- Ghosting is a common, but generally frowned upon, method of severing ties with someone that we’re no longer interested in, which often involves blocking someone on all forms of social media, or at the very least, ignoring their calls and texts.
- Ghosting can happen for multiple reasons: People with social anxiety or who are naturally introverted may struggle to communicate, while others are simply unaware or insensitive to others’ feelings.
- To cope with being ghosted, it’s helpful to retrace your steps. Were you rude, flaky, or demanding—or were you truly caught off guard? Evaluating the communication timeline can help you determine what you can personally improve, and what you can let go of.
- Telling someone that we’re no longer romantically or platonically interested in them isn’t always easy, but it’s socially responsible. Some ways to make it easier include writing out your thoughts, meeting in person, and asking them for space until you’re ready to talk.
Glancing at our phones when we hear that familiar “ding” or vibration is muscle memory; after all, we’re curious. It’s also just as common to see what the notification is—and then to put our phone down and wait to respond until, well, we feel like it. From switching off our read receipts to answering missed phone calls with text messages, there are tons of ways we make electronic communication easier for ourselves. But unlike these other habits, ghosting is almost universally looked down upon.
Ghosting occurs when we flake out on a friend, potential love interest, or romantic partner by blocking them on social media, or at the very least, ignoring their phone calls and texts. It’s probably something most of us are guilty of, especially at a time when finding someone new is as easy as swiping left or right on our phones. But even if our relationships are partially electronic now, that doesn’t mean that the embarrassment of being ghosted (or the guilt of ghosting someone) isn’t real. So unless we have a legit reason to ghost someone (and there are valid reasons), it’s time to have that dreaded conversation.
Why Is Ghosting So Common?
Our feelings of attraction and desire can change often—ghosting has become an increasingly common way to say goodbye, without saying anything. According to a 2018 survey, nearly 25% of people have been ghosted by a romantic partner or interest; and 20% of us have ghosted someone else. Ghosting has become such a consistent part of modern communication that it can even be found in Webster’s Dictionary. Some of the most common reasons that ghosting occurs include:
- Being insensitive towards the feelings of others: Electronic communication is fantastic in many ways, but it tends to decrease the amount of emotional connection we feel toward others, which might make ghosting someone more tempting. After all, with the tap of a finger, they’re no longer in our life.
- Having social anxiety or an introverted personality: Those who tend to get nervous or clam up during intense discussions or when expressing their inner feelings may shy away from being straight-up with someone they’ve been talking to, and decide that ghosting them is easier.
- Avoiding harassment, becoming fed up with a toxic friendship or relationship, or simply following a bad gut feeling: Some people get ghosted simply for being creepy, demanding, or rude to their friends, online dating matches, or partners. In these instances, ghosting is entirely acceptable. It’s also okay to ghost someone if they make you feel uncomfortable, unsafe, or unwelcome in real life or a virtual space.
How to Cope with Being Ghosted
Ghosting can hurt: No one wants to feel the pangs of rejection. It’s true that online dating and virtual communication can be rough to navigate, but there’s much to be learned from our electronic interactions. As much as we may want to think that the other person simply cut us off, relationships of any kind are a two-way street. There might have been something you said or did that caused the other person to ghost you.
You might be able to scroll through your message history on the app, your phone, or whatever communication method you were using. Maybe a joke you made went askew, or you were pushy or demanding. If you’re able to identify something you did or said, try to empathize with the other person and respect their choice and right to maintain the boundaries that you crossed.
If the answer isn’t obvious, and you’re truly stumped, coping with being ghosted might involve:
- Diverting your energy away from dating apps for a little while, and back toward real-life relationships and activities. If ghosting has you upset, it can be helpful to remember how large the world outside truly is—it’s full of new possibilities and people we’ve yet to experience.
- Taking the appropriate time to process the rejection, so that you don’t carry those feeling of anger and resentment into your next relationship. These are feelings that the next person you date or become friends with shouldn’t have to sort through. This could result in you being ghosted again.
- Sending a final message to the person who ghosted you for closure (but make sure you aren’t passive-aggressive): Unless they’ve blocked you, simply telling the person who ghosted you that you’re no longer interested in pursuing the relationship can go a long ways toward providing you with a sense of closure. You may be tempted to say something rude or beg them to respond, but neither is likely to make you feel better in the long term.
How to End a Relationship Without Ghosting Someone
Sometimes, we’re the ones doing the ghosting. As mentioned above, there are legit reasons to cut someone off, and in cases of inappropriate, toxic, or abusive behavior, it’s the right thing to do. But if someone hasn’t hurt us, we just simply aren’t interested in associating with them (romantically or otherwise), it’s time to tell them.
There are many ways to make the discussion easier on them and you, including:
- Writing out your thoughts beforehand: This kind of preparation is probably more fitting for a longer-term connection than a brief online dating match that you’ve only been talking to for a short while.
- Meeting with them in person: Long-term friends or partners will likely not appreciate a text message or phone call explaining that you’ve decided to cut ties, nor will potential partners who could be emotionally invested in forming a relationship with you.
- Telling them honestly how you feel: This is the hardest part of the ensuing conversation—being upfront about the reasons why you aren’t wanting to continue pursuing the relationship, whatever kind it is. Just be sure that you reframe your reasons: Try to use “I” phrases instead of “you” phrases, which helps avoid placing blame on the other person. “I feel as though we don’t have much in common” comes across more diplomatically than “You don’t have anything in common with me.”
- Asking for space until you’re ready to talk: If you get anxious in certain social situations, or are introverted, just the thought of having to tell someone you’re not interested in being friends or romantically involved with them could be nerve-wracking. That’s why it’s better to ask for some time and space instead of just ghosting them. You can simply let them know that you need a little while to work through things and will reach out when you’re ready. They’ll appreciate this more than radio silence.
All in all, ghosting is socially irresponsible—and unless we have to, it’s better to resist the temptation offered by cutting someone out of our lives electronically. By approaching the conversation empathetically, and with a balanced perspective in mind, we don’t have to end friendships and romantic flings and relationships by ghosting. And other people will appreciate our honesty.