When you google the term “ghosting”, this is the result:
The fact that the second definition even exits is a clear indication of the commonality of the phenomenon of ghosting. The practice of leaving someone you’ve been involved with “by suddenly and without explanation withdrawing from all communication” is obviously not a rare occurrence if it’s warranted a dictionary definition. That’s problematic. (Yes, I will continue to use that oversaturated word until things stop being problematic.)
To be ghosted is to enter a state of insecurity, confusion, and self-doubt. You call your entire relationship into question, wondering what you could have possibly done to get yourself ghosted. And when you can’t distinguish a particular moment or mistake, you blame yourself entirely.
When I was properly ghosted for the first time, I’d been dating a tech analyst from San Francisco. We’d been on 3 great dates and I wanted to hang out again before I left the Bay area to return home to New York.
Hey, hope work is going well 🙂 Plans tonight?
I’d sent that message at 5:56 PM on a Friday evening and waited until about 7:00PM to start making excuses for him.
“It’s totally acceptable that he didn’t respond yet,” I reassured myself. “He’s probably just had a long day and hasn’t been able to check his phone yet.”
While in the process of being ghosted, I often play this game where I come up with extremely improbable reasons as to why the person couldn’t respond to my message. I’ve become very good at this game. Although, I do wonder what I should take away from the fact that none of the justifications that I create for their lack of communication ever illustrates me as the cause.
“He probably broke his phone and that’s why he can’t text me back. No wait, he probably broke his hand, because if it were just his phone, he could have DM’d me on Instagram from his laptop. It’s gotta be a broken hand.”
“He probably deactivated his cell service because he’s so woke and wanted to disconnect in order to live an authentic life separate from the superficiality of social media. I admire him for that.”
“He probably saw the message and was so taken by my cuteness that he couldn’t even bring himself to respond. I’m just too much.”
Well, I was right about one thing, he’d definitely seen it. He left me on read.
I should have ended the whole thing as soon as I’d seen that he’d had his read receipts on. The only people that I’ve encounter in my life who have their reads on are my mother and boys who’ve wanted to snatch my soul.
Not only had he seen the message, he’s had time to think about it and still not respond. That is some premeditated shit; it’s not right. But still, I allowed my delusions to persist and gave him the benefit of the doubt. I decided to forgo the drama and wait until the morning for his reply.
It never came.
At this point, I began to get nervous. I tried to entertain my mind with more possible excuses for him being so unresponsive but, the anxiety was beginning to set in.
Up until that point, we’d been texting every day. Little things, but consistently. This abrupt change in dialogue threw me. Had something happened? I didn’t know what to think so I made an executive decision: wait until Sunday to send another message, just to check in.
When Sunday rolled around, there was still no word from him but I saw that he had liked a few Instagram posts. I felt a little better knowing that he was still indeed alive, but I still couldn’t understand why he hadn’t responded to my message.
I waited until Sunday night to send the “check-in” message.
Hey, how’s your weekend been?
Once again, he read the message and didn’t respond. At this point, I was a little agitated. I know that he had seen my message but what? He acknowledged that it was there and then chose not to respond? Something was obviously going on. I was missing a key piece of information.
So I did what any sane person would: I took to social media to stalk him and see if I could figure out what was going on.
What I found was downright diabolical.
He’d posted stories, statuses, pictures, had been tagged in other people’s pictures, the works. He wasn’t busy, he was just avoiding me.
I played our last encounter over and over again in my head, scrutinizing every detail. Had I made him mad? Did I say something stupid? Did I insult him without knowing? I couldn’t think of anything that would cause him to give me the silent treatment. I decided to bite the bullet and send one more message.
Hey, everything good?
So at this point, I’d sent 3 unanswered texts but had 3,000 questions about what was going on. How does something go from sending a “good morning” text every single day to not responding at all?
I convinced myself that he must have his reasons for not responding and that he would explain himself in time. But the end of my summer in San Fran was approaching and I couldn’t bear the thought of just leaving without saying goodbye.
The day before I left, I sent the final message.
Yo so it’s my last day here and I’d really like to see you again before I leave. I’ll be at Fort Mason all day if you’re free and can come say goodbye.
On the 9-hour plane ride home, the reality of the situation finally set in: I’d been ghosted.
I went through phases of anger, confusion, insecurity, apathy. I didn’t know how to feel. What is the coping protocol when someone whom you cared about decides that you just don’t exist to them anymore?
I’m sure he had his reasons for ghosting me, but communication would have been a much better alternative.
The phenomenon of ghosting is an indication that we’ve lost our ability to reason with and relate to one another. It’s vitally important, especially in a time when we are so divided and polarized by our beliefs, to communicate rather than shutting each other out. Honest and open dialogue with all the people who you are involved with should be standard protocol. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve known someone or whether or not you see a future with them; they are a human being who deserves honesty and the respect of an explanation.
As a woman of color, ghosting cuts even deeper. I am already marginalized and unrecognized in certain spaces. To share a personal relationship with someone and to then be blatantly ignored by them motivates a fear of invisibility that is already present and relentless. Seeing someone, acknowledging that they exist, and communicating with them is the basis of human interaction. If you deny someone of that, they may feel insignificant and even dehumanized.
I am worth the trouble of an explanation simply because I am a human being who deserves one. *mic drop