Halloween is near, but “ghosts” have been around all year.
The term “ghosting” describes the act of cutting off all communication with someone without warning or explanation, hence disappearing. This type of social interaction, or lack thereof, is becoming a commonly used social tactic among relationships.
But, there are two sides to every “ghosting” story.
When do you ghost?
Exercise science freshman Nadia Castillo said she had to ghost someone just the other day.
“It wasn’t to be mean,” she said. “I wasn’t interested, and they weren’t getting it.”
Castillo recalled she and her friend were sitting down eating at the State Fair when a guy and his friends kindly took a seat at their table. They made casual conversation and talked about food stands they had tried — nothing too major, she said.
Afterward, he asked for her number, and in the moment, she didn’t quite know how to deny his request, so she gave it to him.
When he texted her, she said she hit him with the, “Hey, you know, you’re nice, or whatever but ... not interested.”
He didn’t get the picture, so she ghosted him. Sometimes she feels bad, and sometimes she doesn’t, she said.
“Some people just don’t get it, and they don’t want to get it, you know?” she said.
How is ghosting viewed?
Ghosting is a natural thing to do, said psychology associate professor Craig Nagoshi.
Under some circumstances, it could be healthy. If someone is in an abusive relationship, it makes sense to “get the hell out,” he said.
Advertising lecturer Amanda Jordan said in an email that the only time she feels ghosting is appropriate is if communicating with the other party would present a real danger.
“Otherwise, I think people deserve honest communication,” she said.
Simply disappearing without warning or explanation can come off as inconsiderate, she said. Ending a relationship of any kind can be difficult and uncomfortable, but there comes a time when respect for the other person should overrule the urge to ghost.
“By ghosting, you basically tell them that they aren’t worth the effort required to communicate,” she said.
On the other hand, as long as ghosting doesn’t become a habit, it shouldn’t be looked at as a bad thing, Castillo said. Sometimes, the situation is too uncomfortable to feel the need to stick around, and that is OK, she said. It happens.
“[But] you shouldn’t be doing it to everyone for fun,” she said.
What are the consequences of ghosting?
The psychological value of ghosting depends on who you are in the context, Nagoshi said.
If it is a one-on-one interaction and someone is cutting another person off, there’s a possibility that that person may not even care, so that’s fine. But when a lot of people shun someone, it can be extremely toxic, he said.
In tight social circles in high school or college settings, it’s easy to make someone feel isolated, he said.
Group ghosting could be considered bullying, he said. With social media, people are able to anonymously attack others, and that’s where ghosting becomes a weaponized social behavior.
People choose to ghost because that’s easier than directly confronting the issue at hand, Jordan said. The problem with that is the person who was ghosted could feel disposable or even disrespected.
An alternative to ghosting would be to let someone know, straight up, Nagoshi said.
“If you’re trying to actually let somebody know that you think they’re an a--hole, have the guts to tell them, ‘I think you’re an a--hole,’” he said.
But Castillo thinks certain situations call for automatic ghosting. If someone has made it clear they aren’t feeling the relationship, and the other person is ignoring the hints and forcing it, ghosting is necessary, she said.
“Sometimes, you gotta do it,” she said. “You just gotta move on and like, not think about it.”