January 28, 2019
Now you see them (and hear from them); now you don’t. In friendships, familial relationships, work situations, and, yes, romantic partnerships, “ghosting” has become the no-warning, no-fuss, no-closure way to exit.
Even job candidates have been known to ghost scheduled interviews in a thriving economy.
But how common is ghosting, how do people feel about it, and who is likely to do it? New research by Gili Freedman of Dartmouth College and colleagues Darcey N. Powel of Roanoke College, and Benjamin Le of Haverford College—published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships—explores these questions. The team conducted two large-scale online surveys of American adults. The first included 554 participants; the second, 747.2
The second study also examined ghosting in friendships and found that it was somewhat more common: 31.7% had ghosted a friend, and 38.6% had been ghosted by a friend.
It’s no surprise that most people found ghosting to be an unacceptable way to end a relationship. However, how acceptable people found it to be depended on the type of relationship. In the first study, 28% of respondents felt it was acceptable to ghost after just one date, whereas only 4.7% believed that it was an acceptable way to end a long-term romantic relationship.
When it came to short-term relationships, 19.5% tjhought that ghosting was acceptable. In addition, the majority of participants (69.1%) said that knowing someone had ghosted a romantic partner would make them think more negatively of that person.
Respondents also generally believed that ghosting friends was not that acceptable, but they typically commented that it was more acceptable to ghost friends than romantic partners.
This is consistent with other research in which participants were asked how they felt about being on the receiving end of various break-up methods. Iin that study, cutting off contact was considered one of the least desirable ways to end a relationship.3
What individuals are most likely to ghost? The research showed that those higher in destiny beliefs—those who thought a relation either is “meant to be” or not—were more likely to think that ghosting was acceptable and were less likely to think poorly of the ghoster. What’s more, they also were likely to report that they would consider ghosting as a viable option for breaking up with a partner and to say that they had ghosted someone in the past.
Interestingly enough, the extent to which participants endorsed growth beliefs—those that thought that relationships take work—was, for the most part, not related to their ghosting behavior or attitudes.
It is likely that there are many other characteristics that predict ghosting, Psychology Today said.
Past research has shown that those who are insecure in their relationships tend to feel stronger negative emotions during conflict and experience more stress after a conflict, the news outlet reported. So those who are insecurely attached may be more likely to ghost as a way to avoid the upsetting experience and aftermath of conflict.
Finally, the newer research also does not answer the question of whether ghosting has become more common in the modern age of texting and social media. It is reasonable to assume it has, Psychology Today says—given the large role that electronic communication plays in relationships. A partner’s ghosting may be the first sign that something is wrong, and once you’ve been ghosted, you may be unlikely to seek an in-person confrontation.
Ghosting may also be easier to get away with in certain modern relationship contexts. For example, online dating has become increasingly popular—with about 25% of young adults using it as a way to meet new partners. Without a mutual social network tying you to a partner, it may be a lot easier to just disappear and not be held accountable.
The magazine warns, if you’re considering taking the easy way out of a relationship, realize that ghosting will not only hurt your partner, but is likely to hurt your reputation.
Research contact: @psychologytoday