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With most of our communication taking place virtually, ghosting has become rampant. What do you do when you are being ghosted? The author writes an insightful piece.
It was spring vacation and the kids were excited about a trip out of town. A mom friend lived there, and I reached out to her to check her availability to meet. We were planning to move farther away and I knew there was little or no chance of coming back. In effect, this would be a hello and goodbye.
“Would you have time to visit us?” asked my mom friend.
As our schedule became clearer, I realized that we would be a 10-minute drive away from her. However, traffic and other vagaries of life in bustling cities meant we would spend about an hour travelling to and from her home. We were also time bound as my husband needed to be at work later that evening.
“We may not have time to come and visit, but I would love to see you. Would you be able to meet us somewhere?”, I texted back, the evening before the trip.
The response I was waiting for never came.
She is busy. Kids drain us and make us forget things. She will reply. I told myself.
The morning arrived and there was no blinking text notification. I was puzzled but decided to keep checking my phone. She knew where we would be. What if she just turned up? What if she kept calling and calling and I didn’t hear my phone? We would most likely never see each other again.
Morning turned into afternoon and we started getting ready to leave.
“Weren’t we supposed to catch up with your friend?” asked my husband.
“Looks like she was busy. This would have been a good opportunity”, I replied gloomily, wondering what the hell had happened. That night I went over the texts looking for something I might have said or not said. I was stymied and craved for answers but knew I wouldn’t get any. This was not the first time this friend had left me hanging. However, now I had a word for it.
Welcome to the world where we communicate from behind the safety of digital screens. I had been ghosted.
Ghosting is basically rejection, only without the finality. It is when someone stops answering your texts or calls without explanation.
It is a phenomenon normally associated with dating. But with people increasingly moving their communication to behind a screen, this cold behaviour has become fairly common. A 2016 study revealed that, of the 1,300 participants, 25% had ghosted people and 20% had been ghosted themselves.
Ghosting has often been viewed by mental health professionals as a form of emotional cruelty.
Ghosting between friends can leave you feeling confused, hurt, and paranoid. The closer the relationship, the stronger will be the feeling of rejection. It also results in guilt and makes you question your own behaviour. What did I do to cause this? How do I protect myself from this ever happening again?
When a rejection occurs your self-esteem can drop, which social psychologists propose is meant to be a signal that your social belonging is low. If you have been through multiple ghostings or if your self-esteem is already low, you are likely to experience the rejection as even more painful, and it may take you longer to get over it as people with lower-self-esteem have less natural opioid (pain-killer) released into the brain after a rejection when compared with those whose self-esteem is higher. (Source: Psychology Today)
This was not the first time my friend had ghosted me. In the back of my mind, I knew she could do it again. On the other hand, her interactions with me on social media, although rare, had always been pleasant. Not the type to burn bridges, I was curious about my possibly, last interaction with her.
There are three primary reasons why friends ghost:
1) Avoidance: People ghost to avoid emotional discomfort. In a world abounding with distractions, it is easy to just pretend that a conversation never happened and to move on to the next thing. This is specially relevant when something is difficult to explain or the ghoster has no clear answers to give.
2) Laziness: Being busy is an excuse you will hear often. If a relationship is important, you will make the time. We don’t forget to pick up our kids from school every day, do we?
3) Anonymity: As more and more people connect with random strangers online, they also loose the comforting net of mutual friends. It is easy to stop communicating when you know there will be no consequences.
There is no single solution to avoid the emotional pain or, to even, avoid being ghosted. As technology makes communication easier and faster, ghosting is a necessary evil that is here to stay. However, you can do some things to make it clear to a prospective ghoster that you value and respect yourself.
1) Set a deadline to respond: Instead of ‘What happened? Is everything ok?’, say something like this:
“I need to know if you can make it so I can plan my day accordingly. Please let me know by 4.30 pm today.”
“If I do not hear from you by 9 am on Sunday, April 28, I will assume your answer is no.”
2) Do not panic, stalk or abuse: Unless you know the circumstances, it is highly unlikely someone is dying on you. It is very tempting to stalk and track your ghoster’s conversations on social media. Sure, it will assure you that you are the only recipient of the silent treatment but it will also double your guilt.
Respect yourself and stay away.
3) Let go and move on: Ghosting can happen among the strongest friendships. If you see a change in communication pattern without an explicit reason, your relationship may be turning its course. “Not knowing the reason why is hard to accept, but we must since we usually never find out. This leaves us with the choice of either torturing ourselves seeking answers we’ll never get, or letting it go and moving on.” — Kurt Smith, PsyD, clinical director, Guy Stuff Counseling and Coaching.
4) Take care of yourself: Ghosting is the ultimate act of cowardice. Unfortunately, more and more people are ghosting without guilt simply because it is so easy to do. Don’t let ghosting get to you. Focus on good memories and surround yourself with positive thoughts.
I am an Indian living in the United States. Family comprises my husband and two
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