This begs the question: are we mere mortals safe from this technique being executed on us? According to a poll conducted by YouGov. and the Huffington Post in October 2014 which surveyed 1000 American adults, just over 10% of them admitted to ghosting someone in order to end a relationship. The respondents, aged between 18 and 29, were also found to be the most likely to experience ghosting. In another survey which was more informal, Elle magazine conducted a poll in July 2014 and reported that almost 17% of men and 24% of women who were interviewed had ghosted someone at some point in their lives. It was also recorded that about 26% of the women and 13% of the men interviewed had been victims to the ghosting technique.

The signs of ghosting can either be very subtle or extremely explicit. The more subtle ghosting gestures include your partner answering elaborate messages with short one word answers or even letters, claiming to forget to answer your messages of concern, cutting dates short, never messaging you first, and having an arsenal of thought-out excuses on hand. The more explicit signs of ghosting include being blocked from their social media accounts, flatly ignoring your partner, and changing the locks.

It has been debated that the increase in the numbers of ghosting casualties may correlate with the increased use of technology and dating apps such as Tinder and JSwipe. This has been argued in an article by the New York Times titled “Exes explain ghosting, the ultimate silent treatment”. The article aimed to empower ghosts based on the notion that there is always someone new around the corner due to the disposability of people on these sites. The Huffington Post’s 2014 article titled “Ghosting: the 21st century dating problem which everyone talks about, but no one knows how to deal with” also shed some light about the role of technology and the correlated increase in ghosting. According to psychotherapist Rachel Sussman, technology has played a role in increasing the cases of ghosting, because before these apps existed, dates were often set up by mutual friends. This meant that if things did not go well on these arranged dates, honesty was required with your date in order to avoid awkward situations with those friends who had played matchmaker. Sussman thus believes that now that people have no mutual friends with the people they date, “it is easier to bail without warning when you are not that into it,” says Sussman.

Sussman also commented that a ghost that has already disappeared is best left buried. This is because people who disappear without a trace are “probably afraid of confrontation, are insecure and have a lot of trouble articulating their feelings”.

Victims of ghosting will argue that this practice is not only cowardly, but also selfish because it denies the victim any form of closure and causes the victim to attribute blame inward because they often question their own behaviour as the reason for the ending of the relationship. This method was also confirmed as the least ideal method to end a relationship in the above mentioned YouGov and Huffington Post poll, where 87% of the 1000 people interviewed agreed that an impersonal and distant breakup was not appropriate. Ghosts, on the other hand, may argue that this technique avoids the heated confrontations that are often waiting at the end of a relationship and can offer a clean break to people in a toxic relationship.

Going dark and breaking off all communication at the end of a relationship seems to be the new power move, and while some of us may fall victim to the actions of a ghost, it is important to remember in retrospect that we may be dodging a haunting relationship down the line.


Illustration: Caleb Linden

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