Dr. Helen

Is 'Ghosting' on the Rise?

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I was standing in line at the grocery store and picked up a “Psychology Today” magazine that had a provocative headline on the front: “Have You Been Ghosted?” The line moved too quickly for me to read the article so I found a similar one online called “Why You’ve Been Ghosted”:

You meet someone you’re into, and you’re pretty sure that they are into you too. You chat, and maybe even meet up in person a few times. Suddenly, and seemingly out of nowhere, they’re gone. You quell your anxieties, “It hasn’t been that long.” But as the hours go by, you begin to wonder what happened. Not before long self-doubt enters the picture. “What did I do?” You might find yourself rereading what you wrote, reflecting on what you said, and reviewing your every move. This unexpected event has you more preoccupied than you were before. With racing thoughts and a slew of emotions, it begins to haunt you.

If this sounds familiar, odds are you’ve been ghosted. Abrupt endings to relationships are not at all new, but in the past, common in-person interactions made it less likely to leave a guessing game of causes….

Dating back to 2006, the concept of ghosting is still rather new and, perhaps unsurprisingly, there is a lack of empirical research on the phenomenon. Nevertheless, it is possible that ghosting may be on the rise. In a 2014 poll of one thousand American adults, 81% said they had not been ghosted while 83% claimed they had not ghosted someone. Recognizing the potential lack of familiarity with the phrase, 5% shared they were unsure of whether they were ghosted while 6% noted they were unsure if they had ghosted someone. Two years later, Plenty of Fish polled 800 millennial daters between the ages of 18 and 33 and 78% of respondents shared they had been ghosted. Abrupt endings may not be new, but modern communication in dating may make the digital disappearing act much easier.

So the digital world makes it easier to “ghost someone” because you can just stop responding.

But there are many unanswered questions about “ghosting.”

Who is being ghosted more often these days? Men or women? I hear from women that men often don’t show up for dates or if they do, they seem uninterested. Is it more prevalent now? Are men the new ghosters? Or is it that people don’t want to deal with anything unpleasant these days and just stop responding rather than have an unpleasant social interaction? As we grow more distant from each other and treat people in more utilitarian ways, it is not surprising that ghosting is on the rise.