Ghosting

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Ghosting Empty Ghosting

Post by inbloomer on Fri Dec 27, 2019 1:10 pm

Putting this here because I’d like to discuss this as a societal issue rather than complaining about specific instances we’ve experienced.

To be clear about definitions, what we’re talking about is ending a connection (platonic or otherwise) without openly telling the other person. I don’t count connections that were never really anything in the first place – someone you exchanged two messages with on a dating app stops replying, that’s not it. Ghosting is abruptly severing all communication, for no apparent reason. Fading is gradually and apologetically finding more and more excuses not to be around that person. Zombieing is where someone who ghosted abruptly reappears, either acting like nothing ever happened or making some excuse about your messages getting lost in their spam folder.

None of these behaviours are actually new: in the early 20th century “cutting” people was common. But they do seem to have become more and more ubiquitous. People don’t just ghost potential romantic partners, they ghost same-sex friends, family, even employers. Something I’ve found is that even people who say they hate ghosting and would always err on the side of being direct, when it actually comes to it they ghost.

For those on the receiving end, the same complaint keeps coming up. It’s upsetting to be rejected but they accept that’s the price of social relationships. However, they often feel that the way they were ghosted or faded on caused unnecessary hurt. For a start, given that we’re all meant to be looking out for each other mental health wise, when a friend suddenly goes off the radar we can be genuinely concerned for their wellbeing, only to find they’re fine but just don’t want to talk to us. Also I’ve found people are actually more likely to ghost or fade AFTER the other person has made uncancellable plans, perhaps to avoid having to get into a discussion about rescheduling.

I guess my question here is what any of us can do about it on a personal level. We probably can’t change society, but what can we do for our own resilience?

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Ghosting Empty Re: Ghosting

Post by Enail on Mon Jan 13, 2020 2:34 pm

I meant to post in this ages ago but then I forgot, so belated reply.  I wouldn't consider fading as the same as ghosting; I think it's often the more natural and considerate way to dial back a friendship without fully closing the door by just taking a step back. Sometimes that does result in it ending, of course, and a very sudden fade rather than a long-term one, or one in a formerly very close friendship, can be unnecessarily cruel. But if there's nothing specifically wrong that a person wants to end a friendship over but is just feeling less enthusiastic about putting time into it at the moment (which is the sense I've gotten from most fadings I've observed where the person doing the fading wasn't just extremely conflict-avoidant), it would be awkward, in some cases mean and in other cases counterproductive, to give a 'we're done, don't ever contact me" sharp end. Sometimes a friendship can be saved by dialling back that couldn't be saved by having an explicit talk about the situations - I've been on both ends of that. And I'd say for friendships, it's been common all my lifetime and hasn't particularly gotten more common.

I do agree even fading is rude for people who are officially dating, since we generally conduct romantic relationships with more formal categories and rules than we do platonic relationships. And flat-out ghosting is almost always rude (barring very short connections like the 'couple of dates' you mentioned or things like abuse - but that includes emotional, and I suspect a lot of people who are emotionally abusive will never recognize that they've  been behaving in ways that have cost them the right to expect not to be ghosted).

One thing I have observed before is that some people who get ghosted a lot, even by people who are normally direct about interpersonal things, are often doing something that makes others reluctant to open the conversation about dialling back or ending things - expecting a really high level of emotional support and reassurance even when the topic is the other person wanting to disengage or provide less support; not accepting answers that don't fit in with their assumptions or desires or ones the other person can't justify with a detailed argument; trying to guilt, manipulate, argue or demand when met with lesser boundaries. Often those are people who have particularly strong reactions to uncertainty or to rejection, so I have a lot of sympathy for them, but I also have sympathy for the ghosters in that case, because at some point it's not reasonable to expect people to take the emotional/social cost of being explicit about a no (which social norms often prefer to be implicit) with people who have shown they won't accept a no without expecting a lot more emotional/social cost from the no-giver and making it harder for them to actually disengage.

Someone who doesn't accept no's will tend not to get them, and I don't think it's the fault of the person who decides it's not worth trying to give them a no they know won't be accepted. I think in cases like that, the best thing for the  ghostee to do would be to work on emotional regulation and handling conflict to improve the likelihood of getting the kind of clear communication they want.

Another thing that leads some people to be frequently ghosted and where I find ghosting somewhat sympathetic, can be lack of self-awareness - if there's an issues that the ghoster has raised repeatedly and been dismissed or argued out of or promised change over and over that never actually comes, the ghostee's already gotten a reason why the other person wants to end things, they just haven't recognized that their behaviour is the reason. There have to be limits to the level of due diligence expected on someone ending a connection, people have to be allowed to end a relationship even if they haven't convinced the other person to take them seriously when they say something is bothering them.

Aside from those kinds of cases where there's a reason someone might get an unusually high level of ghosting, I'm not sure there's anything specific to ghosting one can do for resilience, building general emotional resilience is probably the most helpful thing. Possibly working on having proportional expectations, but again, that's something that's only a factor for people who find themselves more often ghosted or more distressed by ghosting than the norm.
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Ghosting Empty Re: Ghosting

Post by Hielario on Mon Jan 13, 2020 10:55 pm

I don't know on a personal level, sadly, but I think there's something we actually can DO in a societal level.

Back when I still used online dating, I used to thank or praise a little the few women who told me openly they weren't feeling it instead of ghosting me. Nothing exaggerated, just something in the vein of "oh, and thank you for actually telling me! It's way nicer than the usual. It's great to have met someone as mature and honest as you. Well, have a nice life".

I did it without thinking because small extra niceties like that always affect me a lot, but maybe it's something more people should do? I think it could have a positive impact if we do it on a regular basis, even if it's a small one?


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Ghosting Empty Re: Ghosting

Post by inbloomer on Thu Jan 16, 2020 5:20 pm

Thanks Enail. For online dating I literally meant messages not dates - some people wail "she ghosted me!" when they'd never got beyond the "hey, 'sup?" stage. That's ridiculous. I've read plenty of stories about people who've been ghosted by someone they'd been friends with their whole lives, they'd been best man or bridesmaid at each other's weddings etc. etc., and then one day that person has just had enough. That's real ghosting.

The situations I have experience with are in between those two extremes. My feeling is that for an actual ghosting or abrupt fade, provided you really can't think of anything you've done wrong, the most likely reason is something has changed in the other person's life that they don't want to tell you about. Often a change in relationship status, in either direction. I was ghosted then zombied by someone in a work context once, and it was almost certainly because in our first meeting she was all "my boyfriend this ... my boyfriend that ...", and a couple of weeks later they'd split up.

In my own experience the worst is the very gradual fade, because when they start to make these TERRIBLY APOLOGETIC excuses you just can't win. Either you come across as the kind of jerk who goes ape at the slightest hint of rejection, or you come across as the kind of clod who can't take a hint.


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Ghosting Empty Re: Ghosting

Post by inbloomer on Sat Feb 01, 2020 8:34 am

I've read a couple more useful articles on flaking recently, written as confessions by serial flakers. They say it happens when the thing offered is something they'd ideally like to do, or at least it's coming from a good place, but they know from the start it's never really going to happen. Basically because the time and energy they make available for going out and doing things like this is already committed, and while they technically could squeeze it in, they don't want to lose all their down time and family time.

Then, while in theory they could just be an adult and say this up front, in practice there's no painless way of telling someone no. They've tried it before and seen the disappointment in the other person's eyes. So they end up saying yes enthusiastically, and then at the last minute making some crazy excuse, fully aware that's going to cause pain as well.

I'm not excusing flaking. I at least think there's a difference between flaking after you've clearly laid down markers that it's dodgy whether you'll be able to make it and flaking after you've absolutely promised you will. But I think that helps understand it. This discussion often goes straight to "some men react badly to rejection" - which is not untrue, but clearly someone can have no doubt at all that you'd handle a no well, yet still not want to do it to your face.

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Ghosting Empty Re: Ghosting

Post by The Mikey on Mon Feb 10, 2020 5:27 am

inbloomer wrote:This discussion often goes straight to "some men react badly to rejection" - which is not untrue, but clearly someone can have no doubt at all that you'd handle a no well, yet still not want to do it to your face.

You’re right, I’d probably cry outta the sheer frustration. Razz
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