About 8 years ago, when I was still in university, I met a lady online. Let’s call her Diva. Diva was also a student – but at another institution. Diva and I clicked. We talked almost every day. Our conversations were smooth, and we resonated on several levels. The best part was that we lived in the same city and were even making plans to meet when the semester ended. But then she ghosted.
One day, Diva stopped responding to my messages, and later on, she blocked me (I think). When I look back, I can’t say it was entirely her fault – I was inexperienced and confused. But I can only imagine the reasons she ghosted. Back then, I couldn’t make sense of it, leaving me confused and in a strange form of pain.
I tried reaching out several times and on several different platforms, but I never got a hold of her. Years after that incident, I still hoped to see her in the city whenever I returned from school. To this day, I haven’t heard from her, and I probably never will.
To some degree, for a while, it made me question my self-worth – like, if Diva could cut me off like that, perhaps I am not really the kind of guy a lady would like to hang out with.
What is ghosting?
Ghosting is the act of abruptly ending all communication with someone without explanation. When someone ghosts you, they stop responding to your texts, calls, emails, and social media messages. They may go as far as to block you on social media (so you stop seeing their posts) or delete your number from their phone. Like a wisp of smoke, they vanish into the ether, leaving you scratching your head, wondering if you both really had anything in the first place.
Even though ghosting can happen in a lot of settings, it is particularly hurtful if it is done by a friend or someone you have a romantic relationship with. For me and Diva, it was a friendship that was slowly turning romantic. Or so I thought.
What does it mean if my friend is ghosting me?
It is normal to think that you were ghosted because of your fault – maybe something you said (or didn’t say), did (or didn’t do), or lacked (or owned). But, just like rejection, ghosting actually has more to do with the other person than it does with you. Yes, you might have actually said, done, or lacked something, but it was still the person’s decision to cut you off without even giving any reason.
The truth is that ghosting is immature, rude, and disrespectful. It shows a lack of consideration for the other person’s emotions and well-being. It leaves the person who was ghosted feeling confused, disregarded, devalued and hurt.
If a friend is ghosting you, it could mean that;
Your friend may fear confrontation:
Some people are just really afraid of or uncomfortable with confrontation. They don’t like having difficult conversations, and they’d rather avoid them altogether. Ghosting is a way to do that.
I’ve had instances when a friend would message me directly asking me why I said something or didn’t say something. Usually, I find this very uncomfortable and would rather it didn’t happen. But, for the sake of our friendship, I face the discomfort rather than ghost them. Such confrontation often leads to better understanding and strengthens the friendship.
Your friend may have communication issues:
Perhaps your friend has challenges communicating their feelings. They might not know how to say what they need to say, or they might be afraid of how you will react.
I won’t lie; I’ve felt the urge to ghost several people both online and offline. Like many people, males and females occasionally hit on me, and I often don’t know how to tell most of them that I am not interested. It is usually worse when I manage to tell them, and they still try to persuade me. But rather than ghosting, I’ve found that holding my ground respectfully helps what I said sink in. I also don’t do anything – like calling them sweet names or accepting gifts – that might make them think I have some interest.
Your friend may be emotionally immature:
Your friend may, like a child, be unable to properly handle their emotions or comprehend how their actions affect your feelings. They may ghost you because they don’t want to face responsibility for their actions or get into uncomfortable situations.
Over the years, I’ve had a couple of female friends who have turned down my advances. And even though I felt like cutting them off from my life (either to save face or dampen the pain of rejection), I’ve found that getting over my ego (because that’s where the hurt emanates) and embracing the richness of just being friends has been far more rewarding. Who knows, you might even end up being friends with benefits 😉
Your friend may have low empathy:
Research has found that people who are low on (or lack) empathy are more likely to ghost (or think it is the right approach). This is because they have a hard time understanding how their actions affect others, or they might just not care (enough).
Of course, even though this is sort of their nature, they can actually seek the support of a mental health professional and work on this. This is another reason why sometimes when people hurt you, you shouldn’t internalize the problem – don’t blame yourself.
Your friend may have commitment issues:
Some people are afraid of commitment (and I am one of them). They don’t want to get too close to someone, so they ghost as soon as they notice the friendship is getting too good.
I am exceedingly slow in making friends. And even when I do, I hardly get intimate with them (which makes most of my friends consider me stoic or unfeeling). When I see someone trying too hard to be friends with me, I often feel the urge to lose them like you’d lose the cops in Grand Theft Auto. Other times, I just think about the huge responsibility that comes with being a good friend, and I just feel debuffed about the whole thing. You see? Commitment issues.
Your friend may have an unsuitable mindset:
Some people believe that relationships are either meant to work or they’re not. If they’re not working, they’ll just ghost and move on. In fact, two studies found that people who believe that relationships are predetermined (destiny beliefs) are more likely to ghost than people who believe that relationships can grow and change (growth beliefs).
Even though I am of the opinion that you shouldn’t beat a dead horse, I still won’t ignore someone putting in the energy. I’ve found that being open-minded and allowing relationships to grow often proves beneficial for both parties (because in such cases, both parties tend to pay attention and appreciate the good in each other).
Your friend may be seeking self-protection:
In some cases, ghosting is a way to protect oneself. From what? Well, they may choose to protect themselves from rejection, criticism, or negative reactions (from you).
A lot of people would rather run away from negative reactions than face them. Why do you think people are deathly afraid of public speaking? For example, when a friend owes you money and can’t repay (at the moment), rather than face you, they may just start ghosting. And one thing about avoiding someone is that it leads to more avoidance (because now they begin to fear how you might react after they ghosted you. Yes, they know it’s offensive).
Your friend may have a problematic attachment style:
Attachment styles are ways of relating to others that are formed in early childhood, and they can also influence our tendency to ghost. People with avoidant attachment styles tend to avoid intimacy, so they might ghost to keep people at a distance.
Just like the issue of lack of empathy, you shouldn’t take it personally as such a friend might need to do some work on themselves or seek help from a professional.
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How do you react to being ghosted by a friend?
Having known all we’ve discussed above, how would you react to being ghosted by a friend? Perhaps you might feel angry, confused, or hurt. Those are all natural feelings. But it is important that you don’t allow them to consume or overwhelm you. And you do that by detaching yourself from the problem (because you really aren’t the problem).
Of course, the way you will respond to a friend who is ghosting you after taking your money will vary from a friend who ghosted you for no apparent reason. In the first instance, it might make sense to let your friend know that they should stop trying to avoid you because of the money, or that you might have to take legal action. While in the latter, any effort to contact them may just prove futile. In either case, the likelihood of getting a response from them is quite low (so keep your expectations low).
Most times, all you can do is accept things as they are. Some people are not ready to be your friend (at least, at the moment), and that’s okay. In all, it is important to react to being ghosted by a friend with understanding, acceptance, and compassion, rather than sadness, confusion, or rage.
How to act around someone who ghosted you?
Needless to say, the person who ghosted you didn’t literally disappear. They are still somewhere living their life and interacting with other humans. And, as they say, the world is a small place, which means you can accidentally bump into them (in real life or online). Sometimes, you might see them chatting with a new friend (or lover), and this might make you implode (to start questioning your self-worth). And this feeling can nudge you to go message or confront them. But you should resist that urge. This is because you wouldn’t get a satisfactory answer or any answer at all. Worst-case scenario, you create a scene or get a public embarrassment.
Hence, when you encounter a friend who ghosted you:
Stay Calm and Collected:
It’s natural to feel a mix of emotions – you may feel a bit excited, shocked, and angry all at once. But remember that you are not your feelings. Reacting negatively can escalate the situation and make you feel worse. So, take a deep breath and maintain your composure. Shift your focus to other positive things in your life and don’t let the encounter ruin your day.
Stay Friendly and Civil:
There’s no need to be rude or confrontational to the person who ghosted you. Just be polite and civil, as you would with any other acquaintance. A smile, nod, or greeting is okay. You don’t have to hug or start sticking close to them. In fact, it is best to treat them as you would a stranger you just met – friendly but not friends.
Keep the Interaction Brief:
Perhaps you’re in close proximity or even have to work together. In such cases, you don’t have to strike up a conversation, nor do you have to entertain a lengthy one. In fact, if you’re uncomfortable or unsure about how to proceed, simply excuse yourself (remember, there is seldom a gun to your head to do something or stay in a place). You can say something like, “It was nice seeing you again, but I have to go now,” or “I’m glad to see you’re doing well. I have to run, but it was nice catching up.”
Avoid Bringing Up the Ghosting:
Unless the other person brings up the ghosting, it’s best to avoid discussing it. Bringing it up will only make things more awkward. If the person does bring up the ghosting, you can choose to address it calmly and rationally or simply express that you’d rather not discuss it at the moment.
Focus on Your Own Well-being:
Prioritize your well-being and mental health. If the interaction becomes too uncomfortable, find a polite way to exit the situation. You can say something like, “I don’t want to talk about this now.”.
Should I forgive a friend who ghosted me?
If you’ve genuinely worried about the person who ghosted you, only to realize that they are alright and just didn’t want to talk to you anymore, you may feel the desire to make them regret ghosting you. You might even vow never to forgive them.
The truth is that some people are really toxic or broken, and you need to be careful not to get caught in their net the second time. Some ghosters may come back for selfish reasons – perhaps they are bored, miss something you offered, or want something else from you. Other times, they are still being controlled by unconscious forces they haven’t uncovered or overcome – like trauma, unhealthy mindsets, past experiences, and so on.
In other cases, the ghoster might not even know that they ghosted you – they may not know what you thought of your relationship with them (or your needs in the existing relationship). Or, they may have actually been in trouble, lost their phones, or were dealing with a hard time (and didn’t want to drag you into it). In short, they may have a genuine reason that you might not have thought of in a thousand years.
So, before you decide whether to forgive or not, consider;
How close were you to the person?
If you were close friends, it may be more difficult to forgive them (because of the so many things – such as trust and emotional investment – they undermined). However, if you were only casual friends, it may be easier to let go (because they really didn’t owe you their full commitment).
Why did they ghost you?
If they had a good reason, such as a personal crisis, mental health struggles, or relationship conflict it may be easier to forgive them. However, if they ghosted you for no reason or for a bad reason, like maybe they made some money and decided to switch crowds, it may be harder to forgive them.
Patterns of Behavior:
Consider whether ghosting is part of a pattern of behaviour in your friendship. If it’s an isolated incident and your friend has shown genuine remorse and willingness to make amends, forgiveness may be more appropriate. Sometimes, people really do learn from their mistakes.
Conclusion: Don’t be afraid of the ghosts, and always be there for yourself.
I don’t like depending on others for support, whether it’s for academics, emotions, finances, and so on. I studied intensely for my exams, learned to cook, acquired a high-income skill, and more. I am working on becoming self-reliant to the extent that I don’t necessarily need my friends’ help to survive. However, that doesn’t mean I don’t value my friends. In fact, I find them extremely valuable because I believe that with them, I will not only survive but also thrive!
I think the problem arises when we excessively rely on others for support. Take, for instance, the passing of a loved one. Do you truly need a hundred condolence messages? You really don’t need any, especially not on social media. Yes, receiving some messages may make the healing process easier, but if you absolutely depend on them to begin healing, then something is amiss.
Even if you’re emotionally attached to someone, always remind yourself that you can lose them, regardless of how. The truth is that, no matter how long you’ve had a relationship with someone, there’s always a chance they will leave when you least expect it, whether through ghosting or due to unfortunate circumstances like death. It’s a harsh reality, but it’s also a part of life.
Be comfortable with the possibility of losing people. Establish and maintain your standards with firm boundaries. Don’t be the one who is so lacking in confidence, needy, and dependent that you crumble when someone decides to leave without providing a reason. Develop yourself to the point where you are confident that if they are leaving, then it is their choice, not a reflection of your worth.
Here are some content you might find relevant:
- Gain Confidence In Yourself With These 10 Tips
- How To Overcome Shyness [And Attract People]
- 10 Steps For Resolving Conflicts With Your Friend
- How To Build Social Connections (With 13 Conversation Ideas)
- 5 Reasons To End A Friendship [& 10 Ways to Effectively Do So]
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