Romeo one minute, where’d he go the next? Ghosting is when you go poof and literally disappear out of someone’s life without a word or explanation.
Casper isn’t such a friendly ghost—he’s disrespectful, self-centered, and doesn’t have the courage or social decency to let you know directly that he’s no longer interested.
But, ladies, we aren’t angels either! We ghost too. We all are guilty of hoping someone will just get the hint and stop contacting us.
Research from the online dating site Plenty of Fish has found that of 800 millennial daters between the ages of 18-33, almost 80% of singles have been ghosted. Many of those ghosted have likely done it to someone else.
Though daters claim they do it to avoid hurting someone’s feelings, ghosting is actually just a selfish act and easy solution to avoid broaching a difficult, emotionally wrenching conversation. We do it because it makes us feel less awkward and uncomfortable—it’s really not about taking the other person’s feelings into account at all.
So why are we so disconnected from the people we are hurting? One of the reasons we don’t think twice about ghosting is because of our reliance on technology, which to some extent dehumanizes us into little emojis on a screen.
The benefit of social media and online dating apps has been huge in the dating world. All of this technology allows us to meet hundreds of people with whom our paths may have never crossed. It’s made meeting, dating and hooking up so much easier, but at the same time, it has damaged our communication skills.
For instance, when we don’t make eye contact or read facial expressions, it’s very difficult to know how our words and behaviors impact someone else.
Looking into someone’s eyes can tell us if someone is a threat, if they are attracted to us, if they are lying, and gazing at each other is a predictor of being in love. We loose all of these automatic inferences when we communicate through text, or worse, ghost.
When you communicate through a screen, you can say whatever you want to someone, or completely ignore them, without having to physically face the consequences of seeing their heart break, or hearing their voice whimper when you tell them it’s over.
In a survey of 2,712 Millennials, 56% said that in the last year they had broken up with someone using digital media (texting, social media and email). Only 18% broke up face-to-face, and just 15% picked up the phone to end the relationship. However, 73% of the survey respondents said they would be upset if someone broke up with them in the same manner.
Though this research did not look at ghosting, it would not be surprising to learn that people who have ghosted themselves would be upset if they were dumped in this way.
Why are we treating others in a way that we, ourselves, would not want to be treated? Have we forgotten the Golden Rule?
What’s most alarming is that there are actual exclusive, monogamous, committed relationships that end with ghosting. This is devastating.
Psychologically, we’re abandoning someone, betraying their trust, and leaving them completely in the dark as to what happened and why we left.
When we’ve been ghosted, before the anger sets in, we turn inwards and blame ourselves.
Did I do something wrong? Am I too clingy? Am I bad in bed? Is my radar broken? Am I unlovable? There’s so much mental anguish that goes into over-analyzing what happened. It’s soul-crushingly painful.
Ghosting impacts our self-esteem and self-worth. It can lead to depression, which affects our sleep, appetite, concentration at work, and desire to be around friends. It can also cause anxiety in which we obsess and ruminate about what happened, feel on edge, and are filled with worry and insecurity.
We spend hours, days, weeks, and sometimes months trying to piece together the mystery. Besides for the inner angst, this might also involve cyber-stalking, hacking into our ex’s accounts, hanging around our old stomping grounds in hopes to bump into them, or reaching out to their family or friends.
In some cases, people are totally frozen and unable to move forward. Those who attempt a new relationship often bring baggage in which there is a lack of trust, self-doubt and fear of vulnerability, making it difficult for the new romance to flourish.
Ultimately, we have to stop ghosting because it does more harm in the long run, it has damaging consequences on our mental health and it ties up our emotional resources.
Rather than wasting someone’s precious time and emotional energy that could be better invested back into the dating market, commit to letting someone down in a kind, straightforward way.
Yes, it could likely be an emotionally draining conversation—a tear might even be shed. However, it’s important for our personal growth, the emotional healing process of the person we’ve taken the time to get to know, and for the greater dating community, which both parties will be re-entering.
So, in the words of the Ghostbusters song “If there’s something weird and it don’t look good, who you gonna call…?” How about your partner so that you can break things off the right way!
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