Ghosting: Cowardice or Commonality?

Ghosting is a term that almost everyone has heard of. If you’re currently in the dating scene, you definitely know what it is and you’ve probably experienced it, one way or the other.

Dictionary.com defines “ghosting” (yes, there’s even a definition in the dictionary) as “the practice of ending a personal relationship with someone by suddenly and without explanation withdrawing from all communication.” Urbandictionary.com extends this definition to add that ghosting is “with zero warning or notice beforehand” and it’s done by “avoiding…phone calls, social media, and avoiding [seeing] them in public.”

Maybe you’ve been ghosted; maybe you’ve ghosted someone else; maybe both or neither situation apply to you. I know my own opinion on the phenomenon, but I wanted to ask around and see how both men and women, of multiple age groups, felt about ghosting. All of my interviewees will be kept anonymous, except for their gender and age. I’ll label each person with (M) or (F) followed by a number, so we can keep each interviewee straight.

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Age Group: 22-32This group has been ghosted before.

  1. How did it feel to be ghosted?

M1(22-32): It felt shitty.

M2(22-32):I’ve been ghosted more times than I can count. From dating apps, to after meeting someone for the first time. It feels superficial and terrible to be ghosted. Like someone doesn’t want to take the time to get to know me.

F1(22-32): I’ve been ghosted so many times that it should feel easy by now, but nope! I still feel like crap every time it happens. It’s like any breakup, except without the curtesy of being told that you’re being broken up with. So actually, it feels worse than any normal breakup.

F2(22-32): It makes you feel f***ing terrible. It makes you feel unworthy or undeserving of love. It’s a really dark feeling and effects your self-esteem. If it happens enough, it almost feels like you deserve it because you start to kind of expect everyone to ghost you. It’s really sad to say but sometimes these feelings of rejection last a really long time.

F3(22-32): It’s insensitive and something that can be easily avoided with open communication.

2. Did you ever figure out why that person disappeared?

M1(22-32): A lot of introspection led me to understand that I probably set off a lot of personal red flags for them. I had to not take it personally, but that took awhile. It was just incompatibility.

M2(22-32): There are numerous reasons why girls have ghosted me. I told one girl that I don’t have social media presence and don’t want to change that. Ghosted. The first date didn’t go well. Ghosted. I wasn’t texting back fast enough. Ghosted. But overall, these are only my assumptions for why they disappeared. I’m really blunt and honest, so if I say something that they didn’t like and then they stop talking to me, I assume it was because of that.

F1(22-32): Well no, not outright. Like, they never explained to me why they suddenly ghosted out. I assume that I came on too strong, and maybe that’s what causes every ghosting situation. What’s annoying about it though, is that it’s not like I told these people I loved them after 2 dates or something crazy. I guess it’s just easier for people to ignore someone than to tell them they aren’t interested.

F2(22-32): Maybe this is my optimism, but I don’t really think it’s ever anything truly personal. I think they were maybe filling a void, like I served a purpose and then it was over. I don’t think any of it was malicious. I think they liked me at first, I did what they needed me to do, then they were done. I think most people, when they meet someone, go into dating hopeful that it’ll work out (without real expectations) and as soon as they realize it doesn’t do what they want, they are done. On the other hand, some people start dating just because they’re curious or don’t want to be alone, so they’re not really interested. When the experience gets dull, they have no feelings so they can easily cut it off.

I overthink everything and if I try to talk to someone about why I think we might not work and it doesn’t go through to them, I know that we won’t work. Usually, if I can feel that someone is drifting away from me, I let them. I let the ball be in their court because I’ll be damned if I have to force someone to love me. This might cause people to ghost ME, because I might come off like I don’t care or like I’m indifferent. For example, if I text someone “good morning” two days in a row, I’ll not text them “good morning” again until they do it first. Dating is all a stupid game.

I do try to stand up for myself in a respectful way, though. Maybe this doesn’t even effect them, but I feel like I need to make it known. They usually don’t know how to react I think or maybe they don’t even care. I might not get my explanation, but I make sure they know that what they did was shitty.

F3(22-32): Whenever I get ghosted I just ask them and most of the time I don’t get answers. It’s whatever, because there’s no point in trying to have someone in your life who doesn’t respect you.

3. Do you think that ghosting is practical or justifiable sometimes?

M1(22-32): It can be…depending on the circumstances. Do you owe the person an explanation? If not, it should be viewed as a modern part of life or part of dating in this new technological landscape.

M2(22-32): Ghosting does have its purposes. Like getting out of a toxic relationship and needing to cut ties with that person. But I don’t think that’s the reason it’s so common with our generation. Our generation and the one after ours has been very superficial since social media started to control our lives. If someone doesn’t seem interesting enough on their profile, or they don’t text the “right” way, or they don’t look the way you want them to online, we use that against them. People don’t want to take the time to actually get to know someone to the point where their “flaws” no longer matter, because there’s always someone “better” online.

F1(22-32): Hmm..well I want to say “HELL NO” because I’ve been on the shit end of the stick so many times and I know that it feels absolutely horrible. But I’m a hypocrite I guess. I’ve done it before, but it was only when I’ve made it clear to the person that I’m uninterested and they’re still not leaving me alone. If someone is bothering you to no end after you’ve made yourself clear, ghosting feels like the only way.

F2(22-32): 90% of the time, no. I think the only time it’s fair is if the person is toxic. If you need to cut that person out of your life for your own well-being and you’ve tried every other way, then I can see how ghosting is justifiable. But if you’re just being a coward and don’t want to explain yourself, then no. I think that as a society, we have problems communicating in general. Two people can both be great, but not be each other’s “person.” If you can’t communicate that to the other person when you feel like it isn’t working out, you are only creating a bigger problem. Now that person you ghosted has self-esteem issues, just because you felt uncomfortable communicating your feelings. It’s a respect thing I think. We should care more about each other’s feelings than our own comfort.

F3(22-32): Ghosting is practical in situations if the person is being clingy or aggressive. However, you can communicate that, then stop answering, because at least they have an answer.

4. Have you ever ghosted someone? If yes, why? If no, why not?

M1(22-32): Yes, because they set off a bunch of my own red flags: codependency, neediness, the like.

M2(22-32): I have ghosted someone before. She displayed some obsessive behavior that wasn’t healthy, so I cut ties. I didn’t have a choice. she would find me and message me on any social media site, or even text me from a friend’s phone to get my attention.

F1(22-32): Ugh, yes I have. And I hate that I have. Like I said before, if someone is not hearing me when I make it known that I don’t want to be with them and they won’t leave me alone, I’ll ghost. I remember in high school once, this guy I knew legitimately asked me on dates all the time and I always said no. He’d even call me, back to back to back, after I’d hit ignore. He’d text me over and over and over too. Another example: today, I still get Instagram messages once a week from a guy I met a couple years ago and turned down for dates MULTIPLE times. You can’t reason with that.

F2(22-32): I don’t think I ever have. 90-95% of the time, I play for keeps. If I think a relationship isn’t going to work, I’ll tell them why I think that. But most of the time, I’m the one wanting it to work and they will be the one to ghost me.

F3(22-32): I’m a person who expresses how they feel. So I rarely ghost; if I did it was because they made me feel unsafe. I just tell someone I don’t think this is going to work out, etc.

*–*–*–*–*

Age Group: 22-32 — This group has never been ghosted before.

**Questions 1 & 2 are not included for this group, as they not applicable**

3. Do you think that ghosting is practical or justifiable sometimes?

M3(22-32):I think it’s practical because it’s easier than hurting someone’s feelings by telling them you aren’t interested in them. But it is pretty cowardly.

F4(22-32): Absolutely! But not with a significant other…when it’s someone you’re romantically involved with, you wish you could matter enough to them to not be ghosted by them, so it should go both ways. However, ghosting friends or acquaintances or even exes can actually be practical in some cases.

4. Have you ever ghosted someone? If yes, why? If no, why not?

M3(22-32): I have. Usually because she’s too aggressive or doesn’t take the hint.

F4(22-32): I just did yesterday to a person who used to mean the world to me. I’m not holding a grudge but, I dropped everything for this person for him to just disappear. I’m not playing “pay back.” I just know that he’s hard on drugs and we are in completely different places in life. I could offer him so much, but would he take it for gospel? Not a chance. Then I’d be left in the dust. Even as a friend. So when he showed up in my inbox, I left him on read and that’s how it’ll stay, for my own sanity.

*–*–*–*–*

Individualized Interviews (age 60-70) — Insight from “older” generations

-Interview 1: Female; Age 64-

Have you ever heard of “ghosting?”

F5(33-60): Of course!

Cool. So you know it’s when someone you’re dating or interested in disappears on you and stops replying.

What was the time frame (70s/80s/90s, etc) that you were dating around?

F5(33-60): I do know that but it is also a term that is used in HR now….I invite someone for an interview and they just don’t show up and don’t tell you they aren’t coming for the interview! I dated in the 70s and again in late 80s and 90s. No one used that term them. Guys just didn’t call back and you knew they were jerks.

Wow! I didn’t know it was used in that sense!! Nowadays, « ghosting » is a super normal way to show that you’re uninterested, because we can just ignore a text or block a number or unfriend someone on social media. It’s especially easy because a lot of people meet on dating apps now, so once you’re ghosted, you can be easily forgotten!

So not getting a call back was the way someone essentially would « ghost » you. How did it feel to you when this happened? Was it easy to move on from or did you often see that person around afterward?

F5(33-60): Depends….in the 70s it hurt my feelings and I probably saw them again because I was on a small campus. But in my ALL GIRL dorm, we shared info on guys like that and we comforted each other in kind of funny, probably insincere ways like…”screw him, it’s his loss.” After divorce, dating was different. I didn’t care if someone didn’t call me back, because I figured that he didn’t have what I needed for me and my kids. The kids were the best temperature takers for no-call-back guys. My son kicked a date in the shins one time and I never heard from him again. Now my husband…they didn’t scare him off even though they were kind of crappy to him in the beginning.

-Haha!! Clearly if he can’t handle your kid, he’s not worth your time!!

In the 70’s, did you ever try to get an explanation for why guys didn’t call you back? Or did you just sit in agony wondering why? Or did you do okay with brushing it off?

F5(33-60): You know, I was really ok with it I think.

Did you ever not return a man’s call without explanation? If yes, what was your reasoning? If no, why not?

F5(33-60): I’ll tell you what I learned recently that I was unaware of….I think I “ghosted” a fair amount myself, or tried to, but guys made me give them a reason. Social media has produced several old dates who ask to reconnect on FB and several have ultimately sent me an IM asking why I “broke up” with them in the 70s and sometimes I didn’t realize we were really dating! Listen to this….one guy said “can I ask you something that’s been bothering me all these years….why did you break up with me?” I couldn’t believe it…”seriously? Please explain.” He said I told him I was breaking up with him….(this was not a long term relationship) …because he was rude and wore jeans and then I started dating a guy who was ruder and wore jeans too. I do not remember ever saying anything like that but I remember having a hard time getting him to leave me alone! Two of my ex-husband’s asked me the same thing YEARS later, believe it or not. I find that so interesting and maybe a part of present-day ghosting? Some people carry that shit, of what feels like rejection, around for a LONG time– emotions run deep. It’s hard to be honest if you’re a decent person or if you’re with someone who is “insecure or a hanger on-er or maybe really in love?” Maybe ghosting is easier today because of social media and technology and it’s easier to hide behind disinterest than it was in the 70s. In the 80s and 90s, we were dependent on answering machines…your only option was not returning phone calls. We are emotional beings. And we are shitty to each other at times. Shame on us.

If you had to be dating today, would you think that ghosting is acceptable in some cases?

F5(33-60): If I was dating today….which I’m extremely thankful that I’m not and hope to never again….I wouldn’t ghost someone. I’d just be honest and say I’m not interested….thats the thing about getting older. Every decade, the filters come off and you’ve learned how to speak your truth, with kindness.

-Interview 2: Male, age 69-

Have you ever heard of “ghosting?”

M4(33-70): No…what is that?

So, “ghosting” is when someone you’re dating or interested in disappears on you and stops replying to text messages.

M4(33-70): Oh.. that’s crude!! Just kinda rude and mean and nasty…maybe if someone ghosts you, you’re lucky because you never have to talk to that person again. Shows their true colors.

What was the time frame (70s/80s/90s, etc) that you were dating around?

M4(33-70): I dated mostly in the 50’s I’d say.Did you ever have an instance while dating in the 50’s where something similar to “ghosting” happened to you?

M4(33-70): My wife tried to ghost me once I guess! I took her out to a dance for our first date and a week or so later I stopped by her house to see her. I guess she didn’t feel very pretty at the moment so she told her mom to tell me she wasn’t feeling well and couldn’t talk. I guess her mom made her call me anyway so it worked out!

Did you ever try to “ghost” someone else?

M4(33-70): Hmm..I had a couple of instances where I guess I didn’t quite “click” with a girl but I couldn’t just ignore her. I’d just tell them I didn’t want to go another date.

Why do you think that this “ghosting” phenomenon didn’t exist when you were dating?

M4(33-70): Well, for one thing, we didn’t have the technology that you guys have today. I think this technology creates this crudeness, or ability to be completely unattached. We didn’t have caller ID, so we didn’t know who was calling us before we answered, therefore we couldn’t just ignore their calls. We also didn’t have personal phones, so since I lived at home with my parents when I was dating, they’d answer and I wouldn’t have much of a choice but to be handed the phone when it was for me. Not wanting to go on a second or third date was very personal and you couldn’t ignore the situation. You had to tell the other person how you felt.

If you had to be dating today, would you think that ghosting is acceptable in some cases?

M4(33-70): I think my generation sees it completely differently. I’d personally never ghost someone, but it’s because I think it’s rude and wouldn’t want it to happen to me. I have friends who’s husbands have passed away and are dating today. One friend was telling me how she just told a man she didn’t want to see him again. I think we don’t know any other way to end it, so we just tell the truth. I think it’s better that way.

*–*–*–*–*

Summary of findings

After interviewing these five women and 4 men (as well as 5 other people from the age range of 22-32 which are not included in this article) and compiling their responses, I found some trends!

Trend #1: Although every interviewee from ages 22-32 think that ghosting someone is disrespectful, insensitive or cowardly, they still think it’s justifiable sometimes and most of them have ghosted someone themselves!

Basically, we know it hurts when we’re ghosted, but we don’t always think about that when we decide to ghost someone else! It’s an endless cycle. Like F2 said, “you are only creating a bigger problem.” What’s that rule about doing to others what you would want others to do to you?

Trend #2: Those who have ghosted someone else before, did it because they found the other person to be either too “clingy” (or quite frankly, annoying), or toxic to their lives in some way.

If someone needs to be cut out of your life for personal safety and mental health reasons, it seems to be a consensus that ghosting is the way to go.

When it comes to ghosting someone for being “clingy”, I think we need to ask ourselves, “was I clear with this person from the beginning what my intentions were?” If yes, maybe ghosting is fair. If no, we should ask ourselves, “have I led this person to believe that I’m more interested in them than I truly am?” If yes, TELL THEM THAT. If no, TELL THEM how you’re feeling–about how they are coming off to you. Maybe they’ll fix it or maybe you’ll mutually figure out you’re not the right fit for each other.

If you’re someone who’s been ghosted a lot and can’t figure out why, ask yourself, “was I being toxic in some way?” or “have I been hurtful with my words or actions that I didn’t see as hurtful before?” If yes, there’s the issue. If no, ask yourself, “did I seem way more interested in them than they did in me (did I always text first/double-text/give compliments but not really receive them back?)” If yes, that’s what caused it. You came off as “clingy.” If no, they played you, and you don’t need that person in your life. Like M4 said, “maybe if someone ghosts you, you’re lucky.”

I personally have learned a lot from this part of my interviews. There are some moments in time where I’ve been ghosted and I can now see that I came off as overly-eager. I’ve also learned that I have ghosted some people without first making my intentions incredibly clear. I think we all have something to learn about ghosting!

Trend #3: Those who have been ghosted, describe this specific way of being rejected to be more hurtful than a common breakup.

It’s obvious from the responses to question 1, that getting ghosted leaves you feeling small and worthless. In other words, it makes you feel “shitty.” The difference here is that many people who are ghosted seem to carry that feeling of rejection around for longer than expected, presumably because they are left with unanswered questions: Did I do something wrong? Are they seeing someone else? Is it something I said? Did they judge me too quickly? Why couldn’t they just tell me what they were feeling?

M3 mentioned that ghosting is a better alternative to “hurting someone’s feelings,” but in reality, it seems that being ghosted hurts your feelings more than if you were simply told the truth.

Trend #4: Technology is the culprit.

Not only did the “older generations” note that the use of modern technology causes feelings of detachment from one another, but even a few of those interviewed that are between the ages of 22-32. It’s no surprise that the use of social media, dating apps, texting and even caller ID have made it easy to cut ties with someone and avoid the awkwardness of explaining how you feel to someone. Maybe technology has made everyone more closed off, more socially inept, or even more insensitive. As M1 pondered, should we all just accept the ghosting phenomenon as a “part of dating in this new technological landscape?”

*–*–*–*–*

In conclusion, we can almost all agree that the ghosting phenomenon sucks. Like Lizzo says, “truth hurts,” but it’s clear that ghosting hurts even worse.

Published by

Zoë Cardinal

Core Values: Positivity, Dedication, Education & Growth A language nerd with a passion for learning, I aspire to live each day to its ultimate good. I'm consistently in search of ways to become a better person and world citizen, by being of service to others and practicing self-care. I'm currently a middle school teacher in Brooklyn, NYC. Before moving to the city, I studied French, Sociology and Linguistics. I'm blessed to have spent a year in the south of France and a year in Ireland during my studies. I'm sober. I'm queer. I believe I'm on this earth to learn as much as possible and inspire others to do the same!

One thought on “Ghosting: Cowardice or Commonality?

  1. In the world of gay men it’s a really big issue as well. Keep meeting guys who just want to have sex and then ghost me after our first night. Ughhh just gotta keep waiting til we find the right one! ❤

    Like

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