A couple of months ago I posted an important (personally, at least) article where I discussed discovering that I had been ghosted by a close friend and the profound impact that it had had on my mental wellbeing. The reaction to that post was really and surprisingly positive and I’m still feeling so empowered that I was able to call out my ghoster and I could feel… not a sense of closure, but at least at peace in some way toward being ghosted.
Last week I was surprised to see this video by a friend of mine, Andy, which was inspired by my original blogpost, and I thought it gave a good opportunity to touch base on what I’ve discovered and how I feel since that last post, and to touch on some of the points Andy made in his video.
Again, I was genuinely touched that my post inspired Andy’s video, which I feel was greatly positive and captured the core points really well. I think there is a lot of confusion and misunderstanding of ghosting as a nascent phenomenon that has been made all the easier to do, and easier to notice you’ve been the victim of, through social media. The internet really does make disconnecting from someone as easy as clicking a button, but I feel that it also allows people to avoid a social responsibility or callback that would perhaps exist if they saw the person every day, or lived nearby.
And for me, especially, seeing a wall erected between me and someone I had a pretty deep and meaningful friendship with appear overnight was probably the most shattering part of it. When it comes out of nowhere, and with no explanation, it hurts the most; for me, relating to my own story of ghosting, I thought things were on the positive with this person and still, 18 months later, they refuse to answer any questions about it. How is that acceptable? Well, it isn’t; and I’m ok with that.
Andy, in his video, reflects on his own experience which I saw the parallels of in my story – he had a friend, a best friend in fact, who would go out of their way to not ghost them, but made moves that gave mixed messages. Not sharing a new contact number, or email address, and not explaining why. I feel that’s insidious – as much as we all hate confrontation, when it comes to interpersonal relationships, especially friendships, I just feel to lead someone up the garden path when they are unaware of the twisted rationale behind it is quite discourteous. If you’ve made the choice to end a friendship then I feel it’s at the very least disrespectful to not be open and honest about that.
When you communicate through a screen, you can say whatever you want to someone, or completely ignore them, without having to physically face the consequences of seeing their heart break, or hearing their voice whimper when you tell them it’s over.
People aren’t disposable, and being ghosted made me feel like I was, and I feel that was one of the worst feelings it was possible to experience, especially when I was mentally fragile to begin with. For me, it led to a lot of resentment and, worse, it led me to question myself in the worst possible ways. What did I do wrong? What’s going on? Which leads to well, bad people get treated like this, so I must be a bad person. The self-doubt that it instils bred depression and low self-esteem, a rut that I’ve only just felt strong enough to come out of. You can’t help but, in the face of no facts to the contrary, blame yourself and that quickly leads to dark places. I’m only glad that I can say I triumphed over those dark feelings and I can look back and recognise that – I’ve never felt as mentally strong as I do now, but I’m not going to deny that the journey was painful and tortuous, both for myself and the friends that were there to support me.
With ghosting, it’s easy, as Andy said in his video, to try to deflect some of the responsibility back to the person who was ghosted, but this isn’t helpful, and it just makes the damage the ghosting has done worse. I had it with my own post, where an associate of my ghoster decided to anonymously comment, trying to do that very same thing, to try to justify their friend’s actions. They were simply missing the point.
If you’re feeling like you’ve drifted apart from a friend (which is normal and fine, these things happen), or they’re doing things that they’re subconsciously unaware are irritating, or you can no longer countenance their different (but totally valid) opinions because somehow you want a pure echo chamber on your Facebook, and are emotionally immature to the point where you can’t handle that difference, the least you can do is give them the courtesy of telling them, especially for a long-term relationship or friendship. Courtesy costs nothing, and failing that basic social premise will invalidate any beef you had. You don’t just up sticks and disappear, as that just isn’t justifiable, whatever you may think. As before, it’s emotional and psychological bullying, plain and simple.
Psychologically, we’re abandoning someone, betraying their trust, and leaving them completely in the dark as to what happened and why we left.
When we’ve been ghosted, before the anger sets in, we turn inwards and blame ourselves.
Did I do something wrong? Am I too clingy? … Is my radar broken? Am I unlovable? There’s so much mental anguish that goes into over-analyzing what happened. It’s soul-crushingly painful.
Ghosting impacts our self-esteem and self-worth. It can lead to depression, which affects our sleep, appetite, concentration at work, and desire to be around friends. It can also cause anxiety in which we obsess and ruminate about what happened, feel on edge, and are filled with worry and insecurity.
Whereas I’ve accepted the criticism, the friend that ghosted me hasn’t. That’s really sad. They chose to shift the emotional responsibility, and that’s just wrong. It’s indefensible, it’s immature and it’s just cruel, ultimately – I found it very difficult to deal with, and it’s insidious. Like Andy, who had a best friend who seemingly didn’t know how to do the decent thing and end the friendship, not with a blazing row, but with a calm discussion, respectful and civil; unlike Andy, I suppose my ghoster skipped straight to the “erasing from existence” phase; whether that was more or less “cruel” is entirely another question. With either case, there’s no answers, no closure, no tying up of matters. And with long-term friendships, especially deep and meaningful ones, I think ghosting is even less acceptable than it is for, example, after a relationship or when dating – it’s that sudden, unilateral severing of an emotional relationship that causes that pain.
But what do I aim to achieve with these posts? Partly they’re an open letter – yes, if my ghoster dropped me a message tomorrow, I’d listen. To be honest, I’d probably forgive, but listening is the start. I’d have that conversation. I don’t want to shout at them, or vent; I’d rather I helped them understand that their conscious choice of actions, to “duck the issue”, did more harm than good. Yes I have been angry, I do feel they’ve been “immature” and “cowardly”, but those are just words, and I don’t think, especially in my case, words should be held against me, especially out of context. I do think they’re scared because they know they let me down, but they never gave me the chance to explain how I felt and to make reparations. It’d be a hard conversation, sure, but it would also be cathartic and, I feel, a good opportunity to part on less ignoble and ugly terms, especially context taken into account.
I don’t see the point in grudges; fair to say I have been angry, I have been resentful but I don’t have any energy left for that. I’m honest about my flaws and I’m open – I just want them to understand about the harm they have caused me, not to make them feel guilty, but to hopefully enrich their own life so that they don’t, inadvertently or not, do this again. As no-one deserves to be ghosted. Some deal with it better than others, but I am proud to say I am a survivor and I still feel mightily empowered, and I hope that my advice continues to inspire people to realise that it doesn’t have to negatively impact them.
Ghosting, like I said before, says more about the ghoster than those being ghosted. Courtesy costs nothing, and the rise of ghosting as an apparent “acceptable” way of ending interpersonal relationships in the digital age… it’s a side of the times that I’m not keen on. But talking about it, being open and realising, first and foremost, that if you’re being ghosted, it’s not your fault; and, if you’re ghosting, yes that’s a bad choice, and you shouldn’t, but you shouldn’t run from those whose emotional judgement you’re probably seeking to avoid. Accept that you are, which is the first step. The second? Message them, be optimistic, open and at least try to open a dialog? Because, ultimately, even after a month, a year or more, what do you have to lose? You may even be surprised!
But in either case, I don’t believe there’s an emotional chasm too wide to at least attempt to bridge. So then, even after this long a time, what do you have to lose?