- Some may choose to end communication by ghosting as they feel it is safer than confrontation.
- Higher demand for interaction in romantic relationships makes ghosting seem like a viable option.
- While ghosting may offer short-term relief, it can have detrimental long-term effects.
A new study published in Telematics and Informatics delves into the factors that lead to ghosting in friendships and romantic relationships. The study suggests that communication overload increases the likelihood of ghosting romantic partners, while high self-esteem predicts ghosting friends, with ghosting friends leading to higher depressive tendencies over time.
“Ghosting refers to a one-sided termination of communication without explanation,” says Michaela Forrai of the University of Vienna, Austria, and the lead author of the study. “I was inspired to study ghosting after I (like almost every other young person) had some personal experiences both as a ghoster and a ghostee.”
The study hypothesized that ghosting can occur due to a variety of factors, including:
- Relational reasons: This refers to how the ghoster perceives the relationship with the ghostee before ghosting. For example, some ghosters did not view the romantic relationship as serious, leading them to choose to ghost as a way to end communication.
- Situational reasons: This indicates that, in some situations, ghosting occurs more frequently than in others. For instance, some individuals prefer ghosting as a method of ending communication on dating apps, while it may be less common among co-workers who interact regularly.
- Self-protective reasons: Ghosters may choose to end communication by ghosting as they feel it is a safer option than confronting the ghostee. Past disrespectful or abusive behavior by the ghostee can contribute to this decision.
- Cognitive reasons: People’s limited capacity to process information can lead to non-responsiveness. For instance, individuals may not respond when they perceive a high volume of messages and feel overwhelmed.
- Self-conceptual reasons: Individual dispositions can also play a role in ghosting. For example, in the study, depressive tendencies were hypothesized to increase the likelihood of ghosting due to avoidance behavior.
To investigate the phenomenon of ghosting, the researchers conducted a two-wave panel survey that examined ghosting behavior within friendships and romantic relationships. The survey included well-being indicators and was repeated after four months to assess predictive factors and the long-term impact of ghosting.
The study uncovered several interesting findings with respect to the predictors of ghosting:
- Communication overload was found to increase the likelihood of ghosting romantic partners but not friends. Higher demands of interaction in romantic relationships can be difficult to manage, thereby making ghosting a more viable option.
- Depressive tendencies did not significantly contribute to ghosting behavior, contradicting the assumption that such tendencies would increase avoidant behavior.
- Individuals with high self-esteem were more prone to ghosting friends, but self-esteem did not play a significant role in ghosting romantic partners. This disparity might be due to the fact that people generally have more friends than romantic partners, making it easier for those with high self-esteem to selectively maintain contact.
For those who tend to ghost others, Forrai emphasized three key takeaways from the research:
- Maintain social connections. It is crucial for overall well-being, and ghosters might be inadvertently depriving themselves of the positive benefits derived from relationships.
- Communicate transparently. While ghosting may offer short-term relief from explaining oneself, it can have detrimental long-term effects. Even when you are busy or overwhelmed, let the other person know to prevent guilt and negative repercussions.
- Reflect on your actions. Those who repeatedly engage in ghosting behaviors should reflect on their actions, not only to protect ghostees from psychological harm but also for their own mental health.
And, for individuals on the receiving end of ghosting, Forrai had the following advice:
- Do your best to redirect your attention to other social connections or activities.
- Try to distract yourself. Shift your attention away from waiting for a response to avoid making the passing time feel even longer. Engaging in other activities or focusing on different aspects of your life can help alleviate the impact of being ghosted.
- Try not to take it too personally. Sometimes, there are external factors that contribute to ghosting, such as when people receive so many messages that they simply don’t have the time to get back to everyone or when a message gets buried by accident.
“I personally try to remind myself that being ghosted doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s my fault,” says Forrai.
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