Relationships"Mooning" Is the New Ghosting
Is someone texting you too much? Just moon them.
“I moon, moon, moon,” my best friend Cathy told our group text recently. “I moon more than I un-moon. My whole life is moon.”
“Do you moon us, or other people?” I asked her.
“Oh, I definitely moon you,” she said. “I moon most people I know.”
By “mooning,” Cathy wasn’t referring to the mildly rebellious, 1950s act of pulling down one’s pants and showing off your rear end. She was referring to putting her phone on “do not disturb” mode to ignore incoming texts from the sender — so named for the little half-moon symbol that signifies “do not disturb” on the iPhone.
The iPhone’s Do Not Disturb mode silences everyone, temporarily turning off all of your notifications. But you can also mute people in group texts, as well as individual people if you want them to shut up for the time being. This is mooning, and this is what Cathy said she had done to me.
I was stunned. As a frequent texter, I had always assumed that all of my minor life crises — breakups, work drama, the realization that there was a movie with Kevin Spacey as a talking cat and I hadn’t seen it yet — were just as much of interest to my friends as they were to me. But when Cathy said she had put me on “do not disturb” mode, I realized that was not the case. In fact, she likely hadn’t even seen my texts. I had been mooned — and in all likelihood, you probably have too.
How to Moon
If you don’t want to receive text notifications from anyone for a while, you can always turn your phone on do not disturb mode in Settings, or by swiping up and pressing the little half-moon symbol. But if you want to ignore someone individually, here’s a quick guide for how to moon individuals on your iPhone:
1. Go to an individual text message thread.
2. Tap “details.”
3. Toggle on “do not disturb” mode to mute all notifications for that conversation.
4. Enjoy the silence.
On the spectrum of acts of digital impoliteness, “mooning” falls somewhere between ghosting and benching, a term coined by New York Magazine’s Jason Chen to describe leaving someone on your roster of potential romantic prospects without committing to giving them playing time.
In theory, “do not disturb” is intended for major life events that require your undivided attention — if you’re in labor, for instance, or studying for the LSATs.
Yet in practice, people moon for less urgent (and not entirely kind) reasons: it’s a way to ignore your friends’ texts without their knowledge, simply because you don’t feel like dealing with their shit.
For some, mooning is a way of keeping an emotionally destructive ex or former hookup in your life, without letting them take up space in your inbox. Rachael, 34, frequently moons men she’s dated, particularly if they’ve been shitty in the past. “I don't have the willpower to block,” she said. “Some part of my lizard brain still wants to know he's texting me and thinking about me, even when I know it's completely a game for him.”
But mooning doesn’t necessarily have to be aimed at a romantic partner. You could moon anyone, for any reason: a friend prone to drunk texting, or a particularly loquacious group text contributor who inexplicably sends Pepe memes at 5:30 in the morning. You could even moon a relative: in fact, my friend Doug told me he recently found out he was mooned by his mom.
As a way to tune out someone else’s bullshit without severing ties with them completely, mooning is a middle ground between the abrupt Band-Aid rip of blocking someone and the slow fade of ignoring someone’s texts.
“Ignoring seems crueler? Like if you have a read receipt on and you just see the person has completely disregarded your message, that sucks,” said Casey, 26, who recently mooned the girl he was dating after they had a fight. “Mooning at least keeps the little notification there.” (It also provides a convenient front, should the moon-ee get wise to the scheme: Rather than tell her he mooned her because he “didn’t want to deal with her shit,” Casey told his girlfriend that he didn’t respond to her texts because he was “out.”)
In this sense, mooning could be interpreted as a way for commitment-phobic, confrontation-shy millennials to have their cake and eat it too. If you have a friend or a partner who’s such a strain on your emotional energy, why not cut them out of your life entirely, instead of covertly ignoring their messages without them knowing it?
“I think in this day and age we are so used to having an all-access pass to people's lives that we can feel guilty cutting them out,” Alexis, 23, a chronic mooner, told me. “To me, mooning is a way of maintaining my sanity and not having to be notified that a pest is trying to creep up into my life again.” Mooning, she said, “makes it easy for me to draw a boundary without causing controversy.”
And therein lies the appeal of mooning, ghosting, benching, or any of the other myriad terms we use to describe cutting someone off: in a world where we have an endless wellspring of options for staying in touch at all time, we have an equally infinite number of ways to tell each other to fuck off. Some of those ways (like seeing a dude you’ve slept with post a selfie with another girl on Instagram) cause more immediate damage, like a third-degree burn after an earthquake; others (like ghosting) cause more gradual wounds, like a minor bacterial infection that evolves into full-blown gangrene.
If you’re being unknowingly mooned, the damage wrought is like that of a tumor, sprouting cauliflower-like on a vital organ: it could either be totally benign, or quietly wreaking irreversible damage on your insides. Because while mooners will tell you that the act often isn’t personal — that they’re just mooning because they’re tired, or busy at work, or “out” — the truth is that like any form of minor deceit, it can cause the trust you build with your friends and lovers to ever-so-slightly erode.
Alternatively, the discovery that you have been mooned could cause the moon-ee to reform his or her bad texting behavior. When Cathy told me I had been mooned, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little hurt, but I also couldn’t really blame her. As someone who has texted paragraphs upon paragraphs about the catwalk montage in the Sex and the City movie, I had to concede that my friends’ decision to moon was somewhat merited.
Still, if you’re ever tempted to moon a friend or loved one and let their messages pile up into the digital ether, consider why you’re so averse to just telling them straight-up to stop texting you in the first place. Because let’s face it: we might have millions of ways of telling someone we want them to fuck off, but sometimes, there’s just no substitute for the original.