By, Natasha Radmehr
This year, I’ve read approximately 2,396 articles on ghosting, the term given to the act of disappearing on someone – normally someone you’ve matched with on a dating site or have gone on a few dates with – without explanation. It’s not a new phenomenon, but 2018 became the year you could finally buy a ‘ghosted’ Halloween costume: a dress designed to look like a phone screen displaying a series of unanswered texts, more terrifying to many than the idea of an actual ghost. Except unlike ghosts, ghosting is very real. A study by Plenty of Fish a couple of years ago found that 78 percent of millennials believe they have been ghosted. Curtain down, dramatic spin, jazz hands: I’m one of them.
I’m only adding my take to the pile because I’ve not seen anyone write about how it feels to be ghosted by someone you’ve been friends with for many years, which is the predicament I currently find myself in. Ghosting of any kind is hurtful, but uniquely so when the person doing it has been – was – an important part of your life for over a decade.
At first, it felt more like a classic case of drifting apart. They were always busy, I was always busy. (FYI, the word ‘busy’ is cancelled for 2019. It’s busy, being a dickhead.) The gap between us meeting up was widening, but we still messaged and called one another regularly. A few of my close friendships are like this, especially the long-distance ones, so it didn’t raise any alarms.
But then they started taking longer and longer to reply to messages. And then they just stopped replying altogether. One day I opened our chat to see I’d sent four messages over the course of four months that had been read and ignored without even a cursory ‘haha’. It reminded me of when I dinghy a creepy guy then screenshot his messages to ask my pals why he won’t take the hint. This time, I was the creep.
Was I being a pest? Had I unwittingly said or done something offensive? Did I watch too much Coronation Street like the girl I fell out with at primary school because I preferred playing
outside? I haven’t a clue, because I’ve just been left hanging without explanation. The last message I sent was fairly innocuous – a stupid meme that I’m now zooming in on in case there’s a swastika hidden in one of the pixels. At least if we’d had a massive argument, the radio silence would make sense. Instead I’m left wondering what went wrong, and pride prevents me from sending another blue box into the ether.
It’s easy to get nostalgic for a pre-smartphone era; to assume that things like this never used to happen when they certainly did, but social media makes it sting so much more. A few decades ago, if my pal wasn’t returning my calls, voicemails or pigeon post, I could tell myself they had tragically died and move on with my life until I bumped into them in Asda. Now, I have to contend with seeing them post on social media a few times a week, comment on other people’s pictures and make major life announcements that previously I’d have been privy to before they told the world. Of course, I could just unfriend them, but then they’d rewrite the story of what had happened to absolve their own guilt: “Oh, Natasha? Dunno man, she just deleted me.”
I’m prone to dwell on the ghosts of Christmas past at this time of year, and to get a bit down; particularly if I don’t hear from someone who means a lot to me. I’m sure many of you do the same. But in a season so focused on giving to everyone around you, don’t forget to give yourself a break. If you’ve been ghosted, it’s because the other person is rude. Exorcise them from your brain. They might be the ones haunted by it in the end.