What Is Ghosting?

It's not cool, but it happens all the time

A stock photo of a woman looking at her smartphone while sitting at a desk with her laptop, colorful binders and a to-go cup of coffee with the lid taken off and set aside.


Ghosting is the act of ending a romantic relationship or friendship by ceasing contact with another person, usually without warning or any explanation beforehand.

Ghosting someone also usually involves the refusal to respond to attempts to connect and communicate by ignoring phone calls, unfollowing or blocking people on social media, or just not answering text messages from certain people.

The most common example of ghosting is when a romantic relationship ends because a person in the relationship decides to stop communicating completely, especially via text messages and phone calls. The person who gets ghosted is often left feeling understandably hurt and wondering why the relationship ended the way it did.

How Has Technology Made Ghosting Someone More Common?

The obvious answer is when you have more ways to communicate, you also find more ways to avoid communicating as well. Before smartphones, email, the Internet, social media, and online dating apps, there simply weren't that many ways to avoid talking to someone.

Social media, by itself, already provides a laundry list of ways to ignore someone. You can unfriend them, unfollow them, block them, ignore their DMs, or mute their tweets. And smartphones make it super easy to block a person's number from calling you or sending you text messages.

Before those aforementioned technological advances existed, the dating pool was also a lot smaller and you were more likely to date those in close proximity to you and those who usually run in the same social circles. According to Psychology Today, if you run in the same social circles, you're probably less likely to engage in a behavior that has negative connotations and could harm your reputation with your friends; Ghosting may be more common, but it's still largely frowned upon.

However, if you don't have mutual friends, which can happen if you met online, ghosting can suddenly seem like a viable option if you're looking to leave a relationship quickly and avoiding an awkward conversation.

How People Ghost Others

Ghosting can happen in a wide variety of ways and depends on a few factors, such as the method of communication, duration of relationship and type of relationship. As mentioned previously, if you can communicate using it, you can use it to ghost people as well. You can ghost people by not answering emails, text messages and DMs (direct messaging on Twitter and Instagram), by not returning phone calls, and by deleting someone as a connection or friend on your social media accounts.

And while ghosting is still generally considered to be rude, it has also become slightly more acceptable in the context of short-term or casual relationships. Furthermore, as suggested in this piece from Man Repeller, ghosting is sometimes the preferred method of ending a relationship, especially if the relationship only lasted a few dates. It can feel especially awkward and out of place to have a break-up conversation with someone after just a few dates. In short-term dating situations like this, ghosting can be considered "almost polite."

Ghosting also isn't limited to romantic relationships. It occurs in friendships and even during the job hunting process as well. Long-term friendships, even ones between best friends, aren't exempt from ghosting. The internet is filled with essays about people who have been ghosted by their best friend.

And when ghosting occurs in the workplace, both employers and prospective employees are guilty of ghosting each other. According to USA Today, during times of high rates of unemployment, employers simply "ignored job applicants and never followed up after interviews." When the job market is strong, prospective employees also display ghosting behavior by not showing up for job interviews or to their first day of work even after they've accepted an offer.

Things to Remember If You've Been Ghosted

  • Usually, if you've been ghosted, it'll be painfully obvious, but there are rare situations in which the person in question hasn't responded to you yet for a legitimate reason, such as a family emergency. It doesn't hurt to give that person one more chance to explain themselves. Consider sending a quick message to check in with them. Elite Daily suggests sending the following text message and then waiting a few days: "Hey! Is everything okay?"
  • Don't send the people who ghosted you a million texts or direct messages. You can send one last quick message like the one above, but if they don't even respond after that, you need to let it go. According to the well-known online dating site, eHarmony, when it comes to being ghosted, it's best to stop contacting them. It might also be helpful to unfollow them on social media, at least while you're still dealing with the emotions that bubble up after a break-up. Unfollowing may help ease the sadness you feel since you're not constantly updated on every little thing your ex or former friend does on social media.
  • If you've been ghosted, try not to take it personally. It's not a reflection of you as a person. In all likelihood, regardless of how that person left you, you're probably better off without them. It may not feel like a normal break-up because of how it happened, but it's still a break-up and the following still applies: Take your time, feel your feelings, take care of yourself, and allow yourself to move on and let go of the need for closure, as you may not get it.
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