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Ghosting, as a modern practice, doesn’t stray far from the phantom that comes out to scream “Boo!” once per year. Ghosts are incorporeal spectators on our lives, intimately knowing and judging us, while we stand helpless. Their mere presence can ruthlessly haunt our psychological state. However, a spooked college student seems to be more the result of their implicit consent to be frightened rather than something supernatural.
At a large, public university like the University of Colorado Boulder, there is an abundance of new people to meet. It’s likely that you’ve met someone who hopes to be better friends than you do. When our feelings toward another person shift, creating social pain or discomfort, we often avoid not only the person but our emotions towards them as well, ghosting them.
In a study of 2,007 American adults, 35% of those aged 18-24 reported using Tinder. Turning to technology for social connections is becoming more and more common amongst college-aged adults. CU Boulder students are also relatively active on dating apps such as Tinder, Grindr, Hinge, Bumble and Qualify (a dating app created by a CU student).
Technology makes ghosting easier as it discredits the emotional responsibility involved in telling someone how you feel about them face-to-face. One study found that 38.6 percent of people reported having been ghosted in a friendship while 23% of people reported having been ghosted in a romantic relationship. Sixty-nine percent of people reported that they would think poorly of a ghoster while 19.5 percent of people reported that ghosting is acceptable to end a short-term relationship. Presumably, ghosting statistics are higher for the 18-24 age demographic which is reported to use social media more frequently than others.
Oftentimes, ghosting occurs in a romantic context or a pre-supposed romantic context by one party. However, ghosting does not occur exclusively in the context of dating. In fact, ghosting is not confined to one category or degree of detachment. It can occur in multiple kinds of relationships as well as at differing levels of rejection. If you are someone who ghosts others, be wary of the underlying psychology. Ghosting is an expression of social ambivalence or avoidance. Psychological research indicates that people who ghost are primarily trying to avoid their own emotional and psychological discomfort. Ghosters are afraid of confronting and understanding their own feelings.
Perhaps, when choosing to ghost someone, making yourself uncomfortable isn’t too much to ask, as it could enhance the well-being of the person being rejected. Allowing someone to suffer social anguish, struggling to understand your behavior towards them, seems unethical. Shouldn’t the ghoster value honesty instead of leaving the other party in a state of stressful social ambiguity? Being honest and telling someone that you don’t like them or that you don’t want to spend time with them seems to be the better option.
“If you are someone who ghosts others, be wary of the underlying psychology. Ghosting is an expression of social ambivalence or avoidance.”
Psychological research indicates that ghosting activates parts of the brain that are also responsible for processing physical pain. The person being ghosted therefore experiences social discomfort similar to that of physical bullying. Even though leaving people with some ambiguity as to why you ghosted them may be easier emotionally, it often comes at a cost to the other person’s mental health.
All forms of social ostracism cause some level of emotional discomfort. Evolutionarily speaking, feeling socially isolated could lead to death. Human beings are therefore built to covet feelings of inclusion. It is in our nature to find companionship and connection as a means for survival.
Ghosting, either as a recipient or as the instigator, is probably something you have or will experience at some point in life. By understanding the biological mechanisms that underpin our need for human connection as social animals, it may alleviate any pain we feel when we are socially distanced. To lessen the sting of rejection, no matter what side of it you’re on, be more conscious of what you feel in your relationships. Research shows that accepting our discomfort or negative emotions towards others can be much better for our mental health in the long run.
People should have the choice as to who they include in their social circle, especially if someone is a threat to their mental and emotional health i.e. toxic relationships, intimate partner abuse, stalking and harassment. Whoever ghosted you is not necessarily a defunct or immoral human being. Understanding the biological implications for social detachment can help you rationalize this rejection.
In short, we don’t have an obligation to avoid ghosting others, but we should try to understand our own feelings before we make the decision to do so because it can save others from experiencing overwhelmingly negative emotions. Don’t be afraid of social rejection, but do fear a misunderstanding or purposeful ignorance of your own emotional health.
Perhaps this Halloween, you’ll confront the ghosts of Boulder boldly, and with an open mind.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Vayle LaFehr at email@example.com.