What You're Getting Wrong About
image via: Alia Toran-Burrell
Ghosting—the act of suddenly ending a relationship by, quite literally, dissappearing—is nothing new. Hell, humans have been dipping out of sight since the beginning of time. In pop-culture, however, the term has gained new steam with celebrities like Charlize Theron employing the tactic to curve her one-time lover (Sean Penn), atop heavy dosages of ink in publications like NYTimes, Slate, NYMag.
Search volume on Google for 'ghosting', from January 2010 through August 2015
The problem with internet slang is that once it's trending (analyzed, debated, shamed, and in defense-d), the definition is quickly altered and generalized. In the case of ghosting, according to the internet and the 20 to 30-somethings I spoke with on the topic, the verb can be used to describe those who break up without giving notice. But it can also suggest a non-announced party exit (the"Irish Exit"), deleting your social media accounts without first announcing a hiatus (?!?!), failing to respond to an email or text upon receipt, blocking a person from your feed – and just about every other instance of social avoidance.
image via: Alia Toran-Burrell
"At a party you get drunk and you Irish Exit with your friends. There's still going to be interaction [amongst the group] in the following days," Alexis Fernandez, LMFT at Healthy Sexuality, Relationships and Addiction Recovery in NYC told me. "With people who actually ghost, there's no interaction at all, no closure. What it comes down to is that those who do the disappearing are not comfortable expressing themselves emotionally." Those who are ghosted upon don't get closure when they've been "bye Felicia-ed"; they can no longer interact in the real or the virtual world.
But with so many forms of communications these days (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Foursquare), can one ever be gone forever? "You can't actually ghost on someone, with social media," Syn Kami, creative and Cunt Mafia party host, told me over the phone. "If they have Twitter, they can still see that you're tweeting." And that visibility has made it more and more difficult to make a clean, never-to-be-seen-again, getaway.
Despite the acknowledgment that it's nearly impossible these days to evaporate into thin air, young people seem to be doing it in droves. The NYTimes
suggests that some 20% of young people have peaced out on someone with whom they were once intimate. Some because they were bored, some because they were busy, and many because, well, it was just too easy. "What that is, is that if I don't see you and I'm behind the screen, you "don't exist," said Emily Roberts, MA, LPC, at Harstein Psychological in Manhattan and author ofExpress Yourself
According to Fernandez, there are a few types of attachment styles that determine how you react to a partner on the other end. "People who are overly available, emotionally close and can communicate about things," are part of a secure attachment group. Expect emoji-filled texts, constant check-ins and very expressive conversations with those folks. There's the anxious attachment style filled with people who are insecure about relationships, and wonder "should I stay or should I go?" And, finally, on the far end of the spectrum are those who fall into the avoidance attachment group. "These people are not comfortable with identifying notions and communicating their needs regarding relationships. These are the ghosters...they withdraw with no sign of communication about what went wrong."
True ghosters cut off all ties, but it's not often that they forget about the other person completely. "That person is thinking and drinking about you, they know on some psychological level that they've messed up," Roberts adds.
After ghosting on his girlfriend of four years, New York resident Andrew Miller said that dodging all interactions with his ex and their mutual friends proved to be more draining than just sitting down and having the doomed talk. "The hardest part was not getting a chance to hear what I did wrong and her view on when our partnership took a turn. I had no idea if things were all my fault, or hers. It fucks you up because you're unsure how to go about future relationships without real closure."
"People are afraid of rejection and we're afraid of being mean, but the worst thing you can do is avoid that conversation all together," Roberts said. And Danielle Patterson, LCSW, a psychotherapist I spoke with, stressed that playing the "nice guy" only leaves the ghosting victim resentful and angry."
What the internet has fucked up with the word ghosting is that there is no fine line between ghosting, Irish Exiting, or simply signing off from social for an indefinite amount of time. This type of avoidance, according to Syn Kami, is "not that deep". Disappearing during a social event can be chalked up to "a bad night, a bad mood, and a packed party." Or, as one NYC-based socialite told me, " I am too drunk to look someone squarely in the eyes and say goodbye, or I’m just really craving a slice of pizza."
Simply put, "Ghosting is not when (s)he doesn't respond to your thirsty ass text," dancer Stephanie Hilton announced. "It's when you have shared time and intimacy with someone and then it's like, the line's been cut."
PostedAug 24, 2015