Let’s talk about ghosting. For those of you who know what ghosting is, especially if you’ve been on the receiving end of it, the word itself probably incites an emotional response from you, or perhaps a specific memory/person is immediately triggered.
While the practice of ghosting is surely not new, the word in this context is new, so you might not be familiar with it. I’ll help you out 😉
Ghosting is basically the act of abruptly cutting someone off with no warning and not responding to any messages or communication – specifically using technology.
For example, in a more casual context, if you go on a date with someone and then text them afterwards to try to see them again and they just never respond… ever again, then they’ve ghosted you. In this instance, it’s pretty disappointing and frustrating, but it was just one date. Ghosting can happen between longer relationships, though. Say you’ve been seeing someone for a month and then suddenly they just disappear and stop answering your texts, calls, etc. – they’ve ghosted you. That one’s got to hurt more, as you’ve invested far more time into this person.
Ghosting happens all of the time, and not just between romantic/sexual partners. In this political climate, ghosting has been seen between friends as well. I know someone who recently completely stopped talking to her close friend when she found out that they supported the current U.S. president.
Why does ghosting happen, though? Why doesn’t everyone just have a conversation and come to an understanding or explain themselves or just try to give some effort instead of dropping the other person without a word?
I know that this may seem like basic, surface-level stuff. You could say, “Well, they don’t want anything to do with that person anymore, so they just break contact. Simple as that.” Okay, sure, it is that simple when you look at it from the surface. But what makes someone want to just break off a relationship without a word? Where is the empathy? This is not something that most people would be comfortable doing in person.
For as long as relationships have existed, so have ways to end them. Technology and how spread out we are as human beings now definitely make ghosting easier and a more accessible option, but there are many possible explanations for ghosting, and I’m excited to talk about them with you!
There are two parties when it comes to ghosting. We have the ghoster and the ghosted. Generally, when ghosting happens, the ghosted is left feeling rejected and wishes that the ghoster had first talked to them instead of just disappearing. Let’s look at reasons why the ghoster chooses not to do this. (Some of these will overlap or connect!)
- The ghosted is unhinged. So, this is really the only semi-acceptable reason to ghost someone, in my opinion. If a person is relentlessly messaging the ghoster in an obsessive fashion and is making them uncomfortable or feel that they’re in some kind of danger, it makes sense to ghost them. Especially if the ghoster has already asked that they stop and have expressed their disinterest – if the person continues to persist, the ghoster’s only option is to ghost them! Completely cutting ties with someone who is obsessive and unhinged might be the only way to put a stop to it. In this case, it is understandable why the ghoster will ghost.
- Lack of bravery. AKA, the ghoster is a coward. One reason why someone might ghost is because they’re too afraid to admit that they want to cut ties or are not “brave” enough to express how they’re feeling. We call this type of ghoster a coward because they ignore how awful ghosting will make a person feel and do what will be easiest for themselves instead. This is selfish behavior, as the ghoster does not prioritize how awful the ghosted will feel from being dropped without an explanation.
- Masking (anonymity). Check this out: Crimes often go up on Halloween. Why is this? Because we are in costumes and masks, and are thus able to hide ourselves. Anonymity allows us as human beings to conceal our emotions, bring to the surface a part of our personality we might be hiding, and dehumanize us (which will lead to us partaking in behavior we wouldn’t normally deem socially acceptable). Wearing a mask and having anonymity helps us avoid guilt, embarrassment, and shame. Phones and technology are our masks. Just like we might text something that we wouldn’t say in person, we also might do something that we wouldn’t do in person. And this thing that we’re doing? It’s ghosting. Our technology dehumanizes both us and the ghosted when it comes to ghosting; we don’t have to look the other person in the eyes or see how ghosting them affects them, and we’re not held accountable for it. Technology can take our empathy away. Because of this, ghosting becomes an accessible and desirable option, and it’s easy.
- The Ghoster doesn’t want to admit that it’s them, not you. You know the saying, “It’s not you, it’s me?” You probably do. It’s often a cop out response. Ghosting takes this to the next level. Instead of having to admit that “it’s not you, it’s me”, ghosting allows someone to not even have to get to that step. It allows them to avoid the guilt that they might feel from saying they don’t want to know you anymore. Sometimes this guilt is because they know that they’re doing something wrong by ending the relationship, and sometimes this guilt just comes from seeing how it hurts the other person to say you’re not interested. So, what does ghosting do? It lets the ghoster skip that whole guilt thing! The ghoster gets to take off guilt-free, never having to admit to anything or deal with the ghosted’s reaction and feelings.
Ghosting may seem easy, harmless, and make us feel guilt-free, but it is wrong. I believe that if you are not into someone or no longer wish to maintain a relationship, you should tell them. People deserve to be given the ability to move on without wondering what actually happened, what they might have done, or why you didn’t try harder to work it out.
Yes, it’s harder to approach someone and tell them how you’re feeling or that you no longer want to have a relationship, but you know what? That’s too bad. People don’t deserve to be dropped without a word – it’s dehumanizing and, frankly, unkind. You probably wouldn’t just walk away from someone without a word, so why would you do it online? So, acknowledge why ghosting might feel like the easier, more desirable option for us, and then throw that option in the trash and have the harder conversations instead. It’s the right thing to do.