Don’t you just hate it when you’re texting someone and they don’t respond, or they take FOR-E-VER to get back to you? Maybe they take the better part of a day, a full 24 hours to reply, or a week and then blame it on their phone.
Or even worse, you know someone, you talk and text with them all the time, and then, one day you send a message and there is no response. So you follow up a few days later and still no response.
By now you’re thinking, “Did they die or something?”
No, no, my friend. You’ve just been ghosted.
Ghost (v): When someone falls off the face of the earth, hypothetically speaking of course. All communication is cut off; mainly digital communication.
Simmer (v): When someone takes a while to respond, not because they didn’t see your message, but for their own added benefit and suspense.
Ice (v): Similar to ghosting, but instead they re-appears months later as if nothing had happened.
So maybe you can tell from my vivid descriptions and the definitions that I’ve had my fair share of communication issues and have been ghosted a time or two. Maybe you’re thinking, “Wow, this is relatable.” It’s unfortunate that much of our communication in society has dwindled down to completely or partially ignoring people as an acceptable response.
But with that said, would you hate me if I said, I’ve been the one to do the ghosting? Okay, before you burn me at the stake, think about it, you probably have too. Maybe you haven’t completely ghosted someone, but you’ve most likely simmered them. You know where you wait a little bit to respond because you’re “so busy,” or you don’t want to seem “too eager.”
We’ve all done it a time or two, but what I really want to know is where did this come from and why is it happening?
*Disclaimer: In this story, my friend is of the opposite sex, but our friendship was platonic.*
As I established above, I have been ghosted before, and yes, it sucks, but no ghosting hurt quite as much as the performed by one of my closest friends at the time. We’d been friends for about three years and I couldn’t have valued our friendship more if I tried.
It’s safe to say that in the latter years of our friendship he was becoming less and less of a good texter. Days would go by between responses; sometimes 2 days, sometimes 4, and at some point, I was tired of it.
I addressed it, we cleared the air, explanations were made, followed by apologies for the misunderstanding and things were good. Things were good until about 6 months later when he fell back into that habit of not responding. This time it was even worse. Weeks would go by before I’d get a response.
I quickly recognized that we had been down this road before. But in an effort to maintain the friendship, or what was left of it, I brushed it off. I mean you can maintain a friendship without communication, right?
Um… NO! YOU CAN’T. But the rationalized idea I had in my head said I could so that had to be true, right?
What was left of the friendship came to a screeching halt when a natural disaster hit a part of the country my friend was in, or at least I thought he might have been affected. I sent a text to make sure everything was okay.
One day went by… no response.
Two days went by… no response.
A week went by… no response.
Then I logged on to Twitter and saw him tweeting about the new Game of Thrones episode.
I was done.
I had my answers. He was fine and that was great. But the status of our friendship wasn’t. If you’re not going to respond to a text about your safety, I don’t know what you’re going to respond to.
From there I proceeded to do the only thing that really made sense to me. I feel off the face of the Earth. Well, at least to him I did. I blocked his number and social media accounts, and I deleted him for anything that would leave the slightest trace that we even knew each other. This happened in October and nothing has changed since. He’s still blocked, we still don’t talk, and I have no idea if he’s tried to get in touch with me.
I can’t speak to why he ghosted or simmered me like he did, but I can speak to why I ghosted him.
Simply put, it was time for me to value myself over our broken friendship.
I knew that if he reached out to me I would be inclined to respond because that’s what normal, respectful people do. But I wasn’t trying to be normal or respectful. That ship had sailed.
Treat people the way you want to be treated.
I deleted and blocked him because if you don’t teach people how to treat you, they’ll treat you any kind of way, and that wasn’t something I wanted to sign myself up for.
Why do we ghost?
Short answer: I don’t really know.
Long answer: I think we ghost people because living in a digital age has made disconnecting from people on a physical and emotional level, a lot easier. Who cares if you don’t respond? You won’t have to see the disappointment on the other person’s face. Or realize the consequences of your actions.
Or maybe it’s because we’ve gotten really bad about expressing what our top priorities are. Instead of saying, “Hey, I would love to chat, but it’s going to have to wait because you’re not my top priority right now,” we say “Oh, I’m so busy,” or “My phone’s been acting up,” or we just don’t respond at all. But let’s be honest, saying, “you’re not my top priority,” is like ripping off a band-aid, while not responding is like a dull ache that hurts for days, weeks, years…ouch!
I mean, you wouldn’t ignore someone asking you a question in person. But let’s pretend you did, you would have to sit there and deal with the consequences that come with not responding. That person would be able to rebut. You would be able to hear their anger, discontentment, or possibly indifference. Regardless, it would affect you because you’d actually be able to see it.
Being ghosted sucks no matter if it’s a colleague, best friend, family member or romantic partner, but it happens all the time and can happen in any of these relationships. I guess my advice is to think twice before you ghost, simmer, or ice someone. How would you feel if it were you?
This post was inspired by two podcast episodes created by the NPR podcast, Note to Self. I highly recommend you listen to them as they had a lot of insight into why people do this, the effects of it, and much more.
The first one is called Ghosting, Simmering, and Icing with Esther Perel and the second one is I Didn’t See Your Text. The second one was my favorite and Esther Perel is my new hero. She hit the nail right on the head when it came to this topic.
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Until next time, get up, get moving and live your best life.