The one that ghosts away
The first time I knew I was ghosted, it sucked.
As if human interaction isn’t difficult enough to navigate nowadays, ghosting is becoming an indispensable human experience in the age of instant messaging. The friend zone is not such a terrible place, after all. In fact, “friendzoned” is slowly being retired, as it should be. “Nabasted” is a Jurassic concept. Instead, we are living in paranormal times.
Ghosting, as defined by Dr. Jennice Vilhauer in Psychology Today, is when someone “disappears from contact without any explanation at all.” Urban Dictionary further explains that ghosting is done “in hopes that the ghostee will just get the hint and leave the subject alone.”
This does not seem particularly new, as we all have people casually slip into and out of our lives before. Ghosting can be attributable, however, to the surging of online dating apps where finding a date is as digital as booking a ride. And once we discover the chemistry to be inexistent, it seems just as convenient to quietly slip through the backdoor and never be seen again.
It initially seemed so casually harmless, especially for me who is the type of person to almost never reply to text messages. Unfortunately, Jeremy Engle of The New York Times has called ghosting a “phenomenon.” Last year, a study on ghosting titled “Ghosting and destiny” was even published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships. Its writers revealed that from a pool of 1,300 participants, 20 percent were ghosters, or the perpetrators; 25 percent where ghostees, or the receivers.
The pattern seems to suggest that those who ghost have also been ghosted before, and together we have created a toxic dating culture. What’s worse, the practice has crossed over to the corporate world between job applicant and human resource, and even employee and employer. Jack Kelly, writing in Forbes, blames ghosting for the “new toxic environment,” but also says, “I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. It’s just easier and cleaner this way.”
Rejection is an innate human fear, which is why we exhaust all efforts to avoid it. We strive for the acceptance of our friends, our colleagues and our communities. Most of all, we desire to be loved by the people we have chosen to love. However, rejection is also part and parcel of living in a society. Through it, we learn about where we appropriately belong, where our skills can be best utilized, and who will sufficiently reciprocate our affection.
But have we become a generation unable to face outright rejection? Are we avoiding it so much that we have created a more horrible monster in its place? Have we become addicted to validation that any concrete manifestation of its opposite should not be expressed?
Behavioral scientist Clarissa Silva introduced the “detachment styles theory” which aims to attach a framework behind ghosting. Silva has discovered that detachment is the “driving behavior” behind why people leave a relationship with no warning or communication. She explains that some people leave relationships to avoid confrontation; it would create less of a mess if they keep distance and expect a negative outcome beforehand.
Maybe it is true that people don’t exert much effort in relationships anymore. As a baby boomer friend of mine once said, “This generation may never experience what real intimacy is like.” If no effort is put into a relationship, then why bother telling a person, “I don’t want you anymore”? If no commitment was agreed upon, why expect a closure when it ends?
I’ve ghosted a few times before. I did it only because I was truthfully hurt, and it took every ounce of strength to give all the chances that I could.
But the first time I knew I was ghosted, it really sucked. It made me realize that hate is not the opposite of love. Honestly, you can’t deeply hate a person until you’ve deeply loved him or her first. The real opposite of love is ambivalence, when we honestly do not care about someone anymore.
Closures are denied and employees disappear. Honestly, ghosting is no longer a phenomenon. It has become normalized. The worst part is, it’s the loose ends that haunt us late at night.
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