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What Is Ghosting?

Ghosting is abruptly ending communication with someone without explanation. The concept most often refers to romantic relationships but can also describe disappearances from friendships and the workplace.

People respond to being ghosted in many ways, from feeling indifferent to deeply betrayed. Some believe that ghosting is inseparably intertwined with modern electronic communication, and the practice is a way to cope with the decision fatigue that can accompany dating. Others believe that ghosting is emotionally troubling given that it offers no sense of closure.

The phenomenon of abruptly disappearing from people’s lives isn’t new–but it seems to be common today. Technology has made ghosting an easy way to dissolve relationships. According to a 2018 study, approximately 25 percent of men and women reported having been ghosted in a romantic relationship, and 22 percent admitted to having ghosted someone else. The Federal Reserve even recognized the phenomenon in a 2018 report, in which employers reported being ghosted by employees in a tight labor market.

Offshoots of ghosting, “orbiting” and “breadcrumbing,” refer to leading someone on through interactions on social media—leaving a like or comment—without speaking to them in real life. These confusing situations can instill a sense of false hope that a new relationship will begin—or frustration that an old relationship can never really end.

Why Was I Ghosted?

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The reason for being ghosted often has to do more with the ghoster than the ghostee. Cutting off communication spares the individual from confronting their past partner, taking responsibility, or engaging in the emotional labor of empathy—despite the benefit a conversation can provide.

The desire to avoid discomfort can apply to a wide range of situations. After flirting for a while, a man or woman may disappear rather than admit they’ve lost interest. Someone who feels mistreated by a friend might stop responding rather than confront them. A teenager who feels frustrated by a minimum wage job might spontaneously stop showing up to work instead of giving notice.

Technology may contribute to the tendency to ghost: Research suggests that the high volume of potential prospects on dating apps may make each individual person appear more disposable. Another attitude that may foster ghosting? Believing in destiny. One study found that people who believe in relationship destiny—that everyone has a soulmate waiting to sweep them off their feet—were much more likely to believe that ghosting was acceptable.

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