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No, It's Not Ghosting - The Strand's Helpful Guide To Social Media Messaging

Photo by Jason Howie via Flickr (licensed under CC BY 2.0)

Have you ever heard of the term ghosting? If you haven’t, you are lucky because when you become aware of this popular term, your mind will probably start to look around to find out if anybody is ghosting you.

Because I wasn't aware of this popular term a few years ago, I reacted to many situations quite differently. Whenever my friends had a relationship problem, my first reaction was to think that their partners or friends could just be having a difficult time. I told my friends to wait a little and see how the situation would turn out. Since any relationship could encounter difficulties, I thought everyone should try to resolve their issues in the way that best fit the situation.

After a while, I heard of ghosting. One of my friends was having a communication problem with her close friend. She said, "They’re probably ghosting me." At first, I couldn't understand what she meant by ghosting and hoped she would explain it. However, my friend couldn't quite explain it and said I could find the definition anywhere on the internet.

Most websites define ghosting as "the practice of suddenly ending all communication and avoiding contact with another person without any apparent warning or explanation and ignoring any subsequent attempts to communicate." As soon as I read the definitions I felt joy in having been spared from it but also worried that it could happen to me. What’s more, since I had been made aware of this phenomenon, ignoring the possibility of it happening to me would be hard, and ordinary situations would now feel different.

It is hard to define communication nowadays since, in 2023, there are many different ways to connect with people. In that sense, we are among the luckiest generations as we can converse in many ever-evolving technological ways. You can communicate with people by liking their photos on Instagram, replying to their stories, sharing content, etc. It is good to be seen and to see your partners, friends, family and loved ones on social media.

However, these new methods can also raise new problems in our lives. If one texts a friend or significant other who doesn’t reply but still likes posts or shares content on social media, they could suddenly think that this person is ghosting them and feel terrible. If this happens four or five times, one would probably be sure that it is ghosting but in many cases it is not.

These simple questions can have negative impacts on relationships because they are the starting point of new problems. As a matter of fact, isn’t it a universal experience to overthink every detail in social interactions?

Whenever someone is not there virtually, we jump to conclusions and believe that we are being ghosted. However, it is not always the case. People cannot always be present. If you overthink this term and personalize it, you could start to think that simple behaviors like not interacting on social media or not liking your content means "I don't care anymore." But what if this person didn't see your post or wasn't available? All in all, it’s necessary to take a step back from overly emotional situations and reflect on what could truly be happening.

I also experienced a similar situation; someone I cared about suddenly stopped most interactions. This person was someone that I really cared about and who loved communicating with me in various possible ways. Without an apparent warning or explanation, this person started avoiding contact with me. It was an unpleasant situation. The first thing that came to my mind was ghosting. I felt terrible and tried to find reasons for this behavior, but nothing came to mind and shock took over me. Nevertheless, I didn't react, and deep down, I believed that although this looked like ghosting, it might have been something different and I was right.

After a while, I learned that this person was having a terrible time and struggling in maintaining their relationships. When I discovered this, the first thought that came to my mind was, "What if I believed until the end that I was getting ghosted and had decided to cut this person off?" Had I listened to my first instinct, I would have broken both my heart and my acquaintance’s. I know, it is not really easy to wait for some people to explain themselves, be patient, or understand issues when no clarification is given. Still, if one waits a little, they could find a suitable time to communicate and solve their problem. Waiting could be problematic for some however, in relationships, patience and trust more often than not have positive outcomes. This shows that, in some cases, the act of waiting becomes part of the communication and shows that care and understanding are essential constituents of the relationship.

For those who are taking time away from their loved ones to concentrate on themselves, it is important, in time, to show that you care. You should find ways to explain that you are not ghosting anybody, but are having a hard time. These situations are understandable and it is difficult to rule that one should act a certain way in these situations. However, direct communication is still essential in our lives. If one is having difficulties, they can show that they want to have some alone time, that they are having problems but still care about their relationships.

There are some things we are unaware of about other people, which could only be learned by conversing with each other and waiting for the right time to have deep conversations. It is easy to name every misunderstanding, little communication problem, or difficulty that people face as ghosting. However, it is good to remind ourselves that those who are not there and have been there for us in the past could also be going through their own issues. Every feeling has a certain validity that needs to be expressed.


Edited by Noor Hatimy, Sex and Relationships Editor