Alex Rennie

What is ghosting and why is it so prominent in modern day dating?

This term is becoming all too familiar in the contemporary dating world but exactly what is ghosting? It essentially describes the abrupt end of a relationship (whatever stage it is at) due to the cut off of all contact on one side. We wanted to get a deeper insight into the modern dating phenomenon. Ghosting eliminates a sense of closure (often necessary when a relationship ends) which begs the question: why are so many people turning to ghosting instead of having a frank, honest conversation?

What is ghosting?

A recent You Gov/Huffington Post poll in the States revealed that 11% of adults had ‘ghosted’ someone over the course of their lifetime, while, according to PsychologyToday, 50% of Americans have experienced some form of ghosting. Evidently, ghosting is a likely reality if one in two of us experience some shape of it during our dating years. But what exactly is it and how do you know if you’ve been ghosted?

Ghosting put simply is when you’re seeing someone (be it your first date or your seventh) and the person you were dating suddenly disappears into thin air (like a ghost!). They give you the extreme silent treatment and fail to respond to any of your messages. It can be particularly frustrating for the person being ghosted, especially if they felt like the relationship was going well.

What is ghosting? Why is it so common?

Modern technology certainly facilitates an increase in communication and enables us to connect with people quickly and easily. But by the same logic, it’s also extremely quick and easy to stop communication with someone. As a result, individuals feel disconnected from their actions and from the people they’ve met online. This plays a huge part in the uprise of ghosting – people simply feel no loyalty or obligation to treat someone properly who they’ve met on a dating app.

Jennice Vilhauer Ph.D. writes on PsychologyToday, ‘Ghosting is the ultimate use of the silent treatment, a tactic that has often been viewed by mental health professionals as a form of emotional cruelty. It essentially renders you powerless and leaves you with no opportunity to ask questions or be provided with information that would help you emotionally process the experience.’ So while the ghosters arguably feel little remorse for ignoring someone, the people ghosted can be left feeling abandoned and rejected.

What is ghosting? Why do people ghost?

There are a number of possible reasons as to why people ghost. Unfortunately, in many cases the person is actually already in a relationship and flirting with the idea of maybe having an affair. They then tend to suddenly change their minds and  ghost the person they were messaging, realizing that it’s in fact not something they want. Sadly, many people get caught up in the middle of this and wound up being ghosted as a result. It is however an explanation as to why contact is suddenly cut.

However, the most common reason for ghosting is simply that the individual in question is not interested and doesn’t want to hurt the other person’s feelings. For want of a better phrase ‘he/she’s just not that in to you’. Often, it is that straightforward – perhaps they didn’t feel any chemistry or have decided your relationship isn’t going anywhere. Of course saying this to someone is awkward and uncomfortable, so cowardly individuals find it easier to just ghost. They then don’t need to go through the process of explaining themselves and upsetting someone.

What is ghosting? The ones ghosted

Unfortunately, ghosting is so common in modern dating that most people almost expect it to happen to them at some point in their dating lifetimes. However, it can still come as somewhat of a shock and is not the easiest experience to deal with.

So for those who have been ghosted, what are the best ways to cope? While it’s easy to become slightly obsessive – checking when they were last online or stalking their social media (if they haven’t blocked you from it) – this will only make you feel worse. Even if they have been online recently, what difference does it make? Sadly it will still not provide you with any conclusive evidence you need as to why they ghosted you.

The best thing you can actually do after being ghosted is keep yourself busy and slowly move on. Of course it’s much easier said than done but the sooner you forget about them, the better. While it’s extremely frustrating not getting a reason for the relationship ending – and naturally thoughts along the lines of them losing their phone or being run over  –  run through your mind as the justified reasoning of not hearing from them  – actually you just need to accept it’s over.  

From a psychological perspective, being ghosted is particularly hard to deal with because it brings up certain feelings of abandonment within individuals. It’s also easy to internalize the blame when you’ve been ghosted and come up with a colorful array of reasons about what you might have done differently. But there really isn’t much point. Some people just aren’t very good at ending things properly and sadly, you need to just accept it. These things just happen.

What is ghosting? The ghosters

So how about the 11% of people who have admitted to being ghosters themselves? Why do people suddenly think it’s acceptable to disappear with no explanation?

Ultimately, it could simply be put down to the fact that they can. As we’ve demonstrated, ghosting is extremely common and affects every other person in their lifetimes, a number which is presumably on the rise. So why do people ghost?

The short answer is it’s easier. Generally people don’t seek confrontation or conflict and of course ending something with someone is likely to stir a disagreement. Also sometimes people don’t have a definitive reason as to why they want to end something – it’s just more of a feeling they have, a lack of chemistry or realization that the relationship is not going anywhere for them. Rather than have an awkward conversation and not be able to articulate or explain themselves properly, it’s easier to just ghost.

With the rise of technology and the come-and-go relationship culture that online dating provides, people feel disconnected from the action of ghosting. Because they haven’t met this person organically, there is a feeling of separation from them. As is often the case, there are no mutual friends involved and thus no chance of contact. People can quickly and easily ghost someone who they weren’t particularly invested in and never think about them again.

Essentially, as stated in the New York Times, ‘There is no rhyme or reason to ghosting; it’s usually an impromptu decision.’ So there’s not a huge amount of point in dwelling on it. It might not be giving you the closure you deserve but if someone is willing to treat you in that way, they’re not someone you want to be with. Move on and find someone who treats you properly.