Have you ever chatted to a potential crush in the DMs, with the conversation going all well and good, until they heart-reacted to your message instead of replying? Even though it doesn’t necessarily make you feel ignored, could you not help but feel slightly bothered and, in general, extremely unsatisfied?

I’m not sure if I’m either happy or salty to report this, but the trend now has a name…

Welcome to soft ghosting (AKA. like-reacting instead of replying). Boo, bitch.

*Chills down spine.*

When Instagram introduced the like-react a while back it seemed like a great way to end a conversation. It’s some slight big dick energy – mid-dick energy? – in which we can symbolically say, “Okay, I’m bored now. This conversation has an expiry date, and that date is now.

This can be extrapolated to any other form of communication – iMessage and Messenger obviously have reaction options as well, which are often used to end a conversation. (Don’t even get me started on the thumbs up reaction.)

Thumbs up for anxiety.

In general, a double-tap is usually a good sign, signalling cyber thirst from those who may or may not want your booty. When a crush double-taps one of your pictures, it makes you feel like you’re well and truly That Bitch™ and provides some confidence that you and said double-tapper may be on a 1-way flight to Smush City.

However, receiving a double-tap in the DMs (the dreaded soft ghost) is arguably equivalent to a semi-punch in the dick – not enough to have you hunched over in pain, but enough to leave a dissatisfied feeling in your gut.

It’s like they’re saying, “Hey. Hello. I’ve acknowledged you. I’ve read the message but I genuinely have nothing to add to this conversation, so I’m going to tap my thumb on your message twice. Ciao for now.”

There are some undeniably smart tactics at play when DM-bae soft ghosts you.

By simply like-reacting, they’re technically the last person to reply, which clears them of ghosting by definition (ghosting meaning the experience of being left on read or ignored entirely). However, it also leaves you stumped because, if you were to send another DM down the line, it’d technically be double-messaging… And this rightfully deters many of us from sending that double message in fear of seeming too keen.

For those of us who try not to seem too keeno beano, the double tap inevitably leaves us alone in a social anxiety K-hole.

It’s a bold power move on their behalf, subsequently leaving you at the mercy of their next move.

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Now, it may seem a bit pedantic to analyse a love heart function so scrupulously but, when it comes to dating, it’s well and truly a battlefield out there – we simply must tread carefully. Besides, even though soft ghosting is a respectful mini-shutdown, it’s a shutdown nonetheless – a shutdown many of us have experienced.

So what should you do if you’re soft ghosted?

I’d suggest softly walking away from the idea that you two will get married, and subsequently saving the kid’s names you’d picked out for the next DM-hubby.

That being said, they genuinely might be interested but just had nothing to add to that particular conversation – after all, every conversation has to end at some point. (Besides, who low-key has the time to keep up a conversation?)

In that respect, hearting the message is a lot less savage than leaving you on read, but the problem with soft ghosting is the way it establishes a lot of ambiguity. Are they keen? Do they find you annoying? Are they just not reading into it as much as you are? Should you just shut the fuck up?

If you see that dreaded love heart, don’t stress… but potentially leave them be for the time being and breathe into a brown paper bag. If they truly fucc with you, they’ll come back.

Either way, this soft ghosting business has me softly spooked. I’m double-tapping out.

Image: Getty Images / James Devaney