To ghost or not to ghost

PHOTO COURTESY OF PLAYBUZZ.COM  Cas Sweeney ’19 describes their experience with “ghosting” others.


Cas Sweeney ’19 describes their experience with “ghosting” others.

Cas Sweeney ’19 | Associate Editor

This week I offered to write an article about how I learned to be okay with people that don’t like me, or even hate me. I feel like, over the past year, I’ve grown to be very confident in myself, and I have done great work to boost my self-esteem.

Of course, something happened to knock me down a peg, as things always do. Right now, I do not feel nearly confident enough to write about all the things that other people have told me that are unpleasant, obnoxious or worse. I definitely do not have the confidence to tell you that I love those things about myself.

Fortunately, for the sake of my journalism career, that rising insecurity reminded me of another topic I could write about, one which I am a lot less sure: ghosting.

For those that are unfamiliar, “ghosting” refers to when you disappear out of someone’s life with no warning or explanation. With a few exceptions for cases where there is some level of danger, generally people agree that ghosting is bad. I personally agree that it is a very unkind thing to do to a person. When you leave them with no explanation of your behavior, how can they get closure?

Unfortunately for me, and for people with whom I have had rocky relationships with in the past, I have a very bad habit of ghosting people. After doing it to multiple people over the years, I recently made a promise to myself: No more ghosting.

I managed to stick to this resolution valiantly all summer, during which I had no problems with other people in the first place. Now, however, with the semester starting back up and interpersonal problems leaking back in, I am questioning my resolve. I told myself “no ghosting,” and I swear I’m going to stick to it, but that does leave a pretty big question. What specifically counts as ghosting?

The first time I ghosted someone was in high school, and it was a case of the silent treatment gone wrong. I stopped reaching out to him and ignored him in our classes for a few days. Then he just stopped talking to me. We never talked again. Was that ghosting?

I eventually decided that yes, that counts as ghosting because I ignored him when we were in the same place. So even though he didn’t reach out to me with words, he did reach out to me with body language, eye contact, etc. Therefore, when I avoided those messages without telling him why, I ghosted him.

Another time I ghosted someone, I ghosted as a test of our friendship. I felt insecure about whether we were really friends, so I stopped reaching out. I didn’t avoid them when I saw them — I just didn’t initiate. In my mind, if they reached out to me, then that meant we were really friends and they passed. If they didn’t, then they failed and I would disappear from their life forever. Did that count as ghosting?

I’m still not sure if that counts as ghosting in the slightest, but I do know that it wasn’t the right thing to do. Our friendship was largely based on my initiations, and it was unfair for me to expect them to know what I wanted them to do when I suddenly stopped reaching out. How would they have known that I was testing them? Maybe they thought that I needed my space and were hurt when I appeared to break off the relationship for no reason. Therefore, because of how it would have been perceived by them, it qualifies as ghosting.

So under my definition of ghosting, I decided to count the silent treatment and tests of friendships as things that are out of bounds. With those additions, last spring I declared, “No ghosting. For real this time.”

Of course, that’s easier said than done, because as I mentioned before, I am still not quite sure what ghosting actually means.

Now that I have another friendship coming into uncertain territory, I find myself wondering more and more about the difference between ghosting and drifting apart. What if I stop initiating interaction with a friend, knowing that if I don’t initiate, they won’t? Does that count as ghosting because I am cutting off contact with them, or is it just drifting apart because neither of us are willing to put in the effort? Is it cruel or is it putting myself first?

I feel like a good rule of thumb would be that if it feels like ghosting, it probably is. Therefore, I will not start avoiding my friend, because that’s ghosting … or is it?