Ghosting: Why it happens, and what you can do about it
To "ghost," or to be "ghosted," means what it sounds like – to disappear or to be disappeared on suddenly or slowly, and without an explanation.
I remember hearing the term around late 2014 to early 2015, when online dating apps like Tinder were at its most popular. Back in college, I had a friend (and by "friend" do I mean me?) who started getting close to a Tinder match she previously knew from school. Cue the "getting-to-know-you" phase – constant texts, Snapchats, some kilig-worthy banter here and there – you know the drill.
After two months or so of almost 24/7 communication, a lunch date was finally set. It happened, everything went well, beso goodbyes were made, and then... that was pretty much the end of it.
Replies came once a day, twice a week, once a week – until they never came at all.
My friend was left in the dark. Her "what if's" and "why's" were countless, but her answers remained at zero. She eventually accepted that she was ghosted, and, for a lack of a better term, was pretty "haunted" by it for a while.
She was lucky, though – the "relationship" only reached a lunch date, thankfully. Others, though, aren't so lucky – others are ghosted even after exclusively dating and reaching physical intimacy.
So, where do ghosted hearts go? Relationship counselor, psychologist and author Lissy Ann Puno helps Rappler get to the bottom of this 21st century phenomenon – why ghosting happens, what it does, and how we can move on.
There he ghost! What is 'ghosting?'
Ghosting, according to Lissy Ann, is "ending a relationship by stopping all contact with another person with no explanation, communication, or agreement that this would happen," especially if it happens after a regular period of "getting-to-know-you time."
This means no responses to calls, texts, emails, Instagram comments and even Twitter DMs – this person has gone completely MIA on you, both on and offline.
"It's disappearing after an intense period of expressing interest in each other," she added. And what falls under "expressing interest?" Anything involving time spent on one another, presence shared, sexual intimacy, flirtation, and engaging in constant communication.
"For others, it's also another term for 'breaking up' – ghosting is how they delay what they know will happen anyway," Lissy Ann said.
Social media: Ghosting made easier
We're hardly ever fully offline, right? We're almost always reachable via at least one social media channel – which is great at the start of every relatonship, sure, but excruciating at the end of each one.
We know when we're being blatantly and consciously ignored ("I've been deliverzoned for days but I see him liking Tweets, wtf") – and this makes the internet ghosting's number one partner-in-crime.
Tinder, Bumble, and the like hardly helps at all; in fact, online dating's "swipe-left-swipe-right" feature is partly to blame. People's attention spans? Now shorter than a goldfish's.
“People are led to believe that there are millions of people to possibly date out there. Choices seem unlimited and the next best person may still be out there, so people lose interest quickly," Lissy Ann explained.
It makes total sense. Tinder is literally built on first impressions, made in seconds. It’s addictive instant gratification at your fingertips – from getting matched, to being messaged first, to "hitting it off" – all done in a matter of seconds.
And if you don't hit it off? No prob. He's just one in a sea of many others; already forgotten as you swipe onto the next one.
No post-ghosting social consequences to deal with, no possible awkward conversations – you're safely tucked behind a screen. What is there to lose? Ghosts want to be your "boo" (pun intended) – until they don't.
“They don’t want to invest time, energy, and effort in getting to know someone if it doesn’t not appear to be a hit," Lissy Ann said.
Ghosters: Not so #SquadGhouls
Similar to their literal spirit counterparts, ghosts just hang around aimlessly, not ready to accept their fate. They refuse to move on to the Other Side; they don't know what to do, or where to go – so they just stick around, even causing trouble for the humans along the way. Sound familiar?
“Ghosters don’t see the need to break up the old way. They cannot face the consequences of breaking up with another person as they refuse to take responsibility and be honest about their thoughts and feelings," Lissy Ann said.
Simply put: there's no space for "respect and consideration," especially if it's for the feelings of the other. At that moment, there is only concern for their own well-being, sans any accountability for what comes next.
"Ghosting is a sign of immaturity and irresponsibility, and is incredibly hurtful," she added.
I mean, ghosters are human too, with weaknesses that need to be addressed, but at that moment, they're simply just too emotionally inept to deal with the consequences of being honest.
Thankfully, it's never an all-or-nothing case: there are concrete solutions ghosters can practice when finding themselves in a "relationship" that doesn't seem to be working out (which is, of course, very normal).
So, please, ghosters, listen up! Lissy Ann suggests the following:
- Hone your communication skills. Be honest about your feelings, and express them in a rational manner.
- State your clear intention to end the relationship, whether in person or via text.
- Give relevant reasons as to why you believe it needs to end.
- Always communicate from an "I" perspective, versus a “you” one, to avoid blame on the other.
- Be specific on why the relationship won’t work. Be honest, straightforward, yet still sensitive – because really, honesty and common decency is the least you can give; not silence.
“Suddenly disappearing from another’s life is never a good thing. You have to know what you want in a relationship, and then get to know the other person well enough to know if they can offer what you want," Lissy Ann advised.
"If not, then say it clearly, because the other person may truly care."
Moving on from ghosting: that's the spirit!
Most of the time, ghosting is not about you.
Blaming yourself is a big no-no, so try to avoid believing that it's all your fault. (This is definitely easier said than done, though – ghosting can really bring out feelings of incompetence, self-doubt, pain, shame, anger, and frustration).
According to Lissy Ann, try telling yourself the following self-soothing statements:
- "The interest and feelings were not at the same level – that's all. That doesn't make me boring, ugly, or unappealing. We just weren't meant to be."
- "Everything happens for a reason. I may not see it now, but it will all make sense soon."
- "Not all relationships end up like the happy endings we see in movies."
- "You don’t necessarily end up with the first person you meet or fall in love with." (Sorry to break it to you all).
- "One person's opinion of me doesn't define me, or my relationship. I will continue to surround yourself with the people who truly care about me and love me for me."
- "They're cliches for a reason, but there really is someone better out there for me! It's his/her loss!" (Positive self-talk and affirmations help in getting yourself out of that insecure rut).
- And the most important piece of advice? Stop attempting to get in touch with them. Avoid. Ignore.
"It's obvious that they are not ready for a mature relationship," Lissy Ann said, so why put yourself up for disappointment? Stop ghost hunting and spare yourself the paranormal treatment – you're way too boo-tiful for that! – Rappler.com