Ghosting

ˈɡəʊstɪŋ/
noun
  1. the appearance of a ghost or secondary image on a television or other display screen.
    “the display is sharper and less prone to ghosting”
  2. the practice of ending a personal relationship with someone by suddenly and without explanation withdrawing from all communication.
    “I thought ghosting was a horrible dating habit reserved for casual flings”

 

[dropcap]Now[/dropcap], in all earnest, I also used to believe ghosting was just a horrible dating habit, without spending too much thought on the matter, even not knowing such a term ever existed. It was not until a few weeks ago when I stumbled upon a very good observation of a friend of mine, that the sudden and uncalled for interruption of all communication between two parties are nowadays a very common, yet (still) disturbing fact of life. And it is not only about simply dating no more.

Has it ever (yet) happened to you? Have you lost contact with people you have deeply enjoyed meaningful conversations with for no apparent reason? Have you had your messages passive-aggressively ignored and slowly drifted into oblivion?

Or have you done it yourself to somebody else?

Regardless of your answer to the above, I believe we are all prone to this side effect of non-personal communication. The one where we don’t exchange body language, but only the infamous 7%.1 The one where all fights are futile, everyone is right and the effect of withdrawal is greater than ever. The one which allows you the all-powerful feeling of knowing the other person has witnessed your ‘seen’ notification and yet you feel no obligation to respond and simply discontinue the conversation.

I imagine the following picture. A friend of mine stops me on the street, looks me in the eye, and says, “Hey, do you know what time is it?” I look back at him… and simply keep staring. Empty eyes, just a glaze. Moments go by and all social rules abandoned. Kind of what would happen in a sitcom scene and the audience will laugh in the background.

It’s just that this now is a virtual reality.

Occasionally it happens without any visible reason. A message is delivered, then seen, sometimes a call is missed, you intend to write back, then forget, then you have nothing to say, and then over time you stop caring about these things. Apathy over social responsibilities takes over.

And then, weeks, months, years later, you might decide to write to this person again. And continue from where you left off. No strings attached, no questions asked. No feelings hurt.

Or is that so?

I have to admit, for myself I would love to keep a good number of such relationships. My introverted nature screams every now and then “Retreat! Retreat!”, and I only look for valid reasons to abandon ship. I have even developed a theory – whenever somebody excuses themselves from a chat with me, I tell them this is the beauty of social networks – you can appear and disappear upon convenience, without regards of the other person.

Slowly I have come to realize this theory (and the often and aggressive mention of it) is only an investment, a future precaution measure from my side to untie my hands whenever I need it most. So that I will have the perfect excuse to drop off and still be consistent with words and action.

My friend believes that the common opinion that such attitude is due to unfulfilled promises by parents in the person’s childhood is mostly wrong. The whole problem, she says, comes mostly from the nature of the communication of the social network, where any direct responsibility is withdrawn, and you are left with your own decisions, not witnessing and therefore barely accounting to their effect upon others.

As she concludes, the fact that such behavior already has a name can be only frightening. It seems it is not to disappear soon from our realm.

Naturally, this concern is only about the social relations with the bigger or smaller circle of people we have. As for the romantic sphere, this is no news. Listen to this 1964 Beatles song, lamenting the same ‘ghosting’ behavior:

Perhaps it is only part of who we are. Or who we have become.

 

Read also The Last Humans by Charlie Hadjiev @ the Liff for more implications on being human.

 


  1. Referring to the famous breakdown, which says that 55% of communication is body language, 38% is the tone of voice, and 7% is the actual words spoken (Mehrabian & Wiener, 1967 and Mehrabian & Ferris, 1967). Check out also https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/beyond-words/201109/is-nonverbal-communication-numbers-game for more on the topic.

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