First, it’s just one text that goes unanswered.
Then, it’s 10. Your calls go to voicemail and the silence grows deeper by the minute. You may start to worry: Could something have happened to your friend? What else could explain their sudden disappearance?
Eventually, a social media update or a mutual friend will give you the answer. Your former confidant is alive and well.
But they have just vanished from your life. They are ghosting you.
Ghosting, which means cutting off all communication without offering an explanation, has only recently entered the popular lexicon. But it’s a behavior likely as old as human interactions have existed.
The term originated in the context of dating, but ghosting also occurs in friendships and is even becoming a noticeable trend in professional relationships.
A number of employers “said that they had been ghosted, a situation in which a worker stops coming to work without notice and then is impossible to contact,” the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago noted in December’s Beige Book, a report tracking employment trends.
Ghosting is common and can happen to anyone.
A study of 1,300 people, published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships in 2018, found that about a quarter of the participants had been ghosted by a partner, while one-fifth reported that they had ghosted someone themselves.
Ghosting in friendships may be even more common; more than a third of study participants reported that they had ghosted a friend or had been ghosted by one.
These figures may be even higher, as another 2018 survey found that 65 percent of participants reported previously ghosting a partner, and 72 percent reported that their partner had ghosted them.
Ghosting is a strategy that may have gained popularity via new technology, as texting, online dating and social media have changed the way people connect, as well as how romantic partners find each other.
Today, people can go on dates with someone they would have never met otherwise, rather than meeting them at a corner store or at their friends’ gatherings.
Without a mutual social network tying two strangers together, it’s easier to just drop everything and vanish without any consequences, Tara Collins, an associate professor ofpsychology at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, South Carolina, told LiveScience.
美国南卡罗来纳州石山市温所普大学心理学系的副教授Tara Collins告诉Live Science，没有了共同的社交网络维系两个陌生人，人们很容易就会抛下一段关系并就此消失。
When being ghosted, people often take it to reflect on themselves — their own wrong behavior, imperfections and flaws. But ghosting actually reveals more about the personality of the ghoster than the ghostee.
“The people who do not like to have emotional closeness, they’re probably more likely to ghost,” Collins said.
But there are many other factors and personality traits involved in leading people to ghost.
In a 2018 study, researchers divided people into: those who have a fixed mindset about the future, believe in destiny and think that a relationship is either meant to be or not; and those who have a growth mindset and believe relationships take work to grow.
People with stronger destiny beliefs were 60 percent more likely than the other group to see ghosting as an acceptable way to end a relationship and were more likely to do it.
Those with stronger growth beliefs were 40 percent less likely than the destiny group to say that ghosting was acceptable, according to the study, which was published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships.
Lack of communication leaves people in a mind-boggling limbo where they don’t know how to act and respond.
“Social cues allow us to regulate our own behavior accordingly, but ghosting deprives you of these usual clues and can create a sense of emotional dysregulation where you feel out of control,” Jennice Vilhauer, psychologist at Emory University, wrote in Psychology Today.
All of this can be particularly difficult for people who are sensitive to feelings of uncertainty and ambiguity.
These people not only have to manage the pain of rejection but also face the stress generated by the mountain of unresolved questions — Was it something they did that ended the relationship? Did they offend their friend? Did their partner leave them for someone else?