LIFE AND ADVICE

Here’s how you *don’t* ghost someone… and when it’s completely fine

Ahh, if only Jane Austen could see the world of modern dating.
Loading the player...

“I’m not even that invested in him,” says your best friend right before the ding of her phone sees her knocking you aside to see if he messaged.

It’s the small hit of serotonin we all get when *that one* person messages us. But when they don’t, man it hurts.

WATCH: TikTok is calling out toxic ‘pick me boys’

Ghosting has become a hot topic of conversation in recent years, particularly with the rise of dating apps. ‘To ghost, or not to ghost’ is the question. Sorry ‘To be, or not to be’ by Shakespeare, your time is up x.

So what is ghosting? Why do people do it? When is it OK? What are some alternatives?

We have all of your answers below.

kim-kardashian-paris-hilton-texting
It’s giving… you and your bestie sitting in silence and sending each other TikToks. (Credit: Getty)

What is ghosting?

For the answer, we’ve turned to our most trusted dictionary – Urban.

“When a person cuts off all communications with their friends or the person they’re dating, with zero warning or notice before hand. You’ll mostly see them avoiding friend’s phone calls, social media, and avoiding them in public.”

You may think the current definition of ‘ghosting’ is new-found ✨ Gen Z core ✨ but the term as we know it has been around since the early 2000s.

According to Merriam Webster, the “disappearing” element of ghosting, meaning “to leave suddenly and without saying goodbye”. has been traced back to 2004. AKA, the year that Facebook launched. Mark Zuccy babes, you have a lot to answer for x.

This definition is based on an even earlier definition of the verb, meaning to “to move silently like a ghost”, which goes back to the 1800s. Just imagine all those high-society Victorian girls ghosting greasy men after fancy dances. 

Why do people ghost?

You’ve had a few dates with someone, you thought things were going well, but you text the person and you hear nothing back. Ouch.

According to Psychology Today, while some people can be “indifferent” to ghosting, others can find it “emotionally troubling given that it offers no sense of closure”.

So why? WHY do people ghost?

Psychologists agree it’s for one key reason – avoidance.

“Ghosting is really just a way to avoid uncomfortable conversations or having to express one’s honest feelings. It usually occurs when someone is feeling overwhelmed and is trying to avoid confrontation,” Psychology Today wrote.

Viewing ghosting in this light can help understand that not receiving a message back is not personal – and it says more about the other person and their fear of confrontation than it does about you.

But, sometimes, that doesn’t make it any easier.

According to the Huffington Post, a study conducted in the 1970s showed that “when one person ends a relationship through avoidance, it’s likely to trigger more anger and hurt for the recipient”.

While getting ghosted says more about the ghoster, it’s normal to take it personally.

“When someone gets ghosted, they can feel like they were disposable or even just a placeholder,” New York therapist Darcy Sterling told Business Insider. “Since there is no conversation happening with the other person, they are stuck wondering and assuming why they would ghost you.”

Who is more likely to ghost: men or women?

In 2018, a study from CreditLoan showed that women are more likely to ghost than men are, according to Bustle.

However, there are reasons for this. And they all fall under the umbrella of… say it with me now… sexism.

1. Women have been “socialised to be pleasing and deferential to men,” according to relationship therapist, Aimee Hartstein.

“They often want to be liked and can even have a tendency to tell people what they want to hear,” she told Bustle. “This has resulted in them having a much harder time asking for what they want sexually as well as even just saying ‘no’ when they mean no.

“So it definitely stands to reason that some women will be drawn to take the easy way out and ghost the dates they no longer want to see. If you have trouble telling people what they don’t want to hear, then it’s going to be pretty tough to tell them you no longer want to date them.”

2. Men can respond aggressively to being rejected

Ever rejected a guy only for him to turn around and say, “well, you were ugly anyway”? Yeah, some men don’t have the best coping mechanisms to being told “no”, and they can respond aggressively. Like everything, there’s a psychological reason for this.

“Men have been taught since the earliest of times to protect their masculinity,” psychotherapist Jaime Gleicher, LMSW, told Cosmopolitan. “When they’re rejected, they associate it with their masculinity. When that’s threatened by an outside source, they tend to fight for it—also as a way to re-prove their manliness.”

According to Jaime, this emasculation can cause some men to react aggressively.

With many women having been on the receiving end of this aggression, it stands to reason that women would rather say nothing than potentially provoke verbal abuse.

3. Some men can just be plain creepy

Studies have shown that a lot of men love sending sexy photos – shock horror.

According to GQ in 2019, a survey completed by Match.com revealed that “53 per cent of women have received a d*ck pic and that 47 per cent of men have admitted to sending one”.

The Journal of Sex Research suggested that the *real* reason for sending d*ck pics is transactional. POV: you’re the first Victorian adult we see after stepping off a time machine and we show you that sentence.

Basically, what that means is, typically, when a dude sends a sexy pic, they’re hoping to get one back… or at the very least arouse the recipient and engage in some sexting.

And while this is fine if both parties are over 18 and it’s consensual, it can be extremely creepy, not to mention literal harassment, if the feelings aren’t reciprocated.

GQ went on to explain that while research showed that unsolicited pics are often welcome for gay men, the response for women was “not positive and often saw them feeling shame, anger and disgust”.

So when a women receives an unsolicited d*ck pic, chances are, they might rightfully ghost.

4. Women get more matches on dating apps

It’s not what you can do for the patriarchy, it’s what the patriarchy can do for you 💅.

Yes, research shows that women get more matches on dating apps than heterosexual men. Finally, something we have the upper hand in (that, and having more of a chance of being let into clubs when we’re 18+).

According to social psychologist Jeanette Purvis, a researcher created two fake Tinder profiles. They were identical except for the fact that one was male and one was female. They then swiped right on everyone who appeared on the app.

“While the female profile had a matching rate of 10.5 per cent, the match rate for the male profile was a miniscule 0.6 per cent,” she wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald in 2017.

So listen, women have more matches, and therefore more opportunities to ghost. It’s just basic maths babes x.

When is it OK/Not OK to ghost?

It is absolutely OK to ghost someone if they are being aggressive or creepy. Ghost, block, and report it as harassment if you want to. You have absolutely no obligation to reply to vile behaviour that makes you feel unsafe. 

And it’s not just us saying that. Psychology Today explains that if you are on the receiving end of abuse, violated boundaries, lying or manipulation, it’s OK to ghost.

Is a ‘mutual ghost’ OK?

A mutual ghost is, as it sounds, when both parties just stop messaging each other amicably. We also like to call it a ‘peter-out’. 

There’s been considerable debate about whether or not a mutual ghost is acceptable. 

“When the ghosting is mutual it changes the dynamics,” Medium wrote. “It’s the modern version of two people growing apart — where there is nothing left to stay and none of the parties feels they owe or need an explanation for the fading away of the relationship. It has to be really mutual so that it shouldn’t hurt.”

IF, however, you’ve been talking to someone for a while, or been on a date/s with them to the point where you’ve developed some form of reciprocal relationship – you’ve felt completely safe, no boundaries were violated – and they message you with the intention of continuing the relationship… ghosting isn’t cool.

Like we said, it can lead to people questioning their self-worth, feeling like a “placeholder” and wanting closure.

We know it’s daunting, but there are ways to respectfully tell someone that you’re simply not feeling it.

How to *not* ghost

Be brave and communicate! If you’ve liked the person enough to develop some form of relationship with them, chances are they have plenty of green flags that attracted you to them in the first place – meaning they’ll most likely be emotionally intelligent enough to respond in a mature way.

Try saying something like:

Hey, I’ve really enjoyed getting to know you and appreciate you taking the time to get to know me. I value honestly so I want to tell you now that I’m struggling to feel a romantic connection between us. It’s not personal, I just don’t think we are compatible, and you deserve a deeper connection. I hope you can understand and I wish you all the best.

Feel free to ✨ jazz ✨ it up – respectfully, of course – and make it more personal to your circumstances. But if they’re a decent person, chances are they’re going to respect the honesty, clear communication, and closure, and respond accordingly.

taylor-swift-phone
Not Taylor Swift ghosting Adam Young after he responded to Enchanted 🤡. (Credit: Getty)

Ultimately, whether or not you ghost someone is up to you. If you’re feeling unsafe, it’s totally warranted to leave them on read, block, and report.

But if you’ve built somewhat of a relationship with the other party, and they’re completely respectful, consider the emotional effects that a ghost might have on them, and how you would feel on the receiving end.

Sometimes clear communication is hard, but necessary.

Hey girl! Want more fashion, beauty, health and pop culture news from Girlfriend?

Follow us on Instagram @girlfriendmag & turn ON our post notifications in the top right-hand corner of our IG profile so you never miss a post

Remember to add our homepage to your favourites https://www.girlfriend.com.au/

& click here for our newsletter link for all your GF updates!

Related stories