How Ghosting Happens and Why It Hits Us So Hard?
I guess that most of you are familiar with the term — ghosting. And how much it’s coming to picture in this day and age where most of our daily communication moves from face-to-face to digital, or online space, including our personal relationships, and the dating world.
Prior to my experience with ghosting, I’d have thought that most of the ghosting stories happen in the world of online dating, but I’ve learned that ghosting can happen anywhere, anytime.
For those of you still not familiar with this term, it’s basically an act of somebody who’s been a part of your life (either your physical or virtual reality) for some time, disappearing from it without a single word, a sign, or a sense of understanding, from one moment to another, becoming a ghost of some sort.
Ghosting is an act of removing someone from your life in an instance — without a word, a warning, an expectation, or a sense of understanding. It’s becoming a ghost to the other person, from one moment to another.
You may be asking yourself how can this even happen in what seems to be some kind of a relationship — friendship or starting partnership, and perhaps even have your own opinions on why does it. Some people believe that this is a consequence of us functioning in the virtual world where the quality of connections build barely compares to the ones in the real world where we get to know one another thoroughly on way more levels.
And so, if a connection in the virtual world is of less quality than the real-world one, it’s easier for a person to give up on it — it’s just another online profile in the end, out of thousands to dismiss. Way easier than doing the same with someone you do know personally, through common friends perhaps, and could randomly meet on the street or in the office.
A few advocate this as a less painful way to end relationships they don’t want to keep investing in anymore. This way, they’d avoid the painful conversation to be had with who they want to drop off, and believe this is better for the receiver too, rather than hearing the real reasons for why their interest lapsed.
The vast majority of people, including many specialists on relationships and communication in the field of psychology or therapy, think this is an irresponsible — cowardly, immature and psychologically damaging way of dealing with others feelings, and relationships that are fragile anyway. The more that they are cultivated digitally, through social media and other online channels.
Without further introductions, here, I provide you with my own experience with this phenomena so you can make up your own opinion on the subject. I hope that it can at least draw a better picture of how and where all ghosting can happen.
I met Samuel (or Sam) two years back at one Tech and AI conference in London that we both attended. We happened to be standing in a long queue for hot drinks before one of the first seminars for the day would start. There was still for about 15 minutes of morning networking left, and there I was — waiting to get a coffee, so I can awaken properly and warm up before I hear where the world of technology and artificial intelligence can take the developed world we live in, in the coming years.
Samuel stood just behind me and I happened to look at him while searching for a hostess to fix the coffee machine that coincidentally stopped working just as I wanted to use it. We exchanged a short conversation, which I believe started with him giving me a smile and me empathetically returning it. I might have made a comment about ‘why this — coffee error — had to happen now’. There was no one to help with coffee though, so I opted for Earl Grey I took with a croissant to enjoy a fast breakfast. When I finally settled down, I found myself next to Samuel, again. We were already sort of introduced to each other — thanks to a coffee machine error, so without the awkward first words of a stranger’s conversation, we somehow naturally got to talk.
I found out that he owns a software business but looks to understand what to expect in the future as well as to re-shape his future in broader terms. He discovered that I represent a tech business, and as a human resource enthusiast, I wanted to see how much of human element there would be left in the coming years as we open the door even more to machines, robots and other forms of AI.
I met Sam two years back at a conference. We happened to be standing next to each other during networking. We were already introduced — thanks to a coffee machine error, so without the awkward start of stranger’s conversation, we naturally got to talk.
The minutes flew fast, but in a short time, I got a sense — we both did (as he shared later on), that we can talk with each other seamlessly and with an interest. He shared with me his fascination for mindfulness and having a purpose to life, even some daily habits he practices, rather than doing things just for the sake of it, as well as his interest to truly live his spirituality. Coincidentally, as all these topics resonate with me, I felt a sense of soul connection, more than a casual one with just about anyone on the planet.
The talk has started and we all sat down to hear it. It was an interesting 1,5 hours of panel discussions with four specialist speakers from the business, independent research, and even the government. The panel talk flew by as quickly for me as the networking before, and as I had a few questions for one of the panellists, I went to join the other interrogators who created a circle around the AI scientist. On my way, I met Sam who was rushing to leave for another series of seminars happening at the other side of London. As there was no more time to chat, I quickly handed him my business card saying maybe we get to talk again.
I was actually doing my job — representing the tech business I manage, it’s my duty to make connections with who could be our future partner or client. He accepted it, smiled and run off, and I waited to throw the questions at my guy.
Perhaps the same day, Sam texted me to say where he’s going to be tomorrow — still for the conference, what panels he’s attending and whether I am — by any chance, around too. Sadly for our meeting, I wasn’t. It was the mid of the British summer and I was just leaving London on that day for two weeks to warm up in sunny Greece. I told him, and we agreed that we’ll meet once I am back and that he’s back to London too as he wasn’t a Londoner like me.
Perhaps a few weeks after, we managed to meet up for a coffee at King’s Cross — just around the buzzing techy square where Google has one if it’s main offices. I had a few business ideas to share, he seemed keen to discuss, but as soon our drinks arrived, we already talked all tech out — since the ice age to the new age — and got into more personal topics.
I wish I remembered all the subjects we covered which I don’t, now, but I well remember how it felt. We were both in a good mood — constantly smiling or making somewhat natural jokes and the conversation flowed without a single hiccup. It felt so natural to be with Sam as it feels with some of the friends I know for over 20 years. And that was puzzling and fascinating both.
We talked about us, our personal journeys and that of life, our motivations, dreams, what is important for us, what we wish to experience, and achieve. We enlightened each other on subjects of psychology, coaching, even science. I found him knowledgable in the areas where I wasn’t so much at home and that was captivating, I might have played the same role for him.
I always wished to have at least one good-male-friend for life, but it never happened so far due to the vast majority of my ex-male-friends expressing their wants of dating me and making me their life partner. Sam was different, he didn’t make me think once that he’s interested in me as a woman, rather as a person, a soul who can enrich him. Beyond, despite being single, he was only interested in dating women within his group due to his religion — which I found even more comforting to consider him a friend. I was also in a longterm relationship at the time.
Only once had Sam asked me about my relationship and that was whether I am happy in it and with who I am with. I was a little surprised by the question but as I later discovered, he just wanted to check whether I was truly happy as he had friendly doubts about it. Actually, I wasn’t happy which I realized later on, and that’s why I am not in that relationship anymore, but that’s another story.
The friendship between me and Sam was growing stronger every month as we kept in touch regularly. He wasn’t local to my area, so we were left to connect through the phone, mostly. Sometimes, we’d spend an hour to a few hours talking together. Talking about life — anything and everything. He shared with me some of the experiences he faced — especially the challenging ones, at work or at home, and asked for my opinion or guidance, on other occasions I shared mine.
Often, he’d tell me his opinions on religion or science, or other exciting things he’s researched and found out, even the business ideas or concepts he was looking to invest in. We talked about psychological theories and approaches, practical tools and techniques, even literature enriching for us both. As a consequence, it felt as if we knew each other even better.
The friendship between me and Sam was growing stronger every month as we kept in touch regularly.
Once, it truly surprised me to see the way he was caring. We were on the call back then, and he told me that he called up his gurus in India (yup, he had gurus in India since he travelled across the country and lived in Mumbai for some time), to check up on me — apparently, the guru’s were able to connect to my energy (my aura and higher self) to observe how I am doing on the spiritual plane. The findings were all good, I was taken good care of, I was perfectly fine, the only thing was that I’ve not reached peace and fulfilment in life, I was seeking. That was very telling.
On another occasion, he offered to gift me his beautiful amulet for protection from anything that may try to steal my energy — I worked in a very hectic environment at the time, with too many people at once, and indeed felt drained when I had to connect and talk with them all daily.
When we were out and I did a little food shopping for myself on a way down to the tube, and he accompanied me there, while I was hustling with scanning and packing my items, he quickly paid for my items by scanning his phone through the machine before I even realized. That was over my expectations from a friend.
I got an extended invitation, or a series of them, to come see him and the beautiful city where he lived for a personal guided tour on multiple occasions, but due to my busy work-life that year, it has never happened.
The last time when we were meant to meet for a dinner, but sadly, it got cancelled as I got sick that week (and I thought it might have been Covid), Sam had a present for me that he was excited to gift me with. A few months beforehand, there was another gift he had for me. Gifts are physical symbols of our interest and care for another person, they are a sign of our engagement and sincerity about any kind of relationship — friendship, partnership, romantic relationship.
In almost a year of us knowing each other, Sam exhibited signs of being a nice and genuine person, down to Earth, caring, empathetic and real — authentic. Someone who didn’t try to do things to make an impression to win hearts (or business), as staying real seemed paramount to who he was.
And then, just a few days after we had a phone call where we wished each other Happy Birthdays — we were just a day away from each other (although our birth years differed), and discussed our usual — philosophy and life, alongside the challenges of life and change of our circumstances brought by Covid and national lockdown in the UK, Sam ghosted me.
Just a few days after we had a phone call where we wished each other Happy Birthdays, Sam ghosted me.
Yup, just like that, completely out of the blue, without a warning, the slightest sign of expectation, without a hint, without a word. I just never heard back from him again. Ever.
Obviously, I couldn’t understand this, make my mind up about it and come to a reasonable conclusion. I cannot up until now. I couldn’t guess what could have happened to him or what I would have done to make him treat me — and our friendship — this way. Although I had tried on multiple occasions.
I messaged Sam on two instants after I’ve not heard back from him, asking what’s happening, whether all is fine with him and how unusual it is that he’s not responding. And even how I’ve never experienced something like this till date and would just like to know what’s going on. No response. Apart from seeing that Sam has indeed received and read my messages. And then, he disappeared altogether — his name, profile, and all details disappeared from the social media through which we talked and I couldn’t even contact him as my texts would not get through.
No words can describe the emotional and mental process a ghostee goes through when this happens. I guess it’s individual how long processing and healing this lasts, but one thing is certain — it hurts, it hurts a lot and deep down, given by the form this relationship is ending, the wound is open and hard to close out properly.
Given by the form this relationship is ending, the wound is open and hard to close out properly.
Based on my experience, ghosting doesn’t help anything or anyone, it cannot — this kind of eternal silent treatment without a reason is not to be understood. It does hurt the hell lot to experience a rejection without a sign of ‘why’. It creates a dent in a person who got hurt, a sense of doubt for the trust you’d try to build towards anyone else in their future. They’re left to carry an awareness that anybody else can also, without a sign, do the same.
This experience, and I am not exaggerating, leaves a mark on someone’s soul. Especially if the bond you had build with someone wasn’t just a few days of a mindless conversation online, but long months invested in getting to know another human being who you actually felt connected with and close to.
Ghosting doesn’t help and cannot be understood. It only hurts the receiver. It creates a dent — a doubt towards anyone else in the future, knowing they could do the same — leaving a mark on someone’s soul.
If any fan of ghosting ever reads this, I hope it helps you to understand what a ghostee goes through and to see a different perspective on what the act of silencing someone forever without a reason may do to others.
Now, it’s almost a year that I’ve not heard back from Sam. And I can’t say that I am angry with him, or upset about this experience. I surely was, but I am not anymore. I realized that I cannot be upset for what I can’t understand. I don’t even recall this instance often to ponder about it.
Yet, thinking back on it now, I do feel some sort of wrong and emptiness inside, and what happened bothers me to an extend — perhaps due to what kind of a person I am — empathetic, emotional, loyal when it comes to deep personal connections. I’d not have the heart (and stomach) to abandom someone this way without sharing with them at least a hint of why I am not going to engage them anymore as I know instantly how it’d feel for them. I had tough conversations in the past when some paths have divided and there was no more a reason for us to connect, but I stood through this and was being honest. That was the least I could do.
A part of me (the emotional one) misses the person I thought Samuel was and the bond I had with him which I considered valuable, another part of me (the logical one) acknowledges that he wasn’t the person who I thought he’s been — my mental picture of him wasn’t completely accurate and this occurrence shown just that.
If I try to recall whether there were some red signs that would have shown Sam’s capability of behaving this way, maybe there were some, maybe not. It’s difficult to read someone properly, without your mind completing the missing picture of them, if you only have to rely on the virtual communication, without being able to see this person regularly.
It’s difficult to read someone properly, without your mind completing the missing picture, if you only have the virtual communication, to rely on.
What actually brought this to my awareness and got me talking about it openly now was that I recently made a decision to relocate to a place that makes me feel excited to live in. Coincidentally, or because life is so full of paradoxes, this is also a place where he — Sam lives, or used to. It was a conflicting decision making when I recalled this and the whole experience, as it made me doubt whether I wish to move to the same city where he might live. Our mind is a strange place to inhabit, indeed.
But then I thought that life is bigger than this, bigger than this obnoxious instance of Sam-one ghosting me, and I am bigger than this. That means that I won’t give this experience such a power over my life to deprive myself of any experiences I am looking forward to that’d come from making this move.
When someone ghosts you, they consciously choose to remove themselves from your life and that has consequences for both the parties. By doing so, they no longer have the slightest right to be taken into consideration when you are making a decision about your life.
When someone ghosts you, they consciously choose to remove themselves from your life. As such, they hold no right to be taken into consideration when it comes to your life choices.
I don’t think I’d ever meet him or hear from him again, I certainly don’t desire to, but if it happened, it’d make no difference. I’d not be able to form any kind of real connection with them. That was broken the day he chose to treat me as he did.
Although, if I could, I would honestly like to know what happened to him to behave that way. I would like to comprehend the mental process and motives that drive people to doing this. Is it a lack of empathy or courage to communicate openly and honestly? Is it a lack of their interest in the relationship out of the blue? Is it a sign of even deeper personal/ psychological issue they have? This is what I don’t have an answer for. It could be either of the choices or a combination of them all for different people.
Yet, the fact is that the most difficult kind of closures to be made are the ones where there was no real end.
The most difficult kind of closures are the ones where there was no real end.
This is my one and only mention of this experience with Sam to the world as I need not to recall it anymore.
My wish to all of you is that ghosting stays far, far away from you. And for the ones of you who received this treatment already — I wish that you find the strength in yourself to become bigger and better than this. Not to allow it to stain your present and the future. And to cultivate your relationships free of any unhealthy patterns of behaviour such as this one.
*The name of the person and a few other details in the story were altered as a personal choice of the author.*
AN IMPORTANT UPDATE
I never thought I’d say this, but I just heard back from Samuel. Precisely 3 days after I wrote this article about how he ghosted me! Crazy, isn’t it?!
Call it bizzare — that’s certainly how life is sometimes.
I heard that he’s been doing fine and hopes that I am fine too. He complained about Covid and told me he hopes it’d end it next few months. Also, I was right about the fact that he’s ghosted me just like that, out of the blue. Reason missing. And apparently, I wasn’t the only one. He’s done it to “many people" by his own words. And also said that he “thought it was the best to disappear for everyone.”
He said “I just needed some space I guess.” That’s what he’s told me.
I am not asking him anything more or engaging in more conversation as this is enough to know for a closure I was so desperately looking to get. It really is.
I didn’t even dream of this happening and maybe it’s not what I’d have expected to find out, or what I’d have wanted to hear, but eventually, this is the truth. The only truth. And I got the closure I was looking for.