Ghosting sucks – but let’s not pretend it’s a form of abuse

You might not like West Elm Caleb’s actions, but he didn’t deserve the hate campaign


In the last few days people on TikTok have been talking about one thing, and one thing only – West Elm Caleb. This elusive man is currently the target of mass online abuse following a number of viral TikToks in which he was called out for allegedly ghosting multiple women.

Over the last week multiple women have shared their story of dating “West Elm Caleb” aptly named as he allegedly works as a designer at furniture store West Elm. Two prominent TikTokers @meemshou and @kellsbellsbaby both claim to have been ghosted by him at different stages during dating. Meemshou experienced being ghosted by a “tall” Caleb after their first date and Kellsbellsbaby had been chatting to Caleb for six weeks before he ghosted her. Since they shared their stories, multiple other women have come forward claiming to have dated him after meeting on Hinge. They shared how they were ghosted, sent unsolicited nude photos and discovered that he was dating other women at the same time and sharing the same Spotify playlist with all the women.

@_katepear @MEEMS this is hilarious target audience r reached #westelmcaleb #hinge #fyp #kpandthecity ♬ original sound – Kate Pearce

Fast forward a few hours, and people are sharing pictures of the man believed to be Caleb all over TikTok; even posting his full name and dating profile. Yet, there is no real confirmation this is the man they were all dating. Bar one screenshot of a text conversation alleged to be from Caleb, there is very little evidence of Caleb’s side of each dating story.

Without watching the TikToks you’d be forgiven for thinking West Elm Caleb was a dangerous perpetrator who abuses women, and deserves nothing short of a life behind bars.

What started off as a couple of women expressing their pain of being ghosted, has turned into full-blown online bullying. Memes have been created, brands are getting involved with beggy tweets for attention (Hellman’s Mayo, no less) and the comments section on TikTok are full of people hurling abuse at his behaviour and looks. Parts of his behaviour are indefensible. Women are well within their right to feel violated after being sent an unsolicited nude image. However much of the social media pile-on isn’t about the nudes – it’s his constant ghosting that has everyone riled up.

Ghosting is incredibly prevalent in the dating world of 2022. 47 per cent of students admitted to ghosting someone in a survey by Student Beans in 2020, with over 50 per cent of female students admitting to doing so. You will either have been ghosted, ghosted someone yourself or known a friend who has. It’s not nice and it’s become an unfortunate accepted side effect of our current way of dating which involves meeting strangers usually through dating apps. There is no accountability. It’s easy to disappear from someone’s phone without a shred of guilt. But when does this bad dating habit become something you moan about in the group chat, to a behaviour you should be concerned about?

Callisto Adams, relationship expert and founder of HeTexted, explains the reason we experience so much pain with ghosting is because it resembles a form of social abandonment. She said: “Considering human nature and the need for social bonding, ghosting can feel painful, and it resembles a feeling of social abandonment.”

So is Caleb’s – or anyone’s for that matter –  decision to ghost abusive? Callisto suggests ghosting can be considered abusive behaviour depending on the depth of the relationship when the ghosting occurs and the intent behind it. She said: “It depends on the depth of the relationship when the ghosting occurs. Ghosting is often not thought through before being done. At times it is used as a way of protection from potential harm the moment it is detected, and at times it is used to purposefully cause a particular reaction to it.” With any “bad” dating behaviour Callisto suggests “the moment the behaviour is purposefully practised to cause emotional/physical harm, it’s the moment the behaviour becomes abuse.”

And with the information available it seems very reasonable to say Caleb has not taken it this far. In fact, he has since slid into some of those girls’ DMs to apologise for his ghosting.

No one is denying the impact ghosting can have. It sucks. After years of unanswered texts and unreturned calls women have had enough and Caleb became the punching bag for their frustrations. He did not deserve it but he definitely felt the internet’s fury at constantly being ignored. If you want to hold someone to account – go and message your ex who ghosted at the end of your relationship and have an honest conversation about it, don’t berate a man you don’t know for likes.

Related stories recommended by this writer:

Ok who is West Elm Caleb? And why is he the most hated man on TikTok right now?

I asked eight of my dating app matches why they ghost women. Here’s what they had to say

How to deal with being ghosted: The 101 Guide