Earlier this month, my friend J forgot to reply to my text to hang. When he finally did, I joked about him "ghosting." J is a platonic male friend. We laughed — it was a joke. Of course he hadn't ghosted me ghosted me. Ghosting is when someone you went out with or have been dating deliberately ignores your efforts to reach out, rather than saying "no thanks." Pretty sh*tty, right? So then why is ghosting so common?
My theory is that "ghosting" is something that has been happening since the Neanderthals walked the planet. They probably had no choice but to ghost. I assume their communication skills were less developed, and I know that they didn't have iPhones. When they were over something, they probably just walked away from it and went about their day. (Disclaimer: I'm not an early modern human expert.)
In the 1950s and '60s, I'm sure some people simply ignored their girlfriend's phone calls in lieu of an actual breakup talk. (Shout out to Don Draper.) Ghosting comes down to being a wuss or not. Are you able to have tough conversations? (Or legit, just send one text.) Cool, you're a grown up! Are you more likely to simply not reply to your casual bae of two months? Cool, your manners are subpar.
Ghosting boils down to a lack of manners and a lack of consideration for others. I think the fact that we continue using this cute little nomer "ghosting" to describe the behavior actually makes it more "acceptable." I spoke to dating and relationship expert and licensed therapist Anita A. Chlipala to see if my theory on why people ghost was correct. Here's what she had to say:
First, How Do We Define Ghosting?
Ghosting can be defined as "not responding to another person's communication, especially if there's been an existing relationship (even if it was just one date)" according to Chlipala.
If you followed up after a first date saying, "That was fun, want to grab drinks again next Friday?" and never hear back, then your date has diet ghosted you, IMO. However, if, after a date, neither of you text again, that doesn't really count as ghosting.
The ghosting is in the lack of response, kind or not.
Now, What's The Main Reason People Ghost?
People ghost for all different reasons, from a family emergency to amnesia to simply not giving an eff. There are many different circumstances, but I want to look at ghosting as a whole. There are two types of ghosting: ghosting post-dating and ghosting post-relationship, according to Chlipala.
"If it's just dating, [ghosters] think, 'I don't owe them anything.' So they just don't respond," says Chlipala. Ah, so we're all just a little bit more concerned with ourselves than with others. Sounds pretty human to me. "In my professional opinion, if you've given a person a date or a commitment for a date, you do owe them an explanation as to why you changed your mind," adds Chlipala. I would agree with that. See, ghosting = lack of etiquette, plain and simple.
When it comes to longer term relationships and dating, the reasons for ghosting can go deeper. "I see people who are conflict avoidant and don't want to deal with uncomfortable feelings, and they rationalize it as ghosting being easier/less hurtful than communicating directly," explains Chlipala.
She adds that not having the "talk" actually has a worse effect on people. "The unknown and lack of closure causes more anxiety. The clients I work with overanalyze everything, which can then affect their confidence." So it's hard out there for a ghoster, too.
So Why Is Ghosting Such A Trend Overall?
"Because it's easier, or at least people see it this way," says Chlipala. Basically, we're all ghosting each other because we are a little bit afraid, a little bit lazy, and a little bit lacking in manners. To me, these all fall under the umbrella phrase of "we're all a little too self-involved these days." (I mean, hi, who hasn't taken a selfie?)
Chlipala said that she, too, believes that the constant use of the clever term "ghosting" has desensitized people to the actuality of the behavior, and has made ghosting all that much more normal. This all brings me back to one of the first rules of interacting with others we all learned back in preschool: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. That god damn golden rule will get you every time.
While I've never ghosted, if looked at all of my relationships, and asked myself: "Did you truly treat your person the way you would've liked to be treated?" the answer would be a big, whopping "NOPE." Honestly, this could be a huge part of why I'm single most of the time. (I'm a little bit having an epiphany here, so let me go with this.) Relationships are messy, even when both parties are on their best behavior. But maybe, if we all held ourselves to the golden rule — like really held ourselves to it — dating would get a whole lot easier.
People would stop double scheduling Tinder dates in one night. People would stop last minute canceling on first dates. And people would definitely stop ghosting. We can do it, friends. We've only known this rule since we were five years old.
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