Is Ghosting the new Communicating?
You’ve been single for a while – and after months of being in and out of lockdown, you want to put yourself out there again.
You download a dating app – and find a real connection with one person.
After a couple weeks of texting and digital flirting, you finally agree to a dinner date. You reach out to confirm the time and place – but no reply. You message for a few days later – they’re online, but you are met with radio silence.
Chances are, you’ve been ghosted by a not-so-friendly ghost.
The term “ghosting” is just as uncomfortable as it sounds: it is a fairly new dating term and refers to the act of unexpectedly cutting contact with a person – without rhyme or reason. But although the term is relatively new, ghosting is not.
Ghosting is when somebody unexpectedly stops communicating with us – and just like that, vanishes into thin air.
People have been walking in and out of other people’s lives for years. But in todays’ digital world, connecting and disconnecting with others is easier than ever; and hiding behind the screens of our own devices is [unfairly] giving us an easy escape from any personal ties and obligations – it’s really as simple as block, delete and goodbye… forever?!
So, does ghosting others also mean ghosting the responsibilities of our own actions?
Ghosting is a form of indirect rejection; the reason it stings so much – other than the heartache attached to it, is that it comes without the possibility of closure. Ghosting can happen suddenly, but typically, there is an [undefined] reason that someone has ghosted us.
Although ghosting is typically used in reference to romantic connections, it can occur in any context: between friends, colleagues and family members. It could also happen at any given time throughout the relationship – but whether we’ve just met someone or have known each other for years, ghosting will deny us the closure we need to heal after rejection.
Why do People Ghost?
If communication is key in a relationship – why do people withdraw from it?
There are several reasons why people choose ghosting over communication – and every reason is dependent on the person ghosting and the context of a situation.
Here we break down some of the common reasons why ghosting can happen:
- To avoid drama, confrontation or conflict
- To avoid hurting the other person’s feelings – and dealing with the consequences
- To avoid expressing their feelings – which they may not understand themselves
- To avoid responsibility
- It’s the easy way out
- They relate their disappearance to conflict within the relationship
- Communication isn’t leading anywhere anymore
- They fear of disappointing the other person
- There are no direct consequences to ghosting
- They are struggling with their mental health
- They are prioritising their mental health
- They fear being hurt or abandoned
- They do not feel safe in the relationship
- They need to be alone – and are unintentionally ghosting you
People ghost for various and complex reasons, but for the most part, it’s not always personal.
People who ghost are more likely to have lower self-esteem and self-confidence.
Ghosting also reflects a person’s inability to manage situations and nurture relationships through healthy communication – but this does not negate the fact that their actions may project those same feelings back onto us.
Although ghosting is not a reflection of our worth, it is not necessarily less confusing, hurtful or harmful.
How Ghosting can make us Feel
Ghosting can feel mentally and emotionally defeating – and the effects of ghosting can be very harmful and hurtful.
The feeling of helplessness after somebody unexpectedly stops communicating with us is consistent in any context. We start to experience shame, guilt, self-blame, low self-worth and self-esteem – and we may even start to question ourselves and the whole relationship.
We may also enter a cycle of ruminative expectations: waiting, wishing and wondering.
Ghosting can make us feel powerless – we have absolutely no answers as to what happened and no control over what happens next:
“Did I do something to trigger them?”
“Will they reach out again?”
“Should I reach out?”
The uncertainty of ghosting can make us feel exposed or vulnerable in unhealthy ways – and can trigger various negative feelings.
Below are some ways ghosting can affect our wellbeing:
- It evokes feelings of abandonment and betrayal
- It triggers shame and embarrassment
- It creates feelings of severe rejection and resentment
- It creates a false confirmation of “not being good enough”
- It lowers self-esteem and self-worth
- It increases self-blame
- It makes you question all your decisions and relationships
Intimacy and openness are essential in forming healthy relationships – but creating space for vulnerability can be scary enough, so when we do not receive closure after rejection, the outcome of “putting ourselves out there” can be more psychologically harmful than helpful.
Healing from Ghosting
Accepting that we’ve ACTUALLY been ghosted is tough to digest – and it may take a while to start trusting others or yourself and your judgements again.
But don’t ghost this article just yet – we’re here to give you some tips to help you deal with and heal from some of the painful effects of ghosting:
Be kind to yourself: Rid yourself of shame and blame by practicing self-acceptance and self-care
Define a deadline: Ghosting may make you feel like you’ve lost control – but that’s not necessarily true. You can still reclaim your own power when you make the decision to define a “it’s time to let go” deadline
Set new boundaries: Set new boundaries for yourself and let people in on them through healthy communication – and create relationships where your expectations, your wants and needs are heard.
Believe people’s behaviours: Actions speak louder than words. If after a significant period of time, a person’s words do not match their actions and they are openly revealing signs of disconnect, believe their actions – and start looking to re-evaluate the relationship
Give yourself closure: When we don’t receive the closure we need from others, it’s time to give yourself the closure to heal and move on
Ask for advice from a close support system: Sometimes all we need is some objective advice from the people we feel the safest with or closest to. They may help us heal faster after ghosting than if we tried to carry the weight of that pain alone.
Seek professional help: The right therapist can help you develop the right tools to boost your emotional health, resilience and overall confidence after ghosting.
If you continue to struggle with the toxic effects of ghosting on your mental and emotional health, eQuoo can teach you these 10 skills to help you build resilience and interpersonal skills, and boost emotional health and wellbeing.
- Nurture Relationships
- Emotion Detection
- Doubting Thoughts
With ghosting, the one person vanishes – and the other person is left to pick up the pieces of unresolved hurt and rejection. So yes, ghosting is harmful to our mental and emotional health, but we can find closure after ghosting. We just need to have the skills and support to face the challenges and heal in a beneficial way.
Wishing you a ghost-less week,
MSc Clinical Psychology
Content and Marketing at eQuoo