“Ghosting”, by current socially accepted definition, is when a person abruptly ends a relationship by stopping all communication without notice. The ghost hopes the person being ghosted (the ghostee) gets the hint and moves on.
Unfortunately, ghosting has become common.
Some people defend ghosting and say it’s an honest and drama free way of ending a relationship. Some even suggest that the ghostee shows no emotion or response to being ghosted or else they give the ghost power.
But even though ghosting—abruptly ending a relationship by cutting off contact—has been somewhat normalized, it’s not normal. In fact, it’s fucking weird and borderline emotionally abusive.
Similar to emotional abuse, ghosting can be negatively impactful to mental and emotional well-being. It can be a traumatic experience. And victim shaming ghostees is only making it worse.
Because we don’t give the ghost power by reaching out to them, we give ghosts and ghosting power by incorrectly identifying them.
(Just like we got the definition of ghosting wrong, we’re defining “narcissist” wrong and it’s negatively impacting us, read more here.)
So let’s redefine ghosting and call it out for what it is: drama. With a new definition and some reeducation we will stop ghosting in its tracks, or at least be better able to recover if it happens.
Ghosting is when someone (ghost) ends a connection with another person (ghostee) by stopping all communication. It is extreme and dramatic.
Depending on the level of attachment, ghosting may be a traumatic experience for the ghostee. Ghosting may lead to stress, anxiety and fear of abandonment.
To avoid blame or feeling bad some people will fight like their life depends on it to sway a term in their favor. So the ghost may try to self justify by suggesting they didn’t have a connection with someone to ghost them.
“Connection” is an ambiguous term. And of course there is room for reasonable people to disagree.
But for this definition, connection means that you’ve met someone in person, hung out with them, text them and showed interest in them and/or forming some type of relationship with them: friendship, long-term dating or casual sex, etc.
Negative Impacts of Ghosting
Ghosting leads to compacted rejection.
Rejection triggers a pain sensor in the brain. So if you get rejected by a potential love mate or friend or whoever, it can literally hurt.
If not manage properly, rejection cuts deep. Ghosting ensures the cut is as deep as possible. It can damage our self-esteem and make us feel depressed and angry. Because not only are we being rejected, we are losing the possibility of a relationship. And we are being treated less than human.
Similar to rejection, abandonment is when we feel deserted and treated less than human. If you feel abandoned, it can create issues in your relationship with yourself and others. It can lead to insecurity, jealousy, people pleasing tendencies and difficulty creating intimate relationships.
I refer to ghosting as compacted rejection because the rejection is prolonged and also includes characteristics of abandonment. When the ghost stops communicating, the ghostee is not aware they have been rejected.
This could go on for days. The ghostee is left in a state of confusion. They may wonder if something is wrong. They may make excuses for the ghost, “oh they’re just busy,” or “I’ll hear from them soon.”
So when the ghostee finally realizes they have been rejected they make this realization alone while already stressed and confused. They realize they have been living in denial, and a person they liked did not have any concern for them. All of this compacting the already adverse psychological effects of being rejected.
But Wait, There’s More!
The ghostee may also question their own intuition or why they would attract someone who would treat them so poorly. It can hurt their social confidence and keep them from trying to connect with others which may contribute to loneliness.
All of this may lead to ruminating thoughts, self-sabotage, and if not managed properly, can negatively impact future relationships.
Compacting the already compacted rejection and the extreme intensity is that the ghostee is then expected to be nonchalant, invalidate their natural emotions and just disappear.
There’s No Excuse for Ghosting, Except…
Some people may try to justify ghosting and act like it’s not a big deal. But when you break it down, ghosting is extreme and dramatic. Think of it, you’re hanging out with someone, texting them every day and then boom they disappear. That’s intense!
People who ghost because they don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings are actually doing more damage. And those who ghost because they aren’t considering anyone else’s feelings lack empathy which is a pivotal part of emotional intelligence.
Emotional intelligence (EQ) is the #1 determinate of success and people with higher EQ have better sex, make more money, are better leaders, parents, lovers and friends.
I’d like to say there is absolutely no excuse for ghosting but life is complex and ghosting is a complex topic. Sometimes it is OK to ghost. These circumstances include if someone is being manipulative, abusive, or endangering you. In that case, the ghostee is the drama.
In my view it is also OK to ghost someone if you went on a date with them or your first time hanging out and they were creepy or inappropriate. With online dating you may not filter out all the creepers. And you don’t need to continue to subject yourself to them just because you made the mistake of going on a date.
It is also OK to ghost someone who has ghosted you. Yup, sometimes the dramatic person returns from the dead. I don’t consider that ghosting since the connection was already broken by them.
Why People Ghost
Ghosting is extreme and incredibly dramatic. People who ghost may simply just be drama. They could have low self-esteem and an unhealthy need for external validation—negative validation being all they are used to.
People ghost for many reasons including that they:
- lack emotional maturity
- have an avoidant attachment style
- have low self-esteem or self hatred
- want to end the relationship but don’t to know quite why
- lost interest
- don’t want confrontation
- assume there will be confrontation
- have poor communication skills
- met someone else and legitimately don’t care
- got bored
- did it because they can
- don’t realize how negatively impactful it is
- didn’t realize how connected you felt
- were lashed at before for ending a relationship
- want to feel powerful
- were ghosted so they are lashing out at you
- don’t think ghosting is a big deal
- are emotionally illiterate
- have a perceived slight and instead of communicating, left
- were lied to about you and believed the lie
- are too scared to be vulnerable
Note: there may be many reasons why people ghost but the reasons are not excusable. And if you were ghosted it’s not about why they did it, it’s about how you move forward productively.
How We Stop It
We can stop ghosting or reduce its power by correctly defining it, having forgiveness and reeducating.
Ghosting is dramatic. It’s extreme. People don’t want to be labeled as either of these things. So when we call ghosts out for their drama it will probably shame them into not being so dramatic a.k.a. not ghosting.
If you ghosted because you didn’t know how negatively impactful it was, work on the forgiveness part. See if you can offer an apology or what you can do differently in the future.
Literally you could say “hey, didn’t want to ghost but don’t know what to say. Sorry.”
Some other things to say if you’re not into someone are:
- “I had fun, but I didn’t feel a strong connection.”
- “I don’t think we are a good fit. I’m sorry. Good luck!”
- “You’re great and I really want this to work but I’m not feeling it.”
If you have been ghosted, work on forgiving yourself for trusting someone who didn’t have your best intentions in mind. Forgive yourself for being vulnerable with the wrong person and allow yourself to be vulnerable again.
The reeducation part is letting others know that ghosting is negatively damaging. Ghosting is hurtful and I genuinely believe that people are kind and don’t want to hurt others (or at least I continually tell myself that so I don’t fall into a pit of despair).
With this education we also need to make sure we appreciate when someone doesn’t ghost, even though us appreciating someone not ghosting means we’ve been rejected. Ugh. Look at us being all mature and shit.
Sample response when being rejected to help discourage ghosting: “Thank you for letting me know!”
With a more accurate definition we will gain clarity, understand how ghosting affects us and better manage when it happens to us. With forgiveness and reeducation we will hopefully encourage others not to ghost and stop this harmful trend in its tracks.
A Note From Lyndsey:
Recently I met someone who disclosed that they ghost people. When I asked why he said he knew it was wrong but he didn’t know what else to do. I told him I get that, and I understand he doesn’t want to feel uncomfortable, but it’s important to let people know you are no longer interested.
Ghosting is a sign that as a society we do not focus on emotions and being emotionally kind to others. I really hope we can change this soon!
Learn about how to effectively cope and move on after being ghosted here.