“I’ve been seeing him for a while, but then he just stopped texting me. I don’t know what happened.”
These words have been a familiar refrain for me throughout my time at Georgetown. There is actually a word for this scenario of abruptly ending a relationship and ignoring all communication from a former partner. It is called “ghosting,” and it has become more and more prevalent in recent years.
Research regarding who exactly is responsible for ghosting has been mixed. An informal 2014 survey in Elle magazine found that women are more likely to be ghosted than are men, with 27 percent of women saying they had been ghosted at some point compared to 14 percent of men. However, in the same survey, more women admit to ghosting a former partner — 25 percent of women compared to 17 percent of men.
Perhaps one reason why ghosting has become so prominent is the very nature of relationships has changed, particularly on college campuses. In his book “Guyland,” Stony Brook University sociology professor Michael Kimmel argues that the structure of social life on college campuses is characterized by “hookup culture,” in which fewer men and women participate in long-term relationships, opting to instead engage in several sexual encounters and then move on.
Ghosting appears to be a natural response to this change. Because relationships themselves are more elusive, so are breakups — it is much more awkward to end a relationship if it was never defined. So more and more people are taking the easy way out, letting messages go unanswered until the other person gets the hint.
The advent of social media and online dating is also largely responsible for the prevalence of ghosting. In a way, viewing a person’s social media or online dating profile makes that person seem less real. An article in Psychology Today explains the thought process behind ghosting, saying “thanks to a myriad supply of anonymous suitors, there just isn’t any time, desire or need to treat everyone like the special butterfly they are.”
Ghosting, however, has been proven to be one of the worst ways to break up with someone, according to a study published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships journal, leading to greater conflict and anxiety down the line.
Unfortunately, the prominence of ghosting seems to normalize it. In a Huffington Post article about ghosting, a woman said that she is a hypocrite when it comes to ghosting, saying, “I’ll ghost someone without a second thought, but when it happens to me, I’m the first to run to my girlfriend in disbelief.”
The phenomenon is extremely inconsiderate as it prolongs the process of moving on; it leaves the victim of ghosting feeling confused about what happened while experiencing self-doubt and self-consciousness.
If someone wishes to break off a relationship, they should demonstrate the emotional maturity to not ghost a person. In a Mic article titled, “Why Are We All Ghosting Each Other When the Alternative Is So Simple?” author Ellie Krupnick describes how she and her friends send a variation of this text when breaking off a causal relationship: “Hey I had a really good time at [whatever date we went on], but I don’t see this going anywhere romantic, so I don’t think it would be right to go on another date.” While sending a text to break off a casual relationship seems taboo, it still offers more closure than does radio silence, and shows greater respect for the person on the other end. In fact, we should make ghosting the taboo.
Similarly, if a person finds themself a victim of ghosting, he or she should not be afraid to speak up. My peers at Georgetown are smart and ambitious students. They demand respect from their peers in both their academic and extracurricular lives. They should demand the same respect from and for themselves in their romantic endeavors.
Emma Lux is a junior in the College. STILL HERE appears every other Tuesday.