The digital universe possesses a variety of supernatural tropes: we’re close to communicating with the dead and artificial intelligence technology is developing rapidly. ‘Ghosting’ methods replacing authentic communication in relationships is just another one to add to the list.
Back in the days of dirt roads and horse-drawn carriages – okay, maybe not that far – you had to talk to your love interests in your family living room, attached to the wall by the curly cord of your landline. Now that social media has given us almost the entire population of the earth at the reach of our smart phones, communicating with your love interest – or anyone, really – is a little different.
‘Ghosting’ in a relationship occurs when one person abruptly cuts off all communication to end the relationship with no explanation. It can occur when you’ve been seeing someone for just a few weeks, or in longer, more established relationships that have lasted years. It can even occur between platonic friends. ‘Ghosting’ is really shitty, but it’s also a rite of passage for the average millennial. As someone who has both ‘ghosted’ and been ‘ghosted’, I can attest to this.
BankMyCell carried out a survey, asking millennials to reveal their experiences with ‘ghosting’. 29% of women and 20% of men say they have been ‘ghosted’ by another person. 26% of women and 15% of men admit to doing the ‘ghosting’ themselves. 27% of women and 36% of men have done both.
50% of women and 38% of men who ‘ghosted’ attributed their behaviour to wanting to avoid confrontation.
The first time I was ‘ghosted’, I was nineteen. I hated him for almost a year – out of nowhere he’d started ignoring me, meanwhile regularly complaining on his social media channels that he was single. I was deeply hurt by this; I swore I’d never make another person feel this way. But I did, a year later. It was so easy; we weren’t even official, and I found myself justifying my radio silence after deciding that he wasn’t for me by convincing myself it was ‘for the best’. It wasn’t.
If a friendship or relationship feels too one-sided, develops toxic traits or just doesn’t spark joy (yes, I’m applying Marie Kondo’s decluttering mantra to the people in your life), it’s totally a good thing to end that union. Very few people we meet will remain in our lives forever; if a friendship or relationship has run its natural course, there’s no reason to hold on. But what matters the most is how you go about doing this.
The thing is, ending a relationship – regardless of the type of relationship and how long it’s been established for – is never really fun for either person. In fact, it often leads to a confrontation. The desire to avoid a confrontation is often what inspires a person to ‘ghost’.
Dr Vilhauer, the former head of Los Angeles’ Cedars-Sinai Medical Centre psychotherapy program, told the New York Times that the growing instances of ‘ghosting’ is related to the dating environment we’re all trying to navigate.
Traditionally, people met their significant others quite early in life, and within (or close to) their own social circles. Nowadays, people tend to settle down several years later than they did in the 20th century, which means we’re experiencing a ‘casual dating’ epidemic that lasts well into our twenties. The growth in popularity of online dating has added to this also. As a result, Vilhauer claims we feel less accountability towards those we date; it’s easy to ‘ghost’.
As a society, we need to learn to be open and honest about our boundaries; vulnerability isn’t an excuse for being an asshole. It’s a complex world, and we’re young; we’re still figuring out our values and how to uphold them throughout all aspects of life, but ‘ghosting’ is a trend we need to leave behind us.
Have you ever been ‘ghosted’? Tell us in the comments below!