Recently, I read an article on ghosting, which has nothing to do with the supernatural beings that might be seen on Halloween. Nor was it about the shadowy second image that sometimes appeared on old tube televisions, if you are old enough to remember those. It also has nothing to do with the way the term is used in video gaming, if you are young enough to know what that means.
Before reading the article in Real Simple magazine, I thought the modern term “ghosting” applied only to romantic relations when one partner suddenly disappears from the horizon like a ghost. Yes, I have had that happen to me back in the seventies, way before the term ghosting existed. And, no, I have never ghosted a person I was dating.
After reading the article, I realize that ghosting is very prevalent in other areas of life today. It seems that some people just don’t show up for the first day of a new job without a word!
It’s not just romantic interests that ghost people friends and acquaintances either.
The article speculates that, in this era of having multiple friends on multiple forms of social media it is easy to think of relationships as disposable.
As a teacher, I blogged for my second graders. I discussed story plots and characters from books we were reading and posted math problems for them to solve. Many of them loved to respond. It was a productive relationship for both myself and the students. I knew them and they knew me outside of the blogging world.
After I first retired, I began my retirement blog – the one on which you might be reading this post. Blogging for strangers was a different experience for me because I didn’t personally know my audience. It was easy to just stop blogging, in effect ghosting my followers. I thought of this recently when I read this post by Robyn at
Now I really enjoy the relationships and conversations with people I once termed “virtual friends” as I post on my other blog, Conversations About Autism.
The magazine article also talked about another form of ghosting. Whoa! You mean when I receive an email request for a favor and feel that I don’t have the time or expertise to do that favor it’s not okay to just not reply?
Maybe I am guilty of that at times. I have been known to let the email keep working it’s way down my email inbox until it is out of sight and mind.
I hate thinking up excuses that sound legit and that also provide fodder for a persuasive argument about why I should just say yes. It feels unkind to just say, “I don’t want to,” which seems like the only response that doesn’t invite an argument. Then they will just hate me, right?
I don’t want this friend to hate me. I don’t want them to ghost ME, so it’s easier for me to just ghost them. HMM. Seems unfair. Somehow, though, it seems less personal to ignore people via email, right?
People have also ghosted me in this way, most recently as I have reached out to organizations and independent booksellers about opportunities to share my book. These people are strangers, so it isn’t hurtful, but it is frustrating. The sent email reappears in my inbox with the orange letters reading:
“Sent 6 days ago. Follow up?”
I’m left trying to decide whether I should follow up. Ironically, if that message didn’t show, I might not even remember sending the email.
One of the women that I repeatedly called and emailed, as it turns out, actually was a ghost. She had left her position before I ever started reaching out! Those voicemails and emails are lost in the cloud.
Maybe that’s why so many others have not responded also. Indeed, not getting a response causes me to continue to wonder and hope. That can’t be good in a personal relationship.
The magazine article did not mention particular groups of people outside of dating couples that tend to be ghosted. I found myself thinking about people who have shared their own experiences about a situation that could be considered ghosting.
I know that people who are divorced or widowed sometimes find themselves being left out of invitations or ignored by friends. I can understand this happening to couples who have split up, as friends might feel forced to choose between the man or the woman. Losing a spouse to death requires friends to rally round, not to abandon them. I can’t help but believe that people who ghost their widowed friends do not do it to be hurtful, but yet it is.
Even people who have cancer have said they feel they suddenly become invisible to some of their acquaintances. There are people who won’t make eye contact or try to avoid talking to them. This is presumably because people don’t know what to say. Thankfully, other friends pull together to support the person and fill the void. At least it seems that way to me.
Families of children who are just diagnosed with autism also find themselves abandoned by people that were in their circle of friends.
Is this because, again, people don’t know what to say? Could it be because they are afraid that they might be asked to watch the child with autism and don’t feel equipped to do that? Does the overwhelmed family of the newly diagnosed child just end up withdrawing because they can’t use their energy to pursue relationships with people who don’t understand?
So many questions to which I don’t know the answers.
Ghosting is not pleasant for the person who has been ghosted, but it also leaves feelings of guilt with the person who suddenly vanished from their lives I imagine.
Questions I ask myself and you:
When have you been ghosted?
When have you ghosted someone else?
Should you put some effort into repairing the relationship or just let it go?