when it comes to their desire for no future communication,” says national etiquette expert Diane Gottsman. But in this case, she still maintains it’s common courtesy to let down the other person with a conversation to simply explain it’s not a great fit.
But in a world where dating is a landmine of frogs, narcissists, dick pics, and IRL Joe Goldbergs, harassment after a dating mismatch is a real concern. It’s not uncommon to meet a stranger and feel threatened, creeped out, or even simply uncomfortable. It’s in this sitch that cloaking is basically a necessary protective method, Gottsman says. “When personal safety is a concern, I am a proponent of every measure available to protect yourself.”
Ultimately, all these awful dating trends just provide more and more evidence that everyone’s becoming ruder when it comes to romance—cloaking’s just another intense example. But when you have to hide from trolls or monsters, a cloak for shrouding yourself and your likeness is pretty darn helpful.
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