Ghosting, or suddenly disappearing from someone’s life without so much as a call, email, or text, has become a common phenomenon in the modern dating world, and also in other social and professional settings.
According to results from two 2018 studies, around 25 percent of people have been ghosted at some point.
The rise of electronic communications and popular dating apps like Grindr, Tinder, and Bumble have seemingly made it easier to make and break quick connections with someone you just met with a swipe.
But ghosting is more complex a phenomenon than you might think. Read on to learn why people ghost, how to know when you’re being ghosted, and what to do once you’ve figured out that you’ve been ghosted.
People ghost for all sorts of reasons that can vary in complexity. Here are just some of the many reasons people may ghost:
- Fear. Fear of the unknown is hardwired into humans. You may just decide to end it because you’re scared of getting to know someone new or scared of their reaction to breaking up.
- Conflict avoidance. Humans are instinctively social, and disrupting a social relationship of any sort, whether good or bad, can have an effect on your . As a result, you may feel more comfortable never seeing someone again rather than facing the potential conflict or resistance that can happen during a breakup.
- Lack of consequences. If you’ve barely just met someone, you might feel like there isn’t anything at stake since you probably don’t share any friends or much else in common. It may not seem like a big deal if you just walk out of their life.
- Self-care. If a relationship is having a negative effect on your quality of life, cutting off contact can sometimes seem like the only way to seek your own well-being without the fallout of a breakup or parting of way.
And here are a few scenarios in which you might be ghosted along with some thoughts as to why:
Casual dating partner
If you’ve been on a couple dates and your date suddenly vanishes, it may be because they didn’t feel a romantic spark, got too busy to commit to keeping in touch, or just weren’t ready for the next steps.
If a friend you’ve regularly hung out or chatted with suddenly stops responding to your texts or calls, they may be ghosting you, or they may have something in their life that’s keeping them busy.
If it turns out that they’ve ghosted you, it could be they decided it would be too complicated or painful to explain that they don’t want to be friends anymore.
Ghosting can happen in the office, too. This is more commonly seen when someone leaves the company. While you may have regularly chatted in the office, and maybe hung out some after work, for some people, it may just be too difficult to maintain friendships with former colleagues while trying to fit in with new ones.
This can also happen when a co-worker switches positions or receives a promotion.
Are you being ghosted? Or is the person on the other end just temporarily too busy or distracted to get back to you?
Here are some of the signs that can tip you off when you’re being ghosted:
Is this normal behavior for them?
Some people seem to go off the grid for long periods of time before getting back to you, so it may not be a big deal if they don’t respond very quickly. But if they are usually responsive and suddenly stop calling or texting you back for an unusually long period of time, you may have been ghosted.
Did anything change in the relationship?
Did you say something that they reacted strongly to or send a text that may have been misunderstood? For example, if you said “I love you” and they didn’t say it back, and they’re suddenly MIA, you may have been ghosted.
Did either of you go through any major life events?
Keeping up can seem impossible when physical or emotional distance grows, and ghosting can seem like the easiest, least complicated option. In some cases, the silence may be temporary, such as if they’ve recently taken on a big project or work or had a traumatic life event. But in other cases, it could be permanent.
Coping with any kind of loss can be difficult, even if you don’t know the person that well. If you were close with them, it can cause even more or an emotional response.
Research reveals even more nuance to the complex emotions behind being ghosted. Two studies from and 2011 suggests that a breakup like this can cause physical pain, as ghosting, and rejection in general, result in similar brain activity associated with bodily pain.
Ghosting can also affect your and negatively impact your current and future relationships, both romantic and otherwise.
And in an age where relationships that start online are becoming more common, being ghosted by someone with whom you’ve kept up closely through text or social media can make you feel alienated or isolated from your digital communities.
Moving on from ghosting doesn’t look the same for everyone, and how you move on can differ if that person’s a romantic partner, a friend, or a co-worker.
Here are some ways you can help yourself confront and accept your feelings about being ghosted:
- Set boundaries first. Just want a fling? Interested in something more? Expect them to check in every day? Week? Month? Honesty and transparency can help you and the other person make sure no lines are crossed unknowingly.
- Give the person a time limit. Haven’t heard from them for a few weeks or months and are tired of waiting? Give them an ultimatum. For example, you can send them a message asking them to call or text in the next week, or you’ll assume the relationship is over. This can seem harsh, but it can give you closure and restore lost feelings of control or power.
- Don’t automatically blame yourself. You have no evidence or context for concluding why the other person left the relationship, so don’t get down on yourself and cause yourself further emotional harm.
- Don’t “treat” your feelings with substance abuse. Don’t numb the pain with drugs, alcohol, or other quick highs. These “fixes” are temporary, and you may find yourself confronting the difficult feelings later at a more inconvenient time, such as in your next relationship.
- Spend time with friends or family. Seek the companionship of people whom you trust and with whom you share mutual feelings of love and respect. Experiencing positive, healthy relationships can put your ghosting situation into perspective.
- Seek professional help. Don’t be afraid to reach out to a therapist or counselor who can help you articulate the complex feelings you may have. They can also give you further coping strategies to make sure you come out the other side just as strong, if not stronger, than before.
Ghosting isn’t a trend, but the hyper-connectedness of online 21st-century life has made it easier to stay connected, and, by default, has made it more obvious when a relationship has abruptly ended.
The first thing you should remember, whether you’ve been ghosted or are the ghost in question, is the so-called golden rule: treat others how you would want to be treated.
Calling it off and getting closure can be hard and sometimes painful, but treating people with kindness and respect can go a long way in this relationship and the next.