• Add a definition
  • User settings

What Is Ghosting?

The noun ghost   has been around a very long time, since before 900, when Old English was spoken. Originally it referred to the soul of a dead person or a disembodied spirit, and this meaning is still in use. In the recent past, ghost and ghosting have expanded in meaning, and today this term is often evoked in relation to dating.

How do you know if you’ve been ghosted?

You are a victim of ghosting if you one day realize that the person you’ve been seeing for two months is no longer replying to your texts. The verb form is also widely used; you can date someone for a few months and then ghost . Dictionary.com defines ghosting as “the practice of suddenly ending all contact with a person without explanation, especially in a romantic relationship.”

With ghosting there is no break-up conversation, perhaps because the relationship was not serious enough to warrant a formal break-up or because confrontation was seen as too difficult or not worth the trouble. Whatever the reason, the act of ghosting effectively ends a relationship. This sense of ghosting is a logical metaphorical extension of the original sense since exes can have the quality of lingering long after they’ve exited a person’s life.

When did people start ghosting?

The “ending a relationship” sense of ghosting is relatively new to English, but how new? On November 23, 2007, an Urban Dictionary entry for this sense of ghost appeared: “To ghost: Cutting all ties with a girl. I’m totally ghosting Ania as of right now .” Before 2007, a few similar senses of ghosting and ghost pop up in Urban Dictionary, however, they aren’t in this specific context of breaking up without actually breaking up.

It’s likely that the spread of this particular sense of ghosting is linked to the increasing use of online dating apps. Though online dating has been around for over twenty years, Tinder entered the scene in late 2012, and became ubiquitous in 2013. Around that time the term ghosting really took off in mainstream media. By 2014 and 2015 major publications like New York Times , Huffington Post , and the Independent were writing about it.

This sense of ghosting might find its roots in the idiom get ghost , meaning “to leave immediately; to disappear,” which gained popularity in ‘90s hip-hop. The Right Rhymes shows examples of this expression referring to sexual encounters from as early as 1994. However, these lyrics seem to be specifically about one-night stands. Going even further back, the Oxford English Dictionary lists the phrases to ghost it and to ghost away meaning “to steal away like a ghost,” as dating from the 1800s. In this update, Dictionary.com also added a related sense of ghosting : “the act of leaving a social event or engagement suddenly without saying goodbye.”

These links seem viable, but the exact origins of the “ending a relationship” sense of ghosting remain unknown. This all adds to the mystery of the term, which any victim of ghosting can agree is appropriate.

Jane Solomon is a lexicographer based in Oakland, CA. She spends her days writing definitions and working on various projects for Dictionary.com. In the past, she’s worked with other dictionary publishers including Cambridge, HarperCollins, Oxford, and Scholastic, and she was a coauthor of “Among the New Words,” a quarterly article in the journal American Speech. She is also part of the Unicode Emoji Subcommittee, the group that decides what new emoji pop up on our devices. Jane blogs at  Lexical Items , and she is the author of the children’s book The Dictionary of Difficult Words .

Language Stories

Science & Technology

ghosting someone urban

Commonly Confused

[ t uh - mee -sis ]

  • By clicking "Sign Up", you are accepting Dictionary.com Terms & Conditions and Privacy policies.
  • Email This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

"Ghosting" Explained

CEO/Founder DreamsRecycled.com - The Ultimate Divorce Resource

What is ghosting? It's the evolution of silent treatment, defined by urban dictionary as "the act of suddenly ceasing all communications with someone, who you are dating, but no longer wish to date."

I think it is primarily used as an emergency exit button on relationships that, are not meant to be. While speaking to divorcees on DreamsRecycled I often hear people either confessing to ghosting someone or of someone being ghosted. With so much technology nowadays, the impact of ghosting have been heightened as we go from communicating on calls, emails, texts and social media to nothing instantly.

Let us look at possible reasons why people would ghost someone.

1.They fear confrontation and are lacking communication skills to navigate an exit from a relationship maturely.

2.They are juggling so many people via dating apps and social media that you fall through the cracks.

3.They fear that someone is dangerous or would act dangerously towards them on break up.

4.They are incredible self-centered, and only see life from their view point.

5.They are depressed or suffering from emotional trauma which stops them communicating with anyone.

6.They have mental health issues such as being a narcissism, sociopath or psychopath.

The statistics for ghosting are high 50% of people admit to both ghosting someone and being ghosted. With the event of online dating and the fact that so many people we date, have no ties to us, it is easy to just vanish from someone's life instantly and permanently. It though leaves the person being ghosted with a heavy heart, and a slew of unanswered questions. It can affect the person being ghosted in a multitude of ways.

1.They feel disrespected and dis-guarded.

2.Their self-esteem takes a beating and they wonder what they may have done to deserve this.

3.They feel anxiety associated with not having closure or questions answered.

4.They start to doubt their judgment of people.

5.They fear abandonment and ghosting from future partners and become anxious when people don't answer them.

6.They may have on-going trust issues from being ghosted.

Ghosting is well documented in the mental health world as being a tactic emotional abusers use, to try and control and damage the self-esteem of those people, they are in a relationship with. If you are ghosting someone it is a form of emotional cruelty, which can easily be avoided with an open honest talk with someone. If you at one time liked someone enough to date them or have a full-fledged relationship with them, you should respect them enough to tell them the truth. After all the truth hurts for a short while, but ghosting or lies actually can hurt forever, as you have no closure or knowledge of why the person went away. It's a pretty large emotional burden to bear especially if at one time you were, in a loving relationship with this person.

No one like confrontation, no one likes streams of hurt break up texts or crying or fighting, it's not something I think anyone would seek out, but if you approach a break up in a calm and healthy manner, generally the results will usually be calm and healthy too. The old adage of treating people the way you would wish to be treated, rings very true with ghosting. I think not all ghosters are bad people, some too actually suffer from low self-esteem, and know on some level they aren't capable of a relationship, this type of ghoster I think probably is not fully aware of the damage they are doing to others.

If you are the one who is or has been ghosted the best thing to remember is at the very least, the person ghosting you showed you they are not a good communicator, or capable of having a healthy relationship with you, so them leaving in any manner they did is a blessing. Being ghosted is not your fault and always says far more about the person ghosting, than it ever will about you. If you believe the person who ghosted you, may actually be a narcissist, sociopath or psychopath, they are the most likely to reappear months or years later. They are strictly checking in to see if they still have any power over you or your emotions. At this point they have shown their true colors, and should not be given another chance to do this again.

Healthy relationships between any two people require open honest and positive communication that is what anyone should be looking for in a relationship. Communication is and always will be the key to life or love.

Support HuffPost

A no-b.s. guide to life.

At HuffPost, we believe that everyone needs high-quality journalism, but we understand that not everyone can afford to pay for expensive news subscriptions. That is why we are committed to providing deeply reported, carefully fact-checked news that is freely accessible to everyone.

Our News, Politics and Culture teams invest time and care working on hard-hitting investigations and researched analyses, along with quick but robust daily takes. Our Life, Health and Shopping desks provide you with well-researched, expert-vetted information you need to live your best life, while HuffPost Personal, Voices and Opinion center real stories from real people.

Help keep news free for everyone by giving us as little as $1. Your contribution will go a long way.

HuffPost is your trusted source to help you lead a better life. Our reporters rely on research, expert advice and lived experiences. So when you've got questions, you know you can trust our answers.

We're determined to keep HuffPost Life — and every other part of HuffPost — 100% free. Help us do that by contributing as little as $1.

HuffPost is your trusted source for stories that help you lead a better life. We've got you covered on all things health, wellness, food, style, parenting, relationships, work, travel and lifestyle. Our reporters rely on research, expert advice and lived experiences to address all your concerns, big and small. So when you've got questions, you know you can trust our answers.

Tiffany Beverlin - CEO/Founder DreamsRecycled.com - The Ultimate Divorce Resource

Tiffany Beverlin, Contributor

Do you have info to share with HuffPost reporters? Here’s how.

Popular in the Community

From our partner, huffpost shopping’s best finds, more in life.

ghosting someone urban

FluentSlang

What Does Ghosting Mean? – Meaning, Uses and More

ghosting someone urban

What Does Ghosting Mean?

The term ghosting is a slang term that refers to abruptly leaving a social gathering or cutting off contact with someone, typically a romantic partner, without any explanation or warning. It can also be used in the context of gaming to describe the act of observing an opponent’s gameplay. The term originated from the concept of someone disappearing like a ghost without leaving any trace. Ghosting has become prevalent in the dating world due to the convenience of technology and the desire to avoid face-to-face confrontation. However, being ghosted can be frustrating for the person on the receiving end. In gaming, ghosting is considered cheating by some players as it provides an unfair advantage by allowing the observer to see their opponents’ actions. It’s important to note that ghosting does not have a sexual connotation and is not a typo or typing mistake.

What Does Ghosting Mean From a Girl?

When a girl uses the term ghosting , it generally means the same thing as when a guy uses it. Ghosting refers to abruptly cutting off contact with someone, usually a romantic partner, without any explanation or warning. It’s like disappearing into thin air, leaving the other person confused and wondering what happened.

Here are some key points to consider:

  • Specific meaning from a girl : Girls may use ghosting to end a relationship or to express their frustration with someone’s behavior. It can also be used as a way to protect themselves from potential harm or discomfort.
  • How girls use it : Girls may use ghosting in conversations with their friends or when discussing their dating experiences. It can be used as a way to vent or seek advice from others who have had similar experiences.
  • How to reply : If you’ve been ghosted by a girl and you want closure or an explanation, it’s okay to reach out and ask for one. However, it’s important to respect her decision if she chooses not to respond. It’s also important to take care of yourself and focus on moving forward.

While the general meaning of ghosting is the same for everyone, girls may have different perspectives and experiences with it compared to guys. Some girls may use ghosting as a defense mechanism to protect themselves from potential harm or discomfort in relationships. Others may use it as a way to assert their independence and avoid confrontations.

If you’re currently talking to a girl on Tinder, TikTok, or Snapchat, and she suddenly stops responding or disappears without any explanation, it’s possible that she has ghosted you. It can be frustrating and confusing, but remember that everyone has their reasons for ghosting and it’s important to respect their decision.

  • Girl A: So, I went on a date with this guy last night.
  • Girl B: Oh, how did it go?
  • Girl A: Terrible! He was so rude and disrespectful. I think I’m going to ghost him.
  • Girl: I’ve been talking to this guy for a while, but he’s been acting really shady lately.
  • Friend: Ugh, that’s the worst. You should totally ghost him and find someone better.
  • Girl A: I can’t believe he stood me up again!
  • Girl B: Seriously? That’s the third time. You should ghost him and move on.
  • Girl: I’ve been texting this guy for weeks, but he never makes plans to meet up. I think I’m just going to ghost him.
  • Girl A: I’ve been seeing this guy for a few months, but he’s been acting distant lately.
  • Girl B: Maybe it’s time to have a conversation and see what’s going on.
  • Girl A: Nah, I think I’m just going to ghost him. It’s not worth the drama.

What Does Ghosting Mean From a Guy?

When a guy uses the term ghosting , it can have similar meanings to when a girl uses it. Ghosting refers to abruptly cutting off contact with someone, typically a romantic partner, without any explanation or warning. It’s like vanishing into thin air, leaving the other person bewildered and wondering what went wrong.

  • Specific meaning from a guy : Guys may use ghosting for various reasons. It could be a way for them to avoid confrontation or difficult conversations, or it could be a sign that they have lost interest in the relationship. Ghosting can also be used as a means of asserting independence or avoiding emotional vulnerability.
  • How guys use it : Guys may use ghosting in their conversations with friends or when discussing their dating experiences. It can be seen as a way to protect themselves from potential emotional entanglements or to maintain a sense of control in their relationships.
  • How to reply : If you’ve been ghosted by a guy and you want closure or an explanation, it’s okay to reach out and ask for one. However, it’s important to be prepared for the possibility that he may not respond or provide the answers you’re seeking. It’s crucial to prioritize your own well-being and focus on moving forward.

While the general meaning of ghosting is similar for both guys and girls, there may be differences in how they perceive and use it. Some guys may view ghosting as a way to avoid emotional discomfort or difficult conversations, while others may see it as a means of maintaining control in their relationships.

If you’re currently talking to a guy on platforms like Tinder, Snapchat, or texting, and he suddenly stops responding or disappears without any explanation, it’s possible that he has ghosted you. It can be frustrating and hurtful, but remember that everyone has their reasons for ghosting and it’s important to prioritize your own well-being.

  • Guy 1: Hey, did you see that girl I was talking to? She just ghosted me out of nowhere.
  • Guy 2: Man, that’s rough. Some people just don’t have the decency to give an explanation.
  • Guy 1: I thought things were going well with this girl I met online, but she totally ghosted me after our second date.
  • Guy 2: Ugh, that’s the worst. It’s so frustrating when people can’t just be honest and communicate.
  • Guy 1: I’ve been texting this girl for weeks and suddenly she stopped replying. I think she’s ghosting me.
  • Guy 2: Ah, the classic disappearing act. It’s like they vanish into thin air.
  • Guy 1: I asked this girl out and she said yes, but now she’s not responding to my messages. I think she’s ghosting me.
  • Guy 2: That’s a bummer, dude. Some people just can’t handle being upfront and honest.
  • Guy: So I went on a date with this girl last night and it went really well. But now she’s not answering my texts. I think she’s ghosting me.
  • Friend: Ah man, that’s the worst feeling. It’s like they just disappear without a trace. Don’t worry though, there are plenty of fish in the sea!

What Does Ghosting Mean Sexually?

False, ghosting does not have a sexual or NSFW meaning. It refers to abruptly leaving a social gathering or cutting off contact with someone without any explanation or warning. It can also be used in gaming to describe observing an opponent’s gameplay.

Origin of Ghosting

The origin of the word/phrase “ghosting” in the context of abruptly leaving a social gathering or cutting off contact with someone is not clear. It is possible that the term derives from the concept of someone disappearing like a ghost without leaving any trace. However, it is not known if it was a popular typo or misspelling of another word that became popularized, similar to the case of “HODL” in the cryptocurrency community. Without more concrete evidence or historical documentation, the exact origins of the word/phrase “ghosting” remain uncertain.

Frequently Asked Questions

Slangs similar to ghosting.

The terms silent treatment, disappearing act, vanishing act, French exit, Irish goodbye, and silent departure are all similar to ghosting because they all involve abruptly cutting off contact or leaving a social gathering without explanation or warning. These terms describe the act of suddenly disappearing or cutting off contact, just like ghosting.

Is Ghosting A Bad Word?

No, “ghosting” is not a bad word or vulgar word. It refers to the act of abruptly cutting off contact with someone, usually in a romantic or social context. While it can be hurtful to the person being ghosted, it is not inherently vulgar.

Is Ghosting a Typo or Misspelling?

No, “ghosting” is not a misspelling or a typo. It is a slang term that refers to abruptly leaving a social gathering or cutting off contact with someone, typically a romantic partner, without any explanation or warning. It can also be used in the context of gaming to describe the act of observing an opponent’s gameplay.

You may also like

ghosting someone urban

What Does Oy Mean? – Meaning, Uses and More

ghosting someone urban

What Does Pud Mean? – Meaning, Uses and More

ghosting someone urban

What Does Wapo Mean? – Meaning, Uses and More

ghosting someone urban

What Does Cus Mean? – Meaning, Uses and More

  • Social Anxiety Disorder
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Kids Mental Health
  • Therapy Center
  • When To See a Therapist
  • Types of Therapy
  • Best Online Therapy
  • Best Couples Therapy
  • Best Family Therapy
  • Managing Stress
  • Sleep and Dreaming
  • Understanding Emotions
  • Self-Improvement
  • Healthy Relationships
  • Relationships in 2023
  • Student Resources
  • Personality Types
  • Verywell Mind Insights
  • 2023 Verywell Mind 25
  • Mental Health in the Classroom
  • Editorial Process
  • Meet Our Review Board
  • Crisis Support

Being Ghosted: Why It Happens and How to Cope

Barbara is a writer and speaker who is passionate about mental health, overall wellness, and women's issues.

ghosting someone urban

Verywell / Laura Porter

Why Do People Ghost?

  • How to Cope

What Does Ghosting Say About a Person?

Is ghosting emotional abuse.

Ghosting occurs when someone you are dating or getting to know disappears without a trace. This could happen at the very beginning of a relationship or in the middle of one, whether in person or online. Dealing with being ghosted is incredibly difficult—especially because you usually don't know the cause or know how to react.

The person suddenly quits all contact with you—they won’t respond to texts, emails, calls, or social media messages. The mental health effects of being on the receiving end of these actions can be very challenging.

Learn more about why people ghost and how to move forward if it happens to you or someone you know.

People ghost for a variety of reasons. Relationship experts and psychologists agree that people who ghost are avoiding an uncomfortable situation. This evasion, while perceived as a lack of regard, is often because they feel it’s the best way to handle their own distress or inability to clearly communicate .

Ghosters themselves admit they don’t want to hurt you or they don’t know what to do. Sometimes they don’t think discussing a situation was necessary or they became scared. Ghosting is a passive way to withdraw.

But some ghosters perceive that to disappear completely might actually be the easiest and best way to handle the situation for all. Others ghost because now that it’s common, it’s an almost justifiable way to exit a relationship nowadays.

In today’s dating culture, being ghosted and ghosting is common.

How to Cope When You've Been Ghosted

It's not always easy, and it often takes time, but there are things you can do to start to feel better even if you've been ghosted by someone in your life.

Rid Yourself of Blame

After someone disappears suddenly, it’s hard to not feel regret, embarrassment and shame. After all, you risked for the sake of growth and it backfired. While ghosting feels so personal, it’s not about you. It’s about them.

Because you usually can’t find a cause and there is no explanation furnished, you may blame yourself. You might want to put up walls so you don’t get hurt again in the future. Or you may tell your friends you will stop dating completely, using a cognitive distortion like all-or-nothing thinking .

Now is the time to regroup, be kind to yourself and take a break. You are not to blame for someone walking away without a peep. Nor is it your fault that the other person couldn’t maturely give you the truth.

Nix the Shame

Shame comes about sometimes when we are reminded of previous rejections. But is ghosting rejection?

Meredith Gordon Resnick, LCSW

Ghosting carries an echo of old rejection. It's painful because it activates—and emulates—a previous hurt or betrayal by someone we didn't just think we could trust but whom we had to trust, often during our formative years. Here's the catch: It's not necessarily about the betrayal but about our not having processed and integrated that early memory, and what it meant to us.

Resnick, whose trauma-informed books about recovery from the effects of narcissistic relationships have helped tens of thousands of readers, reassures those who were ghosted and bids them to take care.

“Understood this way, we can see why self-compassion is in order,” she says. “Being dropped and feeling unseen is always painful, and there is never shame or embarrassment in feeling what is real.”

Choose Self-Care

How do you move forward? You need self-compassion and self-care. Invest in time with friends and family who can support you. Also, you might indulge in activities that make you happy like taking a yoga class or returning to a hobby that you love. You can also try homeopathic treatments or acupuncture.

Elena Klimenko, MD, and Integrative Medicine Specialist sometimes uses a "broken heart" homeopathic treatment for a heartfelt loss . She says, “In traditional Chinese medicine like acupuncture, the heart meridian—which starts at the heart and runs to the armpits, then down each arm—is responsible for heartfelt matters and some deep emotions. Proper acupuncture treatment can also facilitate recovery and take the edge off the difficult feelings."

When you think of the ghoster, be sure to reframe your ideas about them and the relationship. After all, they violated the contract of what it takes to be in a mature, healthy relationship. That includes mutual respect, good communication and thoughtfulness. Therefore, this wasn’t the right person for you, anyway.

Build Resilience

David C. Leopold, MD DABFM, DABOIM, and Network Medical Director for Integrative Health and Medicine at Hackensack Meridian Health says, “When patients experience any emotional or mental health challenges, I focus on helping them build resilience and enhancing their self-compassion and self-care."

Dr. Leopold uses a comprehensive approach, including engaging in physical activity, prioritizing sleep, optimizing nutrition, cultivating meaning and purpose, and, reducing stress through practices like mindfulness and meditation.” 

Therefore, if you’re emotionally exhausted and stressed, where do you start in taking care of yourself? “Multiple studies clearly show that eating healthy improves mental health—reducing stress, anxiety and even depression. And any form of exercise, even just walking, is a potent natural anti-depressant,” says Leopold. 

If you’re ruminating too much, use an app to increase mindfulness or begin a meditation practice . Leopold suggests you don’t forget about finding meaning and purpose. “Studies show focusing on meaning and purpose increases oxytocin, our 'feel good' hormone, which increases feelings of connection and improves mood.” Overall, he advises that you take this time “as an opportunity to focus on you and enriching your resilience.”

Despite ghosting being normalized, it's more about the problem the ghoster is having than it is about you. Ghosting says a lot about the person in many different ways. For instance, it could say that they lacked the courage to do the right thing by explaining why they could no longer continue a relationship with you.

The person or people who ghosted you didn’t treat you with integrity, therefore, did not consider the implications of their actions. It could also signal that they may not care about their actions and are inconsiderate or unreliable.

Or, it could be none of the above. The ghoster may be dealing with a mental health or medical condition (of a loved one or their own) that is making it difficult for them to reach out at the current time.

Whatever the case may be, being ghosted is not a reflection on you or your worthiness. Nor should it render you powerless.

Ghosting is a form of silent treatment, which mental health professionals have described as emotional cruelty or even emotional abuse if done so intentionally. You feel powerless and silenced. You don't know to make sense of the experience or have an opportunity to express your feelings.

This cowardly act, unfortunately pretty normalized by our culture, can cause immense pain. As you have no clue about what happened, your mind first jumps to many possibilities. Was your new love interest injured in a car accident? Is their family okay? Maybe it’s just a crazy busy time at work and they will contact you again soon? 

You might feel a wave of different emotions: sadness, anger , loneliness , confusion. Mental health professionals find that no response is especially painful for people on an emotional level. You feel helpless and shunned without information that could guide your understanding.

Being ghosted might result in exhibiting a variety of negative emotions and questioning yourself. Don't play the blame and shame game. Hold your head up high, hold onto your dignity, and let them go. Someone better could be out there looking for you.

Practice self-care and build your resilience during this painful time. If you’re still struggling to cope after being ghosted by a romantic interest, a friend, or someone in the workplace, reach out to a doctor or a mental health professional for assistance.

Press Play for Advice On Dealing With Negative Emotions

Hosted by therapist Amy Morin, LCSW, this episode of The Verywell Mind Podcast shares how to stay mentally strong when you're dealing with negative emotions. Click below to listen now.

Follow Now : Apple Podcasts / Spotify / Google Podcasts

By Barbara Field Barbara is a writer and speaker who is passionate about mental health, overall wellness, and women's issues.

By clicking “Accept All Cookies”, you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyze site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts.

Home

What is ghosting? And what can you do about it?

As the phrase “Okay, Boomer” swarms the internet and the cultural conversation, I (a proud member of Gen X) would rather dissect an older, but no less frustrating, term invented by a generation younger than my own: ghosting.

Ghosting2

What is Ghosting?

It’s even made its way into the  actual  dictionary — Merriam-Webster, not Urban.  Ghosting is defined   as the act or practice of abruptly cutting off all contact with someone (such as a former romantic partner) by no longer accepting or responding to phone calls, instant messages, etc. 

If you’ve spent any time in the dating world in the past few years, you’ve likely been ghosted and there’s a not small chance you may have ghosted someone yourself. And if you have a heart, you probably felt bad about it. You should — because getting ghosted totally sucks. 

The Psychology of Ghosting

It’s a relatively new phenomenon, at least in its current incarnation. Of course, people have been not returning phone calls for decades, but it wasn’t really socially expectable to just ignore someone because you felt like it. “There was a time in American culture when, you know, your neighbor would come over to borrow a cup of sugar,” Dr. Donna Rockwell, a clinical psychologist says. “That has changed and evolved, and perhaps it's because of social media, but we just don't feel obligated to have common courtesy.”

Basically, she says, communication has been devalued in our world of 24/7 availability and the ease of texting, email, DMs, and the million other ways we talk to each other without actually talking to each other. “We give ourselves permission to take the easy road,” she says. “We don't answer to an inner moral code, which is, ‘I owe this person a response.’” Dr. Rockwell notes that ghosting is an intentional act, and within that intention is a lack of consideration that you’re hurting another person. 

Ghosting at Work

Lest you think ghosting is limited to the world of dating, it’s become way more pervasive in the professional realm too. Picture it, you’ve had three great interviews for a job you really want. They keep calling you back in to meet with another person at the company to the point that you think an offer may be on the horizon. Then, poof, all communications cease, and you never hear another word from your HR contact. Obviously, you realize you didn’t get the job, but that lack of closure or explanation is frankly, bullshit. A simple, “Thank you so much for your time. We loved your ideas, but decided to go in a different direction for the position” would totally suffice, right? The same goes for that man or woman you’ve been dating for two months who just disappears back into the dating apps with no explanation. 

What it shows, Dr. Rockwell says, is a real lack of empathy — a problem rampant in modern American culture. “What would you feel like if you were ghosted? Perhaps that's not a question that our culture is asking itself enough these days,” she says. “Am I showing empathy? Am I treating this other person the way I would want to be treated?” People also often don’t consider the baggage that comes with ghosting someone — there’s a guilt you carry even if you aren’t conscious of it. 

What to Do When You’re Being Ghosted

Here’s what Dr. Rockwell suggests you do if you’re the victim of a ghosting: “Say to yourself, ‘That person is not good for me, and fate saved me from what would have been a difficult and disastrous situation,’ she explains. “This applies to romantic relationships, friendships, or work/employment relationships. Ghosting speaks to the person doing the ghosting, not the person ghosted. There is a better romantic partner, better friend, better work or employment opportunity waiting for you. Being ghosted gives us the chance to feel even more inner confidence and empowerment.” If you need a mantra, try “This has nothing to do with me.” 

And don’t feel like you need to do a lot of work nudging and trying to get a response. “Walk away and find a better situation in which you feel wanted,” she says. “That choice is best for mental health and self-esteem reasons. We never need to beg someone else for attention. Move on to create a more supportive environment in which you can thrive.” 

So, yes, I may sound old-fashioned in bitching and moaning about the ghosting epidemic, but that’s just fine with me. Honestly, if this becomes a standard behavior then what does that look like in another generation or two? 

I’ve got plenty of things that keep me young and relevant in the world at the ripe old age of 44. But ghosting will never be one of them. 

Check out The Plum’s  4 Types of Friends You Need in Life   for some tips on building the relationships that matter  most. Hint: These people will never ghost you.

Our website uses cookies

We are always working to improve this website for our users. To do this, we use the anonymous data provided by cookies. Learn more about how we use cookies

Related Stories

GT_1140x800.jpg

The Virtues of Living in a Small Space

We're all feeling a bit boxed in at this point, but bigger doesn't always mean better when it comes to housing.

GT_1140x800_0.jpg

A Very Plummy Holiday Gift Guide

You made it through 2020. You, and everyone on your list, deserve a prize for that.

GT_1140x800_1.jpg

“I survived financial annihilation — twice!”

A four-step guide to financial success

  • Share full article

Advertisement

Supported by

Why People Ghost — and How to Get Over It

Time to go ghostbusting.

By Adam Popescu

Something strange happened at the coffee shop the other day. The gentleman in line in front of me — mid-40s, suit, bad haircut — ordered a latte. “Whole milk,” he said before changing to half and half, then almond milk. “For here,” he mumbled, then shook his head. “No. To go.”

I ordered an espresso. Our drinks arrived at the same time and I picked up mine, added sugar, sat, sipped. The latte remained at the counter, the barista calling his name over and over. But the man in the suit was gone. Why would someone order a drink and disappear?

Ghosting — when someone cuts off all communication without explanation — extends to all things, it seems. Most of us think about it in the context of digital departure: a friend not responding to a text, or worse, a lover, but it happens across all social circumstances and it’s tied to the way we view the world.

Asking for a beverage and then jetting may not seem equal to ditching an unwanted romance, but it’s really the same behavior. Uncomfortable? Just don’t respond. A ghost is a specter, something we think is there but really isn’t. We’ve all probably acted like this if we’re honest. We’ve all probably been ghosted, too, though sometimes we probably didn’t notice. These are supernatural times.

Last week, my sister and I got in an argument and her boyfriend didn’t text me back — a micro-ghost move.

“There are different levels of ghosting,” said Wendy Walsh, a psychology professor named one of Time’s 2017 people of the year for her whistle blowing that helped promote the #MeToo movement. My sister’s boyfriend is what Dr. Walsh calls lightweight ghosting. Midweight is when you’ve met a person a handful of times and you engage in deep avoidance , which hurts their feelings more. “Third wave is the heavyweight, when you’ve entered a sexual relationship and you leave, blindsiding the other.”

The pace of modern life makes it hard enough to maintain real life friendships; it’s impossible to actually be friends with everyone you’re supposedly simpatico with online. (Here’s a good test: How many of your Facebook friends are real? If you’ve met someone once and now they’re on your feed for life, get rid of them! If a friendship feels like too much work, maybe it is. The good ones shouldn’t feel like a chore on your to-do list, or that one side is doing all the communicating). Sometimes the best course is to let someone go, even if you were once close. Growing apart can be a friendship’s natural evolution; ditto for lovers, an even touchier discourse. But it’s the way you let go that matters.

Belief, destiny and growth

Studies have shown that social rejection of any kind activates the same pain pathways in the brain as physical pain, meaning there’s a biological link between rejection and pain. That goes for friends, partners and, if it had feelings, that lonely latte.

Staying connected to others has evolved as a human survival skill. Our brains have what’s called a social monitoring system that uses mood, people and environmental cues to coach us how to respond situationally. But when you get ghosted, there’s no closure, so you question yourself and choices which sabotages self-worth and self-esteem.

That ambiguity, said the psychologist Jennice Vilhauer , is the real dagger. She calls ghosting a form of the silent treatment akin to emotional cruelty (the pain it causes can be treated with Tylenol, according to multiple studies ). So, how do you avoid it in the first place?

“Well, I think I’m particularly choosy about who I tend to interact with,” said Dr. Vilhauer, the former head of Los Angeles’ Cedars-Sinai Medical Center psychotherapy program. “You can get a sense early on of what kind of individual you’re dealing with.”

There’s no checklist, but watching how people treat others is a good indicator.

“Ghosting has a lot to do with someone’s comfort level and how they deal with their emotions,” she added. “A lot of people anticipate that talking about how they feel is going to be a confrontation. That mental expectation makes people want to avoid things that make them uncomfortable.”

When it comes to complex relationships, the ease and sheer volume of choice is making us numb emotionally, Dr. Vilhauer said.

“In the dating world where people are meeting a lot of people outside of their social circles, that creates a level of feeling that you don’t have a lot of accountability if you ghost someone,” she said. “Their friends don’t know your friends so it’s easy to do if you’re never going to run into them again in real life.”

What we really want

According to Dr. Vilhauer, who is in a long-term relationship that began on a dating site, the flip side is a subset of the population looking for real connection.

“People are craving authenticity,” she said. For those looking for love in online emotional echo chambers, “the more you date, the more it feels unsuccessful, the more you get discouraged.”

She added: “Being vulnerable is the number one thing that creates intimacy between people and if you worry about being hurt all the time, you’re not able to be vulnerable and it affects the quality of connection.”

That fear is the same thing causing so much ghosting, said Gili Freedman , who studies the language of rejections at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. One eyebrow-raising tip she offers when you’ve made a mistake and ghosted someone is to not say “Sorry .” Why, I wondered? It only makes the injured party feel more aggrieved, she said.

In a 2018 paper , Dr. Freedman discovered ghosting has a lot to do with how we feel about our future — or whether we think our mate is the “one,” which is a question of belief versus destiny. Either someone believes the relationship is capable of growing or they’re seeking an archetypal partner (what’s typically called a soul mate).

“Individuals who have stronger destiny beliefs are more likely to ghost,” she said. “If you’re with someone and you realize they’re not the one for me, you’re going to think it’s not much of a point to put in the effort, so you ghost. These people believe relationships are either going to work out or not.”

Those with less of a fixed mind-set exhibit fewer feelings of helplessness and express themselves in conflicts with romantic partners.

Her work’s most counterintuitive finding?

“People seemed to think it was more acceptable to ghost in a friendship than a romantic relationship regardless of destiny of growth belief,” Dr. Freedman said. “We think of friendship as these long lasting relationships that provide social support and it’s interesting to think people are saying it’s a little better if you do it in a friendship. How you look at relationships affects how you look at ghosting.”

Ghostbusting

“It’s really important to remember if someone ghosts you that behavior says more about them than you,” Dr. Vilhauer said. “It’s about their discomfort. You have to keep trying.”

One way to avoid this cycle is modifying how we reject people, suggests Dr. Freedman.

Don’t apologize, she said, but be honest about boundaries, whether it’s going to a movie with someone or spending the rest of your life together. Just be real.

“The good middle ground is explicitly rejecting someone and telling them ‘no,’ not ‘I’m sorry,’” she said.

It may sound harsh, but it’s better than being left in limbo. That may be why so many daters don’t get the hint and keep texting. That ostracism leads to rage, frustration and further alienation.

“If you’re apologizing, you’re enforcing a social norm and if you say ‘sorry,’ it’s very normal to say ‘that’s O.K., I forgive you,’” she said.

Taking a risk to tell someone how you really feel — even if it’s not what they want to hear — has benefits. Self-esteem, stress, blood pressure, spending more time with people you care about. And getting that time back opens up self-discovery. Maybe you’ll find what makes you most fulfilled is nature , which promotes alpha brain waves, fuels creativity and reduces depression (my personal fix).

Perspective can be a good path to empathy, Dr. Walsh said. Our always-on culture has eroded a lot of empathy, which is why we find ourselves stepping on each others’ feelings. Yet for all the choice, we’re all still seeking connections. The power of the internet and its ease in upsetting our lives is only poised to grow. It’s how we use this intoxicant that will determine its impact.

“We are wired to bond,” Dr. Walsh said. “The phenomenon of love, our greatest drug and delusion evolved for two people to get together and have offspring. The great survivors will be the ones who still figure out love.”

Adam Popescu is a Los Angeles writer whose debut novel, “ Nima ,” based on his BBC reporting from Mount Everest, publishes in May. Follow him @ adampopescu .

A Guide to Building and Nurturing Friendships

Friendships are an essential ingredient in a happy life. here’s how to give them the care and attention they deserve..

How does one make meaningful friendships as an adult? Here are some suggestions ,  useful tools  and tips from an expert .

If you are an introvert, it can be hard to reconcile the need for close connections with the urge to cancel social plans. Here is how to find your comfort zone .

A friendship with a sibling can be a lifelong gift. Whether you’ve always been close, or wish you got along better, here’s how to bolster your connection .

All relationships require some work. For your friendships to thrive , focus on your listening skills, compassion and communication.

American men are in a “friendship recession,” but experts say a few simple strategies can help. One tip? Practice being more vulnerable with your pals .

It’s quite common for people to feel jealousy or envy toward their friends. Luckily, there are ways to turn those emotions into an opportunity  for growth.

Being a good friend means offering your support in times of need. Just remember: Sometimes less is better than more .

Ghosting: What It Is, Why It Hurts, and What You Can Do About It

Silk cloth in red light

You’re in a relationship. Suddenly, and maybe without any warning at all, your partner seems to have disappeared. No calls, no text messages, no connection made on social media, no responses to any of your messages. Odds are, your partner hasn’t unexpectedly left town because of a family emergency, and isn’t lying dead in a ditch somewhere but, rather, has simply ended the relationship without bothering to explain or even let you know. You’ve been ghosted.

Who Ghosts and Who Gets Ghosted?

Why would someone choose to simply disappear from another person’s life, rather than plan, at minimum, a conversation to end a relationship? You may never know for sure why you were ghosted. While more studies need to be done specifically on the ghosting phenomenon, past research has looked at different types of attachment personalities and choice of breakup strategies; it’s possible that people with an avoidant type personality (those who hesitate to form or completely avoid attachments to others, often as result of parental rejection), who are reluctant to get very close to anyone else due to trust and dependency issues and often use indirect methods of ending relationships, are more likely to use ghosting to initiate a break-up.

Other research found that people who are believers in destiny, who think that relationships are either meant to be or not, are more likely to find ghosting acceptable than people who believe relationships take patience and work. One study also suggests that people who end relationships by ghosting have often been ghosted themselves. In that case, the ghoster knows what it feels like to have a relationship end abruptly, with no explanation, no room for discussion. Yet they seemingly show no empathy toward the other, and may or may not experience any feelings of guilt over their ghosting behavior.

What it Means to Ghost and Be Ghosted

Ghosting is by no means limited to long-term romantic relationships. Informal dating relationships, friendships, even work relationships may end with a form of ghosting. For the person who does the ghosting, simply walking away from a relationship, or even a potential relationship, is a quick and easy way out. No drama, no hysterics, no questions asked, no need to provide answers or justify any of their behavior, no need to deal with someone else’s feelings. Certainly, while the ghoster may benefit from avoiding an uncomfortable situation and any potential drama, they’ve done nothing to improve their own conversation and relationships skills for the future.

Worried you may be suffering from a mental health disorder?

Take a proactive approach to your mental health and well-being with these free, medically reviewed quizzes. Instant results.

Woman taking an online mental health quiz

For the person who is ghosted, there is no closure and often deep feelings of uncertainty and insecurity. Initially, you wonder “what’s going on?” When you realize the other person has ended the relationship, you’re left to wonder why, what went wrong in the relationship, what’s wrong with you, what’s wrong with them, how you didn’t see this coming.

What to Do If You’re Ghosted

Ghosting hurts; it’s a cruel rejection. It is particularly painful because you are left with no rationale, no guidelines for how to proceed, and often a heap of emotions to sort through on your own. If you suffer from any abandonment or self-esteem issues, being ghosted may bring them to the forefront.

In this age of ever-advancing technology, your ghoster is likely to appear on your various forms of social media and, if that’s the case, this person who is now physically gone from your life, is still quite visible. How do you move on? Unfortunately, there’s no magic bullet or proven advice to quickly guide you into recovery from a ghosted heart, but there is common sense.

“Avoid reminders of your ex,” advises Gwendolyn Seidman, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Psychology and Chair of the Psychology Department at Albright College in Pennsylvania. “They’re likely to cause painful emotions to resurface, and they won’t help you get emotional closure or insight into why they broke up with you.”

After you stop torturing yourself by going over old photos, saved old texts, new social media postings, and anything else you think might give you insight into the mind and current whereabouts of your ghoster (and let’s face it, you’re bound to be doing that even if you’re not normally an obsessive person), try to find a new distraction. Perhaps most importantly, know that this probably isn’t about you or anything you did wrong.

“You should realize that if your ex chose the strategy of ghosting to break up with you, it likely tells you something about them and their shortcomings, rather than indicating that the problem lies with you.” Dr. Seidman adds.

In other words, try to move on as quickly and completely as you can. Maintain your dignity and stay focused on your own health, happiness and future, leaving the ghoster to deal with the ultimate repercussions of their own immaturity and lack of courage in the context of a relationship.

  • Freedman G, Powell DN, Le B, Williams KD. Ghosting and destiny: Implicit theories of relationships predict beliefs about ghosting. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships. January 12, 2018. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0265407517748791
  • Collins TJ, Gillath O. Attachment, breakup strategies, and associated outcomes: The effects of security enhancement on the selection of breakup strategies. Journal of Research in Personality. January 28, 2012;46:210-222. https://www.academia.edu/1467823/Attachment_breakup_strategies_and_associated_outcomes_The_effects
  • LeFebvre LE. Phantom Lovers: Ghosting as a Relationship Dissolution Strategy in the Technological Age. 219-233 From: The Impact of Social Media in Modern Romantic Relationships (ed. NM Punyanunt-Carter, JS Wrench)
  • Koessler RB. When Your Boo Becomes a Ghost: The Association Between Breakup Strategy and Breakup Role in Experiences of Relationship Dissolution. Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository. https://ir.lib.uwo.ca/etd/5402/
  • Share via facebook
  • Share via mail

More Like This

Does marriage counseling work.

 A man puts his arm around his wife as they sit together on the couch and talk to a therapist during a marriage counseling appointment.

In a Long-Distance Relationship? These Sex Toys Can Help

A woman enjoys a conversation with her significant other in a video call on her phone while laying in bed.

What Is a Codependent Relationship?

Close-up image of an emotional couple’s faces touching while tears run down the woman’s face.

Men and Heartbreak: A Psycom Special Report

Lonely, regretful young man by a window

Robert T Muller Ph.D.

Unapologetically Gone: The Lasting Harm of Ghosting

Threatening the target's self-esteem, and future relationships..

Updated November 12, 2023 | Reviewed by Davia Sills

  • What Is Ghosting?
  • Find a therapist near me
  • Online dating has swept the globe and instituted many changes in social trends, such as ghosting.
  • Ghosting is thought to be the result of a reduced sense of felt social responsibility.
  • Ghosting is associated with negative implications for future relationships, such as pessimism.

Aleshyn Andrei/Shutterstock

This post was co-authored by Daniel Sanchez Morales and Robert T. Muller, Ph.D.

Social media and dating apps have revolutionized the way we establish relationships with others, offering accessibility and flexibility that have shifted our ideas about maintaining connections. Unlike other relationships, online dating provides a platform to connect to people outside of direct personal networks, reducing a sense of social responsibility and making it easier to end communication with someone.

Leah LeFebvre, an associate professor at the University of Alabama, provides her perspective on BuzzFeed about “ ghosting .” 1 It's an increasingly occurring phenomenon defined in pop culture as a sudden cease in communication between two people. She notes, “Ghosting itself is not just an action, but also an outcome.”

Age and dating trends are relevant to ghosting. LeFebvre’s research has shown that emerging adults engage in ghosting the most. People in this age group are exploring various aspects of their lives related to dating and establishing connections, which include navigating sexual orientation , education , social network , and family connections, factors that are weighed when making the decision to ghost someone.

LeFebvre’s research focuses on the impact of ghosting, including its associated mental health challenges. She expands on its definition by stating that communication typically ceases in an attempt to end the relationship and that it can happen through one or more channels. It is often unilateral: There is an initiator (“ghoster”) and a non-initiator (“ghostee”).

Thus, it is understood through cause-and-effect, with one person prompting it. Simultaneous ghosting can also happen, in which case, there is typically no ghostee.

LeFebvre explains that there can be multiple factors that motivate an initiator to ghost, and at times, it may be unintentional.

Commonly, initiators engage in ghosting due to convenience. The initiator may ghost to avoid confrontation or to stop investing their time when they are not interested in the relationship. But LeFebvre’s research shows that reasons such as personal safety and preservation of mental health also play a role in motivating a ghoster to end communication with the ghostee.

Ghostees are left trying to understand the motives. LeFebvre says speculation on the possible involvement of an alternative partner is common, whether a former, current, or even future partner. Other worries include concerns about incompatibility, lack of interest in sex and intimacy , or individual flaws.

Aside from the rumination that commonly follows the experience of being ghosted, research has highlighted additional harms to psychological well-being, including feelings of sadness and pain, as well as experiencing a felt sense of threat over one's self-esteem , control, and belonging.

Further, ghosting is associated with negative implications for future relationships, such as pessimism and an avoidance of dating altogether.

Coping can be difficult. For those who have been ghosted, LeFebvre suggests that acknowledging that ghosting happens to other people and may have little to do with who you are as an individual can reduce the guilt or shame the ghostee may have about the situation or what happened.

There can be space to move on, and ghostees can proceed to heal in both the short and long term. Physical activity or hanging out with friends, for instance, can promote positive relationships that are immediately beneficial.

Facebook image: BaLL LunLa/Shutterstock

[1] R. Ishak, “People are sharing why they decided to ghost their friends, and it’s completely heartbreaking,” BuzzFeed , 05-Dec-2021. [Online]. Available: https://www.buzzfeed.com/ravenishak/ghosting-a-friend . [Accessed: 15-Sep-2023]

Robert T Muller Ph.D.

Robert T. Muller, Ph.D. , is a professor of psychology at York University, and the author of the book Trauma and the Avoidant Client .

  • Find a Therapist
  • Find a Treatment Center
  • Find a Psychiatrist
  • Find a Support Group
  • Find Teletherapy
  • United States
  • Brooklyn, NY
  • Chicago, IL
  • Houston, TX
  • Los Angeles, CA
  • New York, NY
  • Portland, OR
  • San Diego, CA
  • San Francisco, CA
  • Seattle, WA
  • Washington, DC
  • Asperger's
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Chronic Pain
  • Eating Disorders
  • Passive Aggression
  • Personality
  • Goal Setting
  • Positive Psychology
  • Stopping Smoking
  • Low Sexual Desire
  • Relationships
  • Child Development
  • Therapy Center NEW
  • Diagnosis Dictionary
  • Types of Therapy

January 2024 magazine cover

Overcome burnout, your burdens, and that endless to-do list.

  • Coronavirus Disease 2019
  • Affective Forecasting
  • Neuroscience

What does Ghosting mean?

Ghosting

Other definitions of Ghosting:

  • Slang for the act of watching an online streamer who you are currently playing against in a video game. Most often in strategy games, this allows asymmetrical knowledge which can lead to an advantage. This is bad sportsmanship.
  • Cutting off all communication with someone via online platforms or texts. The name comes from how the person appears to have died to the other person.
  • Disappearing or cancelling plans so suddenly, that it would make sense that somebody has died.
  • Rarely, this can refer to the act of pooping so quickly and with such force, that the fecal matter disappears down the toilet before flushing occurs.

All of our slang term and phrase definitions are made possible by our wonderful visitors. If you know of another definition of Ghosting that should be included here, please let us know .

How to use the term Ghosting :

Are you ghosting me? I see that you're active online; you must be ignoring me.

There's no way this player should have anticipated my move. They're ghosting my stream.

I've been ghosted by so many people from this app. I think they're ghosting me after I tell them about my love of uncooked hotdogs.

I'm telling you I didn't flushing. It must have been ghosting.

Video related to Ghosting

References:

What psychologists can tell you about ghosting | youtube.

  • A Miscellaneous that mentions "Ghosting."

A SciShow Psych episode about the deeper meanings behind ghosting and the types of people who might ghost someone.

Hosted by Brit Garner.

  • Check it Out

More slang terms:

PL8

Your Brother By Grace

XCEPT

Submit a new or better definition for Ghosting

Thus concludes our slang archive for ghosting..

We hope you have found this useful. If you have any additional definitions of Ghosting that should be on this list, or know of any slang terms that we haven't already published, click here to let us know!

Recent blog articles from Slang.org

ghosting someone urban

Top Millennial Slang of 2020

Slang squad! It’s time for some tea, fam — we’re going all out on another roll-call, and this time we’re focusing on the dankness that is Millennial slang. Recently, we’ve been scoping plenty of sketches and songs that are trying to yeet in this kind of slang left and right, often to great comedic effect. […]

ghosting someone urban

Top Slang Terms of 2017

Suh, fam? Today we’re diving deep with some of the most lit terms from 2017. Be warned: some of these terms have been around since before MMXVII, but our Slang.org experts have made sure to include only words that have either had a revival or are at least relevant to current slang-biosphere. On this year […]

ghosting someone urban

British Slang Terms

Ay-up, ladies and gents: it’s time for a British Slang roll-call! Today we’ll be visiting our neighbors across the pond here at Slang.org to give you a deep dive into the countries most enticing jargon. Remember to always show respect and not to do terrible accents (unless you’re quite smashing at it, mate). Below you’ll […]

ghosting someone urban

Marijuana Slang Terms, Part Two

It’s time for more marijuana slang! With all the recent news about cannabis legalization, we want you all equipped with the hip hemp lingo. It appears the part one of the article has made it around the circle, and it’s your turn with the second installment. Remember: read-read-pass, so share this article with another budding […]

ghosting someone urban

Marijuana Slang Terms, Part One

Pack a bowl, roll a joint and prepare your mind for some Mary Jane related slang. We here at Slang keep a healthy relationship with all herbs and with all the recent news about cannabis legalization, we thought we would explore the vernacular. Now you can finally know what all your stoner friends are saying […]

ghosting someone urban

Slang Terms of the 1980’s

From the election of Ronald Reagan to the fall of the Berlin Wall, the 80’s (AKA the Eighties) was an era of popularizing slang. This decade saw the advent of MTV, Valley Girl culture, and TV hits like the Simpsons; of course it’s vernacular was going to explode. Here’s a list of the oddest or […]

Study up on your slang:

Recently defined.

  • Uno Reverse Card

Trending Terms

  • Spell Coconut
  • Flashback Mary

Random Picks

  • ROFLMAOAPIMP

Browse by Letter

Copyright 2016 Slang.org . All Rights Reserved. Slang.org is a community-driven dictionary and database of slang terms.

  • Link copied

What Ghosting Says About Society (And Why it Hurts So Much)

ghosting

Ghosting isn’t new: People have been disappearing on friends and lovers for ages. But it has never been so easy or so common as it is today. The ubiquity of dating apps, social media and messaging platforms have enabled people to vanish at the touch of a button. Consequently, ghosting has become increasingly normalized, a fact that The Washington Post describes as “completely bonkers.” What kind of person ghosts another? What are the mental health implications? And what does ghosting say about the hyper-technological, constant-contact world in which we live? 

Merriam-Webster traces the verb “ghost,” meaning “to leave suddenly and without saying goodbye,” to 2004. Two years later, “ghosting” showed up in the Urban Dictionary, though it wasn’t for another decade that the word became more widely used, due in part to media reports of a series of high-profile celebrity breakups. In 2015, the Collins English Dictionary listed “ghosting” as one of its “words of the year”; shortly before Merriam-Webster made it an official entry in the dictionary, defined as “the act or practice of abruptly cutting off all contact with someone (such as a former romantic partner) usually without explanation by no longer accepting or responding to phone calls, instant messages, etc.” 

The literature of academic psychology offers a range of definitions. Some researchers define ghosting as the sudden termination of contact, while others say it could unfold gradually . This can happen in both short- and long-term relationships, but it’s much more common in the early days of dating. A few definitions foreground the idea that ghosting is mediated by technology , and there is debate about whether it can be temporary or must necessarily be permanent. Most accounts emphasize the lack of any explanation from the ghoster, though in some cases an explanation might eventually be provided. In still other cases, participants of studies “ reported episodes where they received an explanation, a forewarning or an excuse” from the ghoster, but claimed that “this did not make the episode ‘less ghosting’” because the explanation was deemed “incomprehensible, false or inexhaustive.”

By unilaterally severing all communication, the ghoster traps the ghostee in a state of lingering uncertainty and confusion, making it extremely hard to move on from the experience.

Central to virtually all conceptions of ghosting is its denial of closure for the ghostee. As the psychologist Jennice Vilhauer writes , it “essentially renders you powerless and leaves you with no opportunity to ask questions or be provided with information that would help you emotionally process the experience.” By unilaterally severing all communication, the ghoster traps the ghostee in a state of lingering uncertainty and confusion, making it extremely hard to move on from the experience.

For those most sensitive to the need for closure, ghosting can have severe repercussions for mental health, causing victims to “ fixate on understanding why the initiator has gone quiet.” Some people even report feeling the need for closure many years after being ghosted, with one person telling psychologists:

I even reached out to him again years later and asked for an explanation for some closure and he still wouldn’t tell me why he did it. It made it so much harder to move on because I didn’t know the reason. Even today it still bugs me that I don’t know why he ghosted me.

As another commentator put it, ghosting “ takes away the opportunity to talk and process, which can allow healing.” Why did the ghoster leave so suddenly? What was going through their mind? Why didn’t I anticipate this happening? How could I have judged their character so poorly? I thought they liked — maybe even loved — me, so how could this have transpired?

The inability to query the ghoster, answer these questions and heal the wounds of ghosting can arouse feelings of insecurity and “ mistrust that [develop] over time,” with some inadvertently bringing “this mistrust to future relationships” in ways that could “sabotage those subsequent relationships.” If one cannot understand the “why” or “how” of being ghosted, they may begin to wonder who else in their platonic or romantic circles is capable of suddenly vanishing. Everyone becomes a suspect before another crime has been committed, seriously undermining one’s ability to foster and sustain intimate relations moving forward. To quote one ghostee I interviewed, “I don’t think you can ever go back to that world before you knew someone you trust could be capable of something like this.” Ghosting causes damage that often cannot be undone.

People ghost for a variety of reasons, some of which are justifiable. For example, if one discovers that a new partner is married, living a double life or trying to catfish them. Women, in particular, may encounter men on the dating scene who exhibit creepy, obsessive or harassing behaviors. Preliminary studies suggest that more women ghost men than the other way around; another found that almost half of the study’s participants, which were mostly women, “ghosted due to safety-related concerns.” As an anonymous 19-year-old woman observes , “It’s very easy to just chat with total strangers so [ghosting is] like a form of protection when a creepy guy is asking you to send nudes and stuff like that.” Ghosting is sometimes the only way one can safely escape an abusive relationship or dangerous situation.

Ghosting might also be the result of communication overload. Sometimes people receive too many messages to respond to everyone, in which case, ghosting, especially if temporary, may be an understandable consequence of feeling overwhelmed. It could even be a warning sign that someone is dealing with a mental health crisis or has relapsed with drugs or alcohol.

However, this is not why most people ghost. The primary reason is that they lose interest in the other person and no longer want that person in their life. According to a 2019 BuzzFeed survey that describes ghosting as a “crummy dating behavior,” 81% of respondents said they ghosted because “I wasn’t into them.”

This sort of ghosting is more or less unanimously singled-out by experts as “the most hurtful way to end a relationship.” Psychologists characterize it as among the least compassionate and empathetic strategies for dissolving social relations, since “ the ghoster is concerned only about him/herself, without considering the partner.” Many classify it as a kind of “ emotional cruelty ” and “ emotional abuse ” — claims that appear frequently within the academic literature on ghosting — while others call it the “ultimate silent treatment,” where the “silent treatment” itself constitutes “a form of abuse” by virtue of being manipulative and controlling. Ghosting is the worst manifestation of this.

One study found that victims of ghosting are left “ lonelier, sadder , less happy and less proud,” while another list identifies low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, trauma and loneliness as potential consequences.

Some psychologists write that ghosting is “passive aggressive” and “callous in that it is done with selfish and unempathetic intent.” Still others conceptualize it as a particularly harsh kind of “ostracism,” which denotes “an extreme form of rejection in which one is excluded and ignored.” Studies show that ostracism “threatens fundamental needs, such as belonging, self-esteem, control and meaningful existence and can, consequently, increase loneliness, depressed mood, frustration, anxiety and helplessness.” As one ghostee says, “Ghosting is one of the cruelest forms of torture dating can serve up.”

Given the selfish and callous nature of ghosting, it should be unsurprising that “ being ghosted by romantic partners often causes intense psychological harms.” One study found that victims of ghosting are left “ lonelier, sadder , less happy and less proud,” while another list identifies low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, trauma and loneliness as potential consequences. These experiences “ can be devastating ,” writes Vilhauer, especially “to those who already have fragile self-esteem.” They can also be persistent, negatively impacting one’s quality of life for months or years after the ghosting occurs. According to one study , 44% of participants who had been ghosted “reported that it had long-term effects on their mental health,” including lowered self-esteem, distrust in other people and “the world” in general, and even, panic attacks. 

“Long-term effects show that the ghosted person will have an increasingly difficult time trusting others and may develop self-blame, insecurities and low self-worth,” notes a clinical psychologist. Ghosting is thus a kind of bloodless violence, one that can leave permanent scars on the psyche of its victims.

One reason that ghosting can harm so profoundly is that it can feel, to the ghostee, like the ghoster has abruptly died . That is to say, the phenomenology — or subjective experience — of being ghosted may be more or less indistinguishable from one’s partner or friend being struck down by a deadly heart attack, stroke or car accident that no one saw coming. Such feelings of sudden, catastrophic loss may be more pronounced the longer and more intimate the relationship was.

Imagine a hypothetical situation in which you’ve been with someone for many years, during much of which you lived together. Then, your partner takes a job in a different city, and the long-term relationship becomes long-distance. This is important because technology-mediated relationships are much easier to terminate via ghosting than in-person ones. You then come down with a serious illness and, after reaching out to your partner for love and support, they respond by unexpectedly cutting off all communication overnight. They do not want to deal with someone who’s struggling, and hence decide to simply delete you from their life. Though this may sound extreme, it’s an experience that more than a few people have been through. Sometimes people aren’t there for each other, and sometimes this takes the form of abandonment-by-ghosting.

One way of treating victims of ghosting might be to utilize the same methods and approaches that psychologists use to help those dealing with the death of a friend or partner.

What would this feel like for the ghostee? What’s the phenomenology of being ghosted in this situation? Is there any experiential difference between your partner suddenly removing you from their world and your partner being removed from the world by abruptly dying? As one study of ghosting observes , “the sudden disappearance of the [ghoster] can be compared (to some extent) to that experienced with the sudden death of a partner or friend, which seems to increase the difficulties of the mourning process.” The therapist Bree Jenkins echoes this in saying that ghosting is “almost like sudden loss [or] grief,” as does the author Shani Silver in an article for Medium: “We gave it the name ‘ghosting’ because it mimics the behavior of someone dying. That’s how quick, confusing and permanent ghosting feels [and it’s] morbid.”

In fact, the noun “ghost” derives from gast , an Old English word meaning “the disembodied spirit of a dead person,” which may have been “ imagined as wandering among the living or haunting them.” Morbid, indeed — and spooky.

One way of treating victims of ghosting might, therefore, be to utilize the same methods and approaches that psychologists use to help those dealing with the death of a friend or partner. As a document published by the University of Idaho notes, “the most overwhelming and common reaction to a sudden death is shock and uncertainty,” causing one to feel “disconnected to your feelings or to other people; it can seem as if you are living in a dream.” It adds that “the initial news and stages of grief are often characterized by disbelief,” which “can be accompanied by feelings of numbness or a belief that the person is still present.” This is precisely how some ghostees describe their experiences, especially those who were in longer-term relationships: shock, uncertainty, disbelief and numbness, paired with overwhelming grief, sadness and confusion — not to mention the profound loneliness of now occupying a world in which the loved one no longer “exists.”

Yet ghosting is, in a certain sense, even worse , because the ghoster wasn’t the unsuspecting victim of circumstances beyond their control. They made a deliberate and intentional decision to unilaterally terminate all communication, thus giving rise to the phenomenology of sudden death. Hence, ghosting is more than an event, it’s a message: You, the ghostee, don’t deserve closure. You aren’t worthy of understanding why or receiving an explanation of how . You are something to be discarded when I, the ghoster, no longer need you.

Ghosting, in effect, denies the ghostee their inherent dignity by treating them like a disposable “thing” rather than a human being who, by virtue of their inherent dignity, demands a certain degree of moral respect. One person who I spoke with about being ghosted told me that, after it happened, they couldn’t stop thinking: “I didn’t know that was humanly possible.” Yet in a very important sense ghosting isn’t humanly possible, because it’s a deeply inhuman act. We may treat a piece of trash as if it has no dignity — because it doesn’t, which is why no one thinks twice when discarding it into the waste bin. But we generally don’t treat human beings like this. Ghosting someone is thus tantamount to telling them: “I think of you as if you’re a piece a trash.” That’s the core message it conveys. To quote a Psychology Today article,

for many people, ghosting can result in feelings of being disrespected, used and disposable. If you have known the person beyond more than a few dates then it can be even more traumatic. When someone we love and trust disengages from us it feels like a very deep betrayal.

Ghostees are thus struck by a double trauma. They must cope with the grief of losing someone they loved or cared about, as well as the demeaning message that, in the eyes of the ghoster, they lack the dignity necessary to be treated with respect, as all humans ought to be. In this way, it is a profoundly dehumanizing experience. Ghosting strips people of their essential humanness, their dignity, treating them as mere “things” that can be discarded when the ghoster no longer finds them convenient or useful.

It should be unsurprising at this point that, given how cruel and abusive ghosting often is, many ghosters exhibit appreciable deficits in compassion, empathy and emotional maturity. Some ghosters are just plain immature, because part of what it means to be emotionally mature is to care about and be sensitive to how one’s actions affect others. With maturity comes empathy, and with empathy comes behaviors that treat others with dignity and kindness. Others argue that people “ with narcissistic tendencies may be more likely to unexpectedly end contact with a partner,” and that “ the narcissist might use ghosting to punish, control or disorient the other person, often leaving them feeling confused, hurt and seeking closure or understanding.” One academic paper reports that “those who ghost … are more likely to exhibit self-centered, avoidant and manipulative personality characteristics and behaviors.”

Another study found that ghosters who score high in “Dark Triad” traits like narcissism, Machiavellianism and psychopathy tended to see ghosting as a more acceptable way to terminate short-term relationships.

Yet another study found that ghosters who score high in “Dark Triad” traits like narcissism, Machiavellianism and psychopathy tended to see ghosting as a more acceptable way to terminate short-term relationships, and that those who had ghosted people in the past “were more Machiavellian and psychopathic.” The study concludes that ghosting is “an emotionally cold, if not abusive, way of terminating relationships,” and hence “those who are characterized by dispositional callousness, like those high in psychopathy, may engage in ghosting” more than those who aren’t psychopaths.

Despite the self-serving nature of ghosting, it can also harm the one who does it. According to one study , many ghosters “admitted that although ghosting was the wrong way to handle the situation, it felt easier than having an awkward, difficult conversation”— the sort of conversation that emotionally mature people don’t try to avoid. Yet feelings of guilt can develop over time, with another article reporting that “some people who have ghosted others may eventually regret their actions,” because “as people mature and gain life experience, they might reflect on their actions and realize that they hurt the other person by ghosting.”

Ghosting could also inhibit the personal growth of ghosters, denying them the opportunity to foster better communication skills and a deeper sense of compassion for others. “Many of those who have ghosted,” a New York Times article explains , “are contrite, citing their own fear, insecurity and immaturity” as reasons for having ghosted people. Choosing to end a relationship through more humane means — for example, by keeping communication channels open to allow ghostees some degree of closure — might provide opportunities to address these fears and insecurities, thereby promoting greater emotional development.

Most people don’t have a positive view about ghosting. As one study notes, it’s “generally perceived to be less acceptable than other methods of ending a relationship.” Another found that participants identified ghosters as “rude,” “mean,” “stand-offish,” “cowardly” and “immature.” To quote David Peña-Guzmán on the Overthink podcast, “in general, there is widespread agreement that ghosting is unethical.”

Unfortunately, while most people “ don’t condone ghosting, that doesn’t seem to influence whether they’ll do it to someone else.” Many ghostees are also ghosters, and in fact being ghosted could increase the probability that one ghosts later on. In Vilhauer’s words , “the more it happens, either to themselves or their friends, the more people become desensitized to it and the more likely they are to do it to someone else.” The result is a self-perpetuating cycle — abuse, trauma, desensitization and more abuse — that may explain why ghosting is on the rise. 

“Years ago this kind of behavior was considered limited to a certain type of scoundrel,” writes Vilhauer. But “in today’s dating culture being ghosted is a phenomenon that approximately 50% of men and women have experienced — and an almost equal number have done the ghosting.”

This might be unsurprising given that young people use social media and dating apps more than other demographics, and ghosting someone by unfriending, blocking or deleting them in cyberspace requires only the flick of a finger. One wonders if this is linked to the fact that members of Generation Z are “ significantly more likely than any other generation to say they experience” feeling “alone, isolated, left out, that there is no one they can talk to.”

So, what can be done about ghosting? How can we counteract this form of emotional cruelty and abuse that’s becoming increasingly widespread? My guess is that ghosting is a symptom of deeper problems. In my experience on the dating scene and interacting with ghostees, many people embrace a “transactional model” of relationships, in which people see others as means rather than ends, as commodities that can be discarded and replaced when necessary. The fundamental value of others is based on their usefulness, and decisions about whether to pursue or dump someone is ultimately determined through a kind of cost-benefit analysis. People “invest” in romantic partners on the relationship “market,” and when the “return” dips below the “losses,” it’s just economically rational to dispose of those partners and move on.

Networking, whereby we cultivate superficial social connections to further our career ambitions, is one expression of this way of thinking . Dating apps are another, because they render the process of finding a partner analogous to browsing the shelves of a convenience store: if someone doesn’t suit your fancy, you leave them on the shelf. If they do, you put them in your basket and hope they do the same.

We’re all just replaceable “things” in a late-capitalist society where everything is being commodified and consumable.

Ghosting could be seen as the logical end of this pernicious paradigm: if people are selected like items from a shelf, why not discard them like trash once they’re no longer useful? We’re all just replaceable “things” in a late-capitalist society where everything is being commodified and consumable. The inhumanity of ghosting thus reflects the underlying inhumanity of this system. Ghosters are just doing what good capitalists do, except within the domain of interpersonal relations: maximize the bottom line of personal gain without letting empathy, compassion, or kindness get too much in the way. If a partner must be “fired” because their “performance” is inadequate, then so be it. Nothing personal, it’s just business.

To be ghosted, then, is to be victimized by this system and the way it makes people think, interact with others, and run their lives. We should still place moral blame on ghosters for their callousness and cruelty, since ghosting is, after all, a deliberate choice that individuals make, and some ghosters really are just awful people. Furthermore, by willingly engaging in bad behavior, ghosters perpetuate and reinforce this toxic system, further normalizing actions that dehumanize the ghostee.

From a nearby perspective, however, the ghosters also deserve pity, as they are fellow victims of a system that encourages us to see each other, not as ends-in-ourselves with inherent dignity, but as more or less useful means for getting whatever we want. It’s precisely because ghosting is such an inhuman act that it dehumanizes not only the ghostee, but the ghoster . Ghosting is undignified for everyone involved.

Independent journalism is under threat and overshadowed by heavily funded mainstream media. You can help level the playing field. Become a member. Your tax-deductible contribution keeps us digging beneath the headlines to give you thought-provoking, investigative reporting and analysis that unearths what's really happening- without compromise. Give today to support our courageous, independent journalists.

ghosting someone urban

Fraud, Lies, Exploitation and Eugenic Fantasies

ghosting someone urban

The Grill Master of Acid Marxism

ghosting someone urban

Living in a “Technofeudalist” Hell

ghosting someone urban

Artificial Intelligence: Profit Versus Freedom

ghosting someone urban

Witnessing Our Planet’s Destruction For Profit

ghosting someone urban

Wealthy Elites Believe Capitalism Should Hurt Workers More

You must be logged in to post a comment.

  • Reader Picks

' src=

There may be fifty ways to leave your lover... but the simplest is just to vanish. No explanation necessary. This was a lot harder to do back when we had face-to-face interactions. You knew the other was an actual human being, one whose feelings were sensitive and could be hurt. But now in our post-covid world we can just see them as virtual units, that can disappear with the click of a mouse when no...

There may be fifty ways to leave your lover... but the simplest is just to vanish. No explanation necessary. This was a lot harder to do back when we had face-to-face interactions. You knew the other was an actual human being, one whose feelings were sensitive and could be hurt. But now in our post-covid world we can just see them as virtual units, that can disappear with the click of a mouse when no longer convenient.

My theory is that this is just God's way of solving Earth's population glut. Make it easy for us to just fall out of touch with each other.

Report a Comment

Your feedback is important in helping us keep our community safe.

  • International edition
  • Australia edition
  • Europe edition

‘Ghosting diminishes our collective sense of connection and personal sense of well-being.’

What if ‘ghosting’ people isn’t just rude, but psychologically harmful?

Nancy Jo Sales

A study found that 76% of people dating have either ghosted or been ghosted. Why is this considered acceptable?

W hen The Banshees of Inisherin became such a hit last year, I couldn’t help wondering if one of the reasons it was resonating so powerfully was that – despite being set on a fictional island off the coast of Ireland in the 1920s – it was essentially about ghosting. A man stops talking to his friend without explanation, and the emotional fallout is devastating.

In the 1920s, ghosting a close friend would indeed have been shocking. Ghosting as a social move was pretty much unheard of into the 2000s. Remember that 2003 episode of Sex and the City where Carrie is outraged that Jack Berger breaks up with her via Post-it note? “I’m sorry. I can’t. Don’t hate me,” says the offending scrap of paper.

“Today, that would be seen as almost respectful ,” says a young woman I often talk to about modern dating. “At least he said something.”

Today, ghosting is all too common, especially in the world of online dating. According to a recent study from the University of Vienna, ghosting has become “notorious” as the go-to method for ending a connection that began on a dating app. Another study this year by Forbes found that “a staggering 76% of respondents have either ghosted or been ghosted in the context of dating.”

The word “ghosting” – to mean suddenly ending communication with someone with whom you have a personal relationship – wasn’t added to the Merriam-Webster dictionary until 2017, five years after the launch of Tinder. It’s not hard to see how ghosting arose out of dating app culture, based on how these apps restructured the world of courtship.

There’s an endless sea of options. You choose someone based on the flick of a finger. “It’s like ordering Seamless,” a young man told me in a story I did in 2015 , “but you’re ordering a person” – a person who is arguably being treated as a commodity. So what does it matter if you ghost them? It’s unlikely there will be any social consequences, since you probably don’t have mutual friends. And the sooner you discard this person, the sooner you can get back to swiping, which these addictive platforms are designed to make you want to do.

Women and men ghost about equally , studies say, though their reasons somewhat differ. Women are more likely to say that they ghosted someone who made them feel unsafe or scared, which is understandable. But more common among ghosters is the feeling that they are avoiding a difficult conversation that could cause them distress.

And what’s the problem with that? “It’s disrespectful, mean, and downright rude,” says Bumble, which recently gained kudos for allegedly “ banning ghosting ”. “No ghosting on Bumble!” the dating app announced on its website – though on closer inspection it seems that Bumble has not so much banned ghosting as it has encouraged users to report it when one of their matches has failed to show up for an agreed-upon, in-person date. After which, the company claims , “a human moderator will then fact-check the information before taking action.”

That sounds complicated and difficult to prove, and one wonders how many users will actually be banned by Bumble for failure to appear. It’s also ironic that a dating app is promising to ban behavior it helped to foster.

And ghosting doesn’t only refer to being a no-show at a date, but to abruptly ending a conversation or even a relationship that has lasted for weeks or months, even years. Social media is awash in videos of people expressing their frustration at being ghosted by people they’ve been dating both casually and seriously. “Ghosting: The practice of dating ghosts instead of wack-ass humans,” says the caption on a video by the YouTuber Gustavo Victor Carr, which shows him in a restaurant drinking a cocktail and chatting animatedly with an empty chair.

But Bumble is right about something – ghosting can feel “ abusive ” to the person who has been ghosted, according to studies. Being ghosted “ can have a profound impact on a person’s mental health, leading to feelings of depression, anxiety and deflated self-esteem”, as a Bumble press release accurately reports.

And that’s why it’s all the more alarming to see ghosting bleeding into friendship and work. A recent study from the University of Georgia says that researchers were surprised to find that over half the participants in its survey on ghosting and dating said that they had also been ghosted by a friend – which felt “just as bad” as being ghosted by a romantic partner, or even worse. And in their professional lives, people are now routinely being ghosted in work situations involving hiring, pitching, networking and more.

Ghosting diminishes our collective sense of connection and personal sense of wellbeing. In thinking about how we relate to each other – or fail to relate – in the digital age, I’m reminded of a quote from Martin Luther King: “In spite of these spectacular strides in science and technology, and still unlimited ones to come, something basic is missing. There is a sort of poverty of the spirit which stands in glaring contrast to our scientific and technological abundance.”

It’s worth thinking about that the next time you’re about to block, delete or leave someone permanently on read.

Nancy Jo Sales is the author, most recently, of Nothing Personal: My Secret Life in the Dating App Inferno

  • Online dating

Most viewed

What Ghosting Says About You

Anna Drescher

Mental Health Writer

BSc (Hons), Psychology, Goldsmiths University, MSc in Psychotherapy, University of Queensland

Anna Drescher is a freelance writer and solution-focused hypnotherapist, specializing in CBT and meditation. Using insights from her experience working as an NHS Assistant Clinical Psychologist and Recovery Officer, along with her Master's degree in Psychotherapy, she lends deep empathy and profound understanding to her mental health and relationships writing.

Learn about our Editorial Process

Saul Mcleod, PhD

Educator, Researcher

BSc (Hons) Psychology, MRes, PhD, University of Manchester

Saul Mcleod, Ph.D., is a qualified psychology teacher with over 18 years experience of working in further and higher education. He has been published in peer-reviewed journals, including the Journal of Clinical Psychology.

Olivia Guy-Evans, MSc

Associate Editor for Simply Psychology

BSc (Hons) Psychology, MSc Psychology of Education

Olivia Guy-Evans is a writer and associate editor for Simply Psychology. She has previously worked in healthcare and educational sectors.

On This Page:

Ghosting can have a significant emotional impact on the person who experiences it. This behavior often says more about the ghoster than it does about the person who is being ghosted.

Ghosting is generally considered to be an unkind and passive-aggressive way of ending communication or a relationship as it can leave the other party confused, hurt, and questioning what went wrong.

While there might be exceptional cases where safety concerns or extreme circumstances warrant cutting off contact abruptly, in most situations, it’s more respectful and considerate to communicate openly and honestly.

Ghosting behavior is often a result of communication issues, emotional immaturity, lack of empathy, fear of commitment, aversion to conflict, and/or avoidant behavior.

Colorful illustration shows a person who suffer a patter of avoiding emotionally intimate relationships. Concept shows a trap with red heart as a bait.

What Does It Mean to Ghost Someone

To “ghost” someone means to abruptly cut off contact with them without warning or explanation. Ghosting can involve various actions that essentially cut off all forms of communication, including ignoring phone calls, not responding to text messages, blocking on social media, and avoiding in-person contact.

You may have gone on several dates with someone, and then you suddenly stop responding to their texts and calls, effectively ending the budding relationship without explanation.

Or, you might have been interacting online with another person for a while and then you intentionally begin to ignore their messages and discontinue communication.

When you ghost someone, you essentially disappear from their life without explanation or communication, becoming like a “ghost.”

Why Do People Ghost?

People choose to ghost for a variety of reasons, though most of these reasons stem from a desire to avoid confrontation, discomfort, or difficult conversations.

On a basic level, someone might ghost because they:

  • Lose interest in a relationship or connection
  • Meet someone else
  • Perceive the relationship as not being serious or significant

However, on a deeper level, ghosting usually comes from a fear of confrontation, commitment, and conflict.

Confrontational situations, including breaking up, rejecting someone, or addressing conflicts, can be uncomfortable. Ghosting provides an escape from these challenging conversations and offers a way to sidestep potential arguments or disagreements.

Here are detailed explanations of why people may choose to ghost:

Fear of Confrontation

Fear of confrontation is a significant psychological factor that often contributes to the choice of ghosting. Confrontation involves facing uncomfortable or difficult conversations, and for many people, these situations can trigger feelings of anxiety, stress, and unease.

Confrontation often requires some level of conflict resolution and communication skills.

Childhood experiences and past traumas can significantly influence an individual’s approach to conflict, communication, and confrontation. If someone grew up in an environment where conflict was consistently avoided or poorly managed, they might internalize the belief that any form of conflict or confrontation is bad and should be avoided.

Or, if someone experiences an abusive relationship, they might associate confrontation with danger or negative consequences and develop a strong aversion to any form of conflict.

Some individuals naturally cope with stress by avoiding situations that make them uncomfortable. Ghosting offers a way to quickly escape confrontation and bypass the discomfort associated with it.

Communication Issues

For some, communication issues can play a significant role in the choice to ghost.

Communication skills are essential for expressing emotions, setting boundaries, and navigating relationships effectively. When someone struggles with communication, they might resort to ghosting as a way to avoid the challenges associated with expressing themselves.

Communication issues can be rooted in a person’s upbringing and childhood experiences. When someone grows up in an environment where open expression of emotions was discouraged or met with negative responses, it can greatly influence their ability to communicate effectively in their adult relationships.

If expressing emotions was met with ridicule, punishment, or dismissal in the past, a person might fear that the same will happen in their current relationships.

Communication issues and the fear of confrontation are often intertwined and can reinforce each other.

If someone has a strong fear of confrontation, they might avoid difficult conversations altogether. This avoidance can result in poor communication habits, as they may opt for silence or evasive responses instead of addressing issues openly.

On the flip side, struggling with communication can heighten the fear of confrontation. When someone feels unsure about their ability to express themselves clearly and effectively, they might worry that confrontational conversations will lead to negative outcomes.

Emotional Immaturity

Emotional immaturity — a lack of emotional awareness, regulation, and understanding — can play a significant role in one’s choice to ghost.

When someone is emotionally immature, they might struggle to navigate complex emotions and handle relationships in a healthy and respectful manner.

They may struggle to process and understand their own emotions, making it difficult for them to communicate their feelings to others. Or, they may struggle to navigate disagreements or differences, and instead choose to avoid conflict through ghosting.

An emotionally immature person may also ghost someone to avoid taking responsibility for their actions or to get out of an uncomfortable situation.

Emotional immaturity can lead to a focus on short-term desires and discomfort avoidance, rather than considering the potential long-term effects of their actions.

Low Empathy

When someone has low empathy, they might struggle to truly grasp the emotional impact of their actions on others, making it easier for them to ghost without considering the hurt it can cause.

People with low empathy might have difficulty forming strong emotional connections with others, which can lead them to be less sensitive to the feelings of those they interact with.

Low empathy can also be associated with a more self-centered perspective, so some individuals might prioritize their own comfort over the feelings of others. They might struggle to see situations from another person’s point of view or to consider how their actions impact a person’s emotions.

Research has found that individuals who score high on callousness, which is a lack of empathy and disregard for the feelings of others, are more likely to endorse and use ghosting as a strategy to end a relationship.

Commitment Issues

Ghosting might be seen as an easier way to end interactions without having to confront their fears of commitment.

People with commitment issues might fear being vulnerable and opening themselves up to emotional intimacy. They might feel overwhelmed by the prospect of this intimacy and choose ghosting as a way to escape it.

Commitment issues can stem from a strong desire for independence and autonomy or from negative past experiences, such as heartbreak, abandonment, or childhood trauma.

Individuals with commitment issues might focus on short-term desires and gratification rather than considering the potential benefits of a long-term relationship. Commitment often comes with thoughts about the future, so ghosting can be a way to avoid these serious conversations and satisfy immediate comfort.

A person’s mindset, or their mental attitude and approach to situations, can greatly influence how they handle relationships and communication challenges.

Research (e.g., Freedman et al., 2018) found that certain mindsets and attitudes toward relationships make certain individuals more likely to ghost than others.

A fixed mindset in the context of relationships refers to the belief that relationships are static and predetermined; these individuals believe a relationship is either meant to work out naturally or is destined to fail.

On the other hand, a growth mindset in relationships acknowledges that relationships require effort, communication, and continuous development and can evolve over time.

Freedman et al. (2018) found that participants with a fixed mindset were 63% more likely to endorse ghosting as an acceptable way to end a relationship, whereas people with a growth mindset were 38% less likely to think that ghosting is acceptable.

Additionally, if someone has an avoidance mindset or a fear-based mindset, they might prioritize avoiding discomfort or conflict over addressing issues directly. Ghosting can be seen as a way to protect oneself from these fears and avoid challenging conversations.

Self-Protection

In some cases, ghosting is a method of self-protection.

Self-protection, in this context, refers to the act of safeguarding one’s emotional well-being or sense of security, often by avoiding potentially uncomfortable or difficult conversations.

They may fear facing rejection, criticism, or negative reactions from the other person.

Ghosting can also be used in situations where there are valid concerns for personal safety, boundaries, or emotional well-being. In cases of abuse, whether emotional, psychological, or physical, ghosting can be a way for the victim to extricate themselves from the relationship without directly confronting the abuser.

Similarly, individuals who have experienced negative outcomes from previous relationship discussions might use ghosting as a strategy to prevent similar pain.

Attachment Style

Different attachment styles can impact how someone handles separation, closeness, and communication in relationships.

People with an avoidant attachment style tend to value independence and self-sufficiency. These individuals might struggle with emotional intimacy, and thus use ghosting to distance themselves without confronting emotional closeness.

People with a fearful-avoidant attachment style have mixed feelings about close relationships. They desire emotional intimacy but fear getting hurt, so ghosting might be used to protect themselves from potential pain.

According to Powell et al. (2021) , “Ghosting is a relationship dissolution strategy that is a modern-day manifestation of avoidance-withdrawal.”

Those with an anxious attachment style often seek high levels of emotional closeness and validation. Ghosting can trigger their anxieties, as they might interpret it as rejection or abandonment, leading to heightened distress.

Lastly, those with a disorganized attachment style might struggle with confusion and inconsistency in relationships due to unresolved trauma or inconsistent caregiving. Ghosting might occur as a response to feelings of confusion or emotional turmoil.

How Does the Ghoster Feel After Ghosting?

How a person feels after ghosting can vary depending on their personality, the context of the relationship, their emotional state, and their reasons for ghosting.

In some cases, the person might feel a sense of relief after ghosting, especially if they were avoiding a difficult conversation or an uncomfortable situation.

Others may experience feelings of guilt or shame, especially if the person realizes that their actions might have hurt or confused the other person.

Many individuals, specifically those with narcissistic traits, probably do not feel much after ghosting. They may even experience a sense of pride or a perceived sense of control from ghosting someone. They might believe that by abruptly ending the connection, they’ve asserted their power over the situation.

However, after some time has passed, some ghosters might reflect on their decision and feel regret for not handling the situation more maturely or compassionately.

What to Say Instead of Ghosting Someone

Instead of ghosting someone, it’s important to approach the situation with empathy, honesty, and respect. Communicating openly can help both parties understand the reasons behind the decision and provide closure.

The best approach is to simply be honest. Explain your feelings, concerns, or reasons for wanting to end the communication while remaining kind and considerate in your delivery.

If there were positive aspects of the interaction, you can express gratitude for the time you spent together and the experiences you shared.

Make sure to recognize that the other person might have feelings, too, by acknowledging their emotions as a result of the ending of the interaction.

If boundary issues were a concern, communicate your need for space or distance and explain that you’re setting these boundaries for your well-being. If appropriate, offer closure by giving a brief explanation for your decision, as this can help the other person understand your point of view.

Here is a sample message:

“I wanted to have an open and honest conversation with you. Over the time we’ve spent talking, I’ve realized that I need to focus on some personal matters and take some time for myself. I want to be transparent about this decision rather than disappearing, as you deserve an explanation. I’ve appreciated our conversations and the connection we’ve had. I hope you understand, and I wish you all the best.”

How Does Ghosting Affect Others?

Ghosting can have significant emotional, psychological, and relational effects on the person who is being ghosted.

Ghosting often leaves the person feeling confused about what happened and why the communication abruptly ended. They might replay past interactions, trying to make sense of the sudden silence.

Being ghosted can lead to feelings of hurt and rejection. The person might wonder if they did something wrong or if they were not valued by the ghoster.

This can also negatively affect one’s self-esteem and self-worth as they might question their desirability or worthiness of meaningful relationships. 

Ghosting can also lead to anxiety, trust issues, doubt, and emotional baggage that can affect other aspects of a person’s life and future relationships.

Why Is It Easy to Ghost Someone?

Ghosting can sometimes feel like an easier option in certain situations because it enables you to avoid confrontation and any uncomfortable, anxiety-inducing conversations.

Ghosting provides an immediate way to end communication without having to explain oneself or deal with the immediate aftermath of a breakup.

It allows a person to avoid taking responsibility for their actions or the impact of their behavior on the other person.

Ghosting has been more normalized today as the ease of digital communication allows for quick disconnection without having to face the person directly.

When Can It Be Acceptable to Ghost Someone?

Ghosting is generally considered a hurtful and ineffective way of ending a relationship or communication; however, there can be situations where it might be more understandable or even acceptable.

A few situations where ghosting might be more understandable include: – If someone is in an abusive or potentially dangerous situation. – If the other person is exhibiting stalking behavior or harassment. – If someone is in a relationship with someone who consistently manipulates, guilt-trips, or emotionally harms them. – If the person repeatedly disrespects their boundaries and ignores their requests to be left alone.

Is Ghosting a Toxic Behavior?

Yes, ghosting is generally considered a form of toxic behavior in interpersonal relationships.

Ghosting shows a lack of consideration for the other person’s emotions and well-being. It can be hurtful and confusing and can make others feel disregarded, devalued, and hurt.

Healthy relationships are built on respect and consideration for one another. Ghosting breaks down this foundation by disregarding the need for open and honest communication.

Why Do I Ghost Someone When I Like Them?

Ghosting someone you like can be due to fear of vulnerability, past traumas, uncertainty about their feelings, or concerns about compatibility.

It’s a defense mechanism to avoid potential pain or rejection. Communication and self-awareness can help address these fears.

  • Freedman, G., Powell, D. N., Le, B., & Williams, K. D. (2019). Ghosting and destiny: Implicit theories of relationships predict beliefs about ghosting . Journal of Social and Personal Relationships , 36(3), 905–924.
  • Holmes, K. (2022). “Something Would’ve Been Better Than Nothing”: An Analysis of Young Adults’ Stories of Being Ghosted.
  • Powell, D. N., Freedman, G., Williams, K. D., Le, B., & Green, H. (2021). A multi-study examination of attachment and implicit theories of relationships in ghosting experiences . Journal of Social and Personal Relationships , 38 (7), 2225–2248.
Julia Simkus edited this article.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Relationships Coach UK

Ghosting, Breadcrumbing, What It Tells You, And How To React

  • No Comments

Ghosting, Breadcrumbing, What It Tells You, And How To React

Search Blog

Latest posts.

Role-reversed relationships - Does Flipping Gender Norms Work, According To Research? - Relationship Coach, Sam Owen

About Sam Owen

Sam Owen is a relationships coach , psychologist, 3 x published author, and a relationship expert for TV and big brands, based in Cheshire , UK .

Coaching For You

Relationships Dating Anxiety Confidence

Popular Self-Help Books

ghosting someone urban

Affirmations & Reminders – Instant Downloads

ghosting someone urban

Comments are closed.

Relationship Expert

  • Biography & Showreel
  • Brands & Media Work
  • Keynote Speaker
  • Relationships Coaching
  • Dating Coaching
  • Anxiety Coaching
  • Confidence Coaching
  • Coaching Testimonials

Books & More

  • ‘Resilient Me’
  • ‘Anxiety Free’
  • ‘Happy Relationships’
  • ‘500 Relationships & Life Quotes’
  • Affirmations & Daily Reminders
  • Terms & Conditions

© 2024 Relationships Coach UK. Copyright Sam Owen. Site by WordPress Cheshire

  • google-plus
  • Buy Coaching
  • Testimonials
  • Resilient Me
  • Anxiety Free
  • Happy Relationships

IMAGES

  1. Ghosting Someone

    ghosting someone urban

  2. Ghosting Someone

    ghosting someone urban

  3. Ghosting: What It Is And Why You Should Never Do It

    ghosting someone urban

  4. What Does Ghosting Mean? And How To Deal With It

    ghosting someone urban

  5. Ghosting Someone

    ghosting someone urban

  6. How To Cope After Being Ghosted

    ghosting someone urban

COMMENTS

  1. Urban Dictionary: Ghosting

    The act of suddenly ceasing all communication with someone the subject is dating, but no longer wishes to date. This is done in hopes that the ghostee will just "get the hint" and leave the subject alone, as opposed to the subject simply telling them he/she is no longer interested.

  2. Ghosting In Relationships: Everything You Need To Know

    To "ghost" someone means to abruptly cut off all communication with them, effectively disappearing from their life without explanation. While this term is commonly used in the context of dating , ghosting can also occur between friends, family members, or colleagues.

  3. Ghosting: What It Means and How to Respond

    They disappear from social media. They rarely respond to your texts or calls. Your conversations with them lack depth, and they seem disinterested. If you have made repeated efforts to contact someone and they won't respond, it is a strong indicator that you've been ghosted. Ghosting can also occur on social media.

  4. What Is Ghosting?

    Dictionary.com defines ghosting as "the practice of suddenly ending all contact with a person without explanation, especially in a romantic relationship."

  5. "Ghosting" Explained

    1.They fear confrontation and are lacking communication skills to navigate an exit from a relationship maturely. 2.They are juggling so many people via dating apps and social media that you fall through the cracks. 3.They fear that someone is dangerous or would act dangerously towards them on break up.

  6. What Does Ghosting Mean?

    The term ghosting is a slang term that refers to abruptly leaving a social gathering or cutting off contact with someone, typically a romantic partner, without any explanation or warning. It can also be used in the context of gaming to describe the act of observing an opponent's gameplay.

  7. 7 Essential Psychological Truths About Ghosting

    Ghosting is sometimes referred to as a form of cowardice: the refusal to acknowledge one's own misconduct. And cognitive dissonance may play a role as well. Our brains naturally focus on...

  8. Being Ghosted: Why It Happens and How to Cope

    Updated on March 06, 2023 Reviewed by David Susman, PhD Verywell / Laura Porter Table of Contents Why Do People Ghost? How to Cope What Does Ghosting Say About a Person? Is Ghosting Emotional Abuse? Ghosting occurs when someone you are dating or getting to know disappears without a trace.

  9. What is ghosting? And what can you do about it?

    It's even made its way into the actual dictionary — Merriam-Webster, not Urban. Ghosting is defined as the act or practice of abruptly cutting off all contact with someone (such as a former romantic partner) by no longer accepting or responding to phone calls, instant messages, etc. If you've spent any time in the dating world in the past few years, you've likely been ghosted and there ...

  10. Why People Ghost

    Ghosting — when someone cuts off all communication without explanation — extends to all things, it seems. Most of us think about it in the context of digital departure: a friend not responding...

  11. Ghosting: What It Is, Why It Hurts, and What You Can Do About It

    You're in a relationship. Suddenly, and maybe without any warning at all, your partner seems to have disappeared. No calls, no text messages, no connection made on social media, no responses to any of your messages.

  12. Unapologetically Gone: The Science Behind Ghosting

    Intrusive thoughts leave ghostees with feelings of uncertainty, which may lead to engaging in negative coping strategies, such as self-destructive thoughts and behavior, withdrawing from dating or...

  13. What Is Ghosting—and Why Is It So Rude?

    Ghosting—the practice of ending all communication with someone without giving an explanation—can happen in any type of relationship, including between romantic partners, friends, co-workers and...

  14. Ghosting » What does Ghosting mean? » Slang.org

    A slang term for the act of cutting off all communication with someone without any warning beforehand. This can be for simple plans, or to end a relationship. Other definitions of Ghosting: Slang for the act of watching an online streamer who you are currently playing against in a video game.

  15. Ghosting (behavior)

    Ghosting, simmering and icing are colloquial terms that describe the practice of suddenly ending all communication and avoiding contact with another person without any apparent warning or explanation and ignoring any subsequent attempts to communicate. [1] [2] [3]

  16. What Ghosting Says About Society (And Why it Hurts So Much)

    In 2015, the Collins English Dictionary listed "ghosting" as one of its "words of the year"; shortly before Merriam-Webster made it an official entry in the dictionary, defined as "the act or...

  17. Ghosting: What Is It and How to Move Past Being Ghosted?

    Takeaway. 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 ...

  18. How Does the Ghoster Feel After Ghosting Someone?

    People engage in ghosting for various reasons, often driven by a combination of personal circumstances, emotions, and communication styles. Some of the most common reasons why people might choose to ghost include: 1. Conflict avoidance. 2. Lack of emotional maturity. 3. Fear of rejection. 4.

  19. What if 'ghosting' people isn't just rude, but psychologically harmful

    The word "ghosting" - to mean suddenly ending communication with someone with whom you have a personal relationship - wasn't added to the Merriam-Webster dictionary until 2017, five years after...

  20. What Ghosting Says About You

    Ghosting can have a significant emotional impact on the person who experiences it. This behavior often says more about the ghoster than it does about the person who is being ghosted. Ghosting is generally considered to be an unkind and passive-aggressive way of ending communication or a relationship as it can leave the other party confused, hurt, and questioning what went wrong.

  21. Ghosting, Breadcrumbing, What It Tells You, And How To React

    Ghosting can be described as: 'a way of ending a relationship with someone suddenly by stopping all communication with them' (Cambridge Dictionary). Breadcrumbing is described as: 'the act of sending out flirtatious, but non-committal social signals (i.e. "breadcrumbs") in order to lure a romantic partner in without expending much effort.

  22. Ghosting And The New Toxic Environment

    According to Urban Dictionary, the hipper, cooler version of Merriam-Webster, the term "ghosting" is defined as: " The act of suddenly ceasing all communication with someone the subject is ...