When your boo becomes a ghost
You message, You video call, perhaps even meet, and then as if by magic you never hear from them again. We are, of course, talking about ghosting, the modern-day dumping technique that’s is driving people in relationships crazy, Anna Mwikali explores.
They all have a similar script. After months of searching, you finally find someone who lasts more than one date.
The chemistry is obvious and the vibes just right. The butterflies in your belly are giving you the green light to invest your real emotions.
Then boom! It happens.
The communication suddenly stops, and you feel a little anxious.
At first, you convince yourself to play it cool. “Maybe he forgot his charger somewhere or maybe she just forgot to hit send. Whatever, just chill,” you think.
So you play it cool and several days pass by as you wait and wonder, as you give them ‘time’ so that the burgeoning relationship can ‘breathe.’
But then, two weeks go, and you wonder if they were struck by lightning and whether you should look for their relatives.
You feel stupid, angry and betrayed. Above all, you just feel sad. What’s worse is how you’re starting to second-guess everything, including your instincts.
Random beeps on your phone stop your heart and electrifying you with false hope, all while you begrudgingly prepare yourself for the let-down that’s become all-too-common in this dating-app age. You try to convince yourself you don’t care, but you know you do.
Sound familiar? Boo, you’ve been ghosted.
Be it a friend or person you’re dating, when someone you care for ‘ghosts’ you or abandons you disappearing in thin air without an explanation, it’s a dreadful, dreadful feeling.
Ghosting according to the Oxford dictionary is the practice of ending a personal relationship with someone by suddenly and without explanation withdrawing from all communication.
HOW I WAS GHOSTED
It is the act of disappearing without a trace. It is when someone you care about suddenly goes out of reach with no explanation, no text, no email, no call, just zip!
Despite being prevalent, ghosting has a drastic emotional impact on a victim and could be utterly fatal to those with fragile self-esteem.
Evelyn Ibrahim narrates her ghosting experience that happened early this year with heaviness.
A 28-year-old single teacher working with Brookside Montessori School, Evelyn met John Dorian (not his real name) through an online dating app and they hit it off right away.
She felt like he was her perfect match; late-night chats and dainty phone calls quickly became their everyday norm for three months.
Though they had not met in person, Evelyn felt deeply connected to John; he was her night in shining armour.
After weeks of online dating, the two lovebirds decided to get out of the shadows and go on their first date; a cordial dinner full of passion and romance.
“The experience was reassuring,” claims Evelyn. “John painted a vivid picture of “our’ future together, and I ate it all up out of his palm like an unsuspecting puppy.”
The daily chats and video calls continued for a week after their date and then poof! He vanished.
“My texts went unanswered, and his phone always busy whenever I tried to call him. A few days in, I assumed he had issues with his cellphone or it was stolen,” she recalls.
“I would shun every negative thought that kept creeping into my mind, but my heart continued sinking,” she narrates.
But two weeks without any form of communication from a guy who couldn’t keep away was a strong hint for Evelyn to read between the lines; she had been ghosted!
“The whole experience was demoralising! I felt used and betrayed beyond comprehension, and the worse thing is I didn’t get any closure.”
Evelyn’s case is just a drop in the ocean for hundreds of people who go through similar ghosting experiences.
Edith Njoki Gichine a counsellor working with Amani Counselling Centre and Training Institute explains that ghosters are solely self-centred and avoid emotional confrontations even at the expense of the other party’s feelings.
Moreover, the lack of communal social networks for those who meet online means the social impact of vanishing out of another person’s life are fewer if not nil.
“Technically, the more someone gets ghosted, the more they become desensitised to the exploit and the more likely they are to ghost someone else,” Edith asserts.
TELL TALE SIGNS
To which Lydia Mueni, another psychologist agrees. She says you can get a sense early on of what kind of individual you’re dealing with.
“There’s no checklist, but watching how people treat others is a good indicator,” she points out adding, “Ghosting has a lot to do with someone’s comfort level and how they deal with their emotions.
A lot of people anticipate that talking about how they feel is going to be a confrontation. That mental expectation makes people want to avoid things that make them uncomfortable.”
She says in the dating world where people are meeting a lot of people outside of their social circles, it creates a level of feeling that you don’t have a lot of accountability if you ghost someone.
“Their friends don’t know your friends so it’s easy to do if you’re never going to run into them again in real life,” she explains.
But why does ghosting hurt so much? Studies have shown that social rejection of any kind be it by friends or partner if it had feelings, activates the same pain pathways in the brain as physical pain, meaning there’s a biological link between rejection and pain.
First, Edith describes ghosting as the endmost utilisation of ‘silent treatment’, which psychologists refer to as ‘emotional cruelty’.
It ideally renders the victim, voiceless and with no chance to ask probing questions to help emotionally digest the whole episode.
“The victim’s self-esteem is utterly crushed because he or she is silenced from expressing one’s emotions and being considered,” she explains.
Secondly, ghosting not only makes you question the relationship you had with the ghoster, but also yourself.
You ask yourself endless questions such as “why didn’t I anticipate this eventuality?”
“How could I judge this person so poorly?” And the most common “what did I do to deserve this?’
“If a person already has low-self-esteem or goes through several ghostings, the encounter may likely be 10 times worse, and he or she takes even longer to recover than one who has been ghosted once,” explains Edith, adding.
“This is because the natural opioid (pain reliever) let out in the brain after a social rejection is lower for individuals with low self-worth,” Edith adds.
Thirdly, ghosting leaves one confused with no clue of how to react as it paints the ultimate picture of ambiguity.
“Is the other party sick or have they lost their phone?” “Should I be scared, worried or upset?”
“Perhaps they are just preoccupied and will be calling me any time soon.” You don’t know how to behave because you have no clue what is going on!
She explains that social connection is of extreme importance to human beings, particularly now that our movements and eventful gatherings are limited. People are finding phone calls, texts and video calls to be very valuable.
Staying connected, she says helps our brains search for social cues in our environment to let us know how to react in social settings.
Still, ghosting strips one of these apparent cues, which eventually creates a sense of emotional imbalance.
“Irrespective of the ghoster’s intention, ghosting is a passive-aggressive selfish tactic that leaves the victim with mental wounds and scars,” attests Edith.
As for Evelyn, despite not seeking professional help, she eventually forgave her not-so-charming prince and moved on.
“It took roughly a month battling with endless thoughts, but I had to make up my mind to march on,” she affirms, adding “I convinced myself that I deserved the best relationship, and I wouldn’t shut my heart from such a beautiful opportunity because of a mere bump on the road.”