If you’ve ever been ghosted, you know how it feels: Like a kick in the stomach.
“Ghosting” occurs when a person suddenly ends a relationship without warning or explanation. One second, you’re talking to your boyfriend or best friend about going to a ball game. The next, your friend is wondering why they haven’t heard from you in three days and why you no longer are friends on Facebook.
Being ghosted is like having salt poured on an open wound. Not only have you been abandoned if you have been ghosted, but you’re being denied an explanation.
Technology gives birth to ghosting
“The phenomenon of abruptly disappearing from people’s lives isn’t new, but it seems to be more common today,” according to Psychology Today. “Technology has made ghosting an easy way to dissolve relationships. According to a 2018 study, approximately 25 percent of men and women reported having been ghosted in a romantic relationship, and 22 percent admitted to having ghosted someone else. The Federal Reserve even recognized the phenomenon in a 2018 report, in which employers reported being ghosted by employees in a tight labor market.”
Ghosting is most common in the dating world, Psychology Today explains. Saying, “I don’t want to see you again” just seems so harsh. “The desire to avoid discomfort can apply to a wide range of situations. After flirting for a while, a man or woman may disappear rather than admit they’ve lost interest.
“Someone who feels mistreated by a friend might stop responding rather than confront them. A teenager who feels frustrated by a minimum wage job might spontaneously stop showing up to work instead of giving notice.”
How I ghosted my hometown
I ghosted an entire town a few years ago. I was suffering from untreated mental illness and had become disgusted with the town in which I grew up. I had just lost my dad, my cat died around then, too, and I plunged into severe depression. I felt the entire town was against me and that I needed to get out quick.
I ended up selling my house for half its worth and moving to Denver on a whim. I ghosted everyone I knew from Rock Island, Ill. and only now see it as an inappropriate thing to have done.
Well, on some level it was appropriate. I became sober in 2014 before my dad died. That meant I lost a huge network of friends who I used to party with.
So for a couple of years, life revolved around visiting dad in the rest home and working a lot. I had been unable to work while caring for dad for many years.
Now, I am embarrassed for how I ghosted some people. I think about reaching out to them, but then I realize I honestly don’t want to speak with most of them anyway. There are some people you just choose to ghost.
Ghosters do come back
Ghosters do come back. It takes a lot of courage for them to apologize, so if they do you might want to take the apology to heart. On the other hand, they may just be restless for a date.
“People who ghost must conduct a degree of emotional gymnastics. In cognitive dissonance, a person’s actions may be inconsistent with their beliefs and values; they must therefore convince themselves that their actions are right and just,” according to Psychology Today. “They also convince themselves that the other person would prefer to avoid a tangled and difficult conversation as well. Otherwise, feelings of guilt and cowardice may plague them.”
As someone who ghosted an entire town, I would stay away from people who have ghosted you. I think it takes a certain level of disdain for someone to exit a relationship without saying why. What’s not said should be ear-piercing, and that’s the message you are not friends anymore.
Recovering from being ghosted
The American Psychological Association, or APA, offers tips for healing for those who have been ghosted. “Physical pain and emotional pain are actually on the same neural pathway and so they've done a lot of research that shows that social rejection can cause the same level of pain that an injury to your body would cause and it's activated in the same region of the brain,” said psychologist Dr. Jennice Vilhauer in a podcast on the APA website. “They've done studies that show people can take Tylenol that will actually help alleviate emotional pain. That's actually something that someone can do if they're really in an acute state of emotional pain, that helps a little bit.”
Vilhauer hinted that the internet has given rise to ghosting. “I do think that it's like anything, there's good and there's bad,” she said of online dating. “I think one of the consequences is that people are a bit more indifferent to one another. I think that when you meet somebody online, there's less social accountability because you're oftentimes meeting people that are not in your social circle that don't know other people.
“It just becomes much easier to move on from a relationship very quickly when you don't have anybody else in your social circle that is going to object to the way that you're treating somebody else.”
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