We have all done it, at least once in our lives. Although the term “Ghosting” is typically used in the context of dating, it can be applied to other areas of our life as well.
Have a friend you haven’t texted back in a while? A project group mate that you were too lazy to update? Here’s a few possible reasons why we ghost, the effects of ghosting and three practical ways we can try to avoid it.
Why do we ghost, really?
When life gets busy, we tend to switch off and ignore the heaps of spam coming into our inbox. We do it unintentionally: a message comes in when we are in the middle of something and we make a mental note to reply later…except that later never comes (whoops). Texting our friends back takes a backseat over work; work gets busy and we forget to reply – we are always chasing an endless chain of things to do next.
Sometimes, we do it intentionally. Maybe we’ve been on a date that was so awkward that we contemplated escaping during our “bathroom break”, or we just didn’t feel like turning up for a CCA thing after pulling an all-nighter on an assignment. It just seems easier to not explain ourselves. We feel like it would make things more awkward, we don’t know how to phrase things, or maybe we even feel like we don’t really need to reply – after all, we don’t owe anyone an explanation right?
Well, here’s the simple reason why we shouldn’t ghost.
It all comes down to this: in dealing with human relationships, we should also consider the impacts of our actions on others. While life still goes on even if you don’t send that text back, or tell that awkward date that you have decided to move on, it leaves things on assumption, creating unnecessary hurt and a potential build-up of negative emotions. Think about it this way: we’ve all ghosted on others before, but we’ve also been ghosted too. Surely, it can’t feel nice being on the receiving end. Ghosting creates friction in our relationships with others and chips away at the bonds forged, regardless of whether we notice it or not.
Good news, we can learn to avoid it.
Let’s start by being more accountable to the people in our lives. This means that we need to make an effort to communicate where we are at – be it mentally or physically – so that the other person can better understand where we are coming from.
Revisiting some of the scenarios brought up earlier, let’s find better ways to respond in those situations.
Most likely to occur in our daily lives: ghosting in friendship.
Perhaps you haven’t talked to this friend in a while or you happened to be occupied when their text came in. Instead of blue-ticking them, you can send a quick text their way (especially if they were talking about something important to them).
Not replying can unintentionally signify that you might not want to engage in conversation, and the other person might then reciprocate this in future – widening the gap in your friendship. While it does take some extra effort, such little things make all the difference when it comes to meeting each other halfway.
The same goes for work. If you’re swamped at the moment, just let the other person know, and when you can get back to them soonest. Be it a group project or meeting, don’t stay silent and tune everyone out. You could even take it a step further and let others know when exactly you will finish your assignment – and then, do it. This will boost your dependability and others would greatly appreciate the effort made to stick to your word.
And the most sticky of all: dating. Dating can sometimes feel like a calculated game of chess, where no one wants to be the first to show their hand. So we ghost instead – the universal sign for “I’m no longer interested”. But while you know the reasons behind your actions, the other party doesn’t – this creates a toxic dating culture, where the other party is left feeling weathered down and confused.
You might think that you are doing this in order not to hurt the other person’s feelings, but when we leave the other person hanging, we usually end up hurting them even more. Take ripping off a band-aid for example: you do it once and then it’s over. It’ll be much easier for them to process what went down, and hopefully, move on. So lay down your pride and craft a well-phrased response, sprinkling in a few genuine compliments to soften the blow.
Ghosting has become a norm, but it doesn’t need to stay that way. Let us all be more present in our communication with others and strengthen our relationships through the small efforts that we make on the daily. After all, it’s only fair to treat others the same way that we would want to be treated — and that’s with respect and accountability.