Ghosting and Other Communication Failures

Maintaining any kind of relationship is a cooperative effort. Both people should be upholding their end of the deal. That deal? Clear, concise, and meaningful communication without deception. “Without deception,” that’s very important. It goes without saying that you shouldn’t lie to your friends and loved ones, but that’s not the deception I’m talking about. Deception, when it comes to maintaining a relationship, more often manifests as misdirection, hollow language, and unclear intentions – and generally, the type of person to be deceptive in a relationship of any sort is also likely to “ghost” someone.

            I’m not one to use slang, I really detest it actually, but that’s a subject for another time. I understood the concept all too well, but I didn’t know the term “ghosting.” I’m almost certain I was the last to find out what it means, but to ghost someone is to simply sever all communication with no explanation whatsoever. To be clear, sometimes ghosting is warranted, especially in the case of women ridding themselves of male creeps, of which there are many. Self-defense ghosting is fine, and anyone can do it. But aside from self-preservation, is ghosting acceptable?

            I would argue that it absolutely is not except in the aforementioned way whereby a person is protecting themselves from a potentially harmful, or at least deceptive, person. Barring that, ghosting is an especially cruel way to end a relationship. It shows a total lack of care for the other person’s emotional wellbeing. The ghoster may move on, sight unseen, but the ghostee is left reeling, wondering why their friend just stopped talking to them. They’re left with a vacuum of clarity, with the absence of closure – and all because some person didn’t have the wherewithal to say, “I don’t think we should talk anymore.”

            Confrontation is awkward, I know, but ghosting is an utterly selfish act. It serves only the person doing the ghosting. I’ve been ghosted for sure, perhaps more than once, but as I’ve written before, my memory is unreliable when it comes to the last 10 years or so. Upon being ghosted, which at the time didn’t have such a cute name, I was left totally adrift. “What did I say? What did I do? Were we ever really close? Did they just want something from me?” All of these questions went unanswered, and they often tend to unless the ghoster comes to their senses. 

            While it’s worthwhile to consider if you did indeed do anything wrong to be cut off so abruptly, the onus is actually on the ghoster, unless you happen to be a terrible person, in which case the ghosting is once again self-preservation and therefore not applicable here. Ghosting should be viewed as a complete communication failure on the part of the person doing the ghosting. And while ghosting is our main focus, it actually belies several other communication problems within the ghoster. Perhaps they didn’t get what they wanted, perhaps they weren’t clear what their intentions were with the relationship – whatever the reason, they failed to make that clear. To ghost someone is to give up entirely. And so, therein lies the deception. When your intentions are clear and you’re up front about what you mean when you say what you say, there’s no need to ghost. But it’s when language gets cryptic, when intentions are unclear – that’s when things head south.

            Ghosting has always existed, I suppose, but with the ease of internet communication, cell phones, text messaging, email, and so on, it’s never been easier to simply let go of the ropes and let a relationship float out to sea. When you stop texting someone, that’s it. You don’t see their reaction, you never see them period. They’re just left to deal with what you’ve done. It’s too easy. You stop answering, block the person, or simply close the app, and they’re left wondering just why their messages go unanswered. 

            I’m a sensitive person, this may be obvious by now. If someone stops answering me, I spiral. I wonder what I did, how I can fix it, and just what’s so wrong with me that the other person couldn’t even say, “I’m done with you.” I’d rather know that someone can’t stand me than to wonder what happened. Ghosting is an especially cruel thing to do to a person with whom you have a relationship. Whether romantic or platonic, the other person deserves to know what’s going on. Perhaps the ghoster is avoiding confrontation, and I get that, but closure for everyone is much better than cowardly comfort for yourself. I could see the opposite argument being that no one owes you anything, explanation or otherwise. And that’s true, but as far as decency goes, being clear and up front with people goes a long way. It’s easy to ghost someone, yes, but you have to know that relationships aren’t easy. They don’t end because you’re done talking. 

Ghost creeps to your heart’s content, but be straightforward with your friends and loved ones. 

Published by Christopher Goodlof

Writer, Visual Artist, Musician

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