by Kellie Whitehead
My dearly departed Nan used to collect friends. One other woman would become like a right arm, they’d be together constantly, daily even. Then whoosh...
Gone, finished, never to be spoken of again. I never brought it up with her properly, wouldn’t dare, but essentially, I think she got bored. Like a toddler with a toy. Only these are more than adults, and ‘ghosting’ friends is a thing.
Defined as cutting off all communication without warning - ‘Ghosting’ of adult friends is obviously not a new phenomenon but there is definitely something a bit contradictory about its prevalence in a day and age where there is literally nowhere to hide.
It can be unintentional of course – there is always that forgetful, flighty person, the one who takes days to respond to messages if at all, but is still ‘there’ Others just have super poor communication skills. Pulling a quick ‘fade’, to them, feels easier than having an actual conversation or airing issues, like an adult human should. But if it’s happened to you, you’ll know that whatever the impetus your own ghost has, it doesn’t dampen your confusion, disappointment, or even heartache.
It’s happened to me twice by the same person. I’m pretty self aware and have great intuition. I knew that this person was capable of such before she did it to me. But I loved her, we were super close and had a lot in common. When she ‘blocked’ the first time, nothing and I mean *nothing* had happened to make me think I had done anything wrong, and yes, I spent hours and days pondering. I knew it was her issue, but it hurt, I was genuinely heartbroken for the loss. I’m resilient with good social skills, but I was so hurt I was genuinely terrified of ever bumping into her locally as I really had no idea what I would say. I wasn’t in a forgiving mood. She was out of order. Months later, whatsapp pings and there she is meekly. I’m sorry, she says, I was just having one of those days. I was in a forgiving mood. I enjoyed our friendship and I had missed her. I didn’t have to jump back in, but I was at peace with it all now, and so we continued. Until again, out of the blue. This time, 5 years later there is no going back. I even think that if I did see her again, I would probably blank her. Not at all my style, but I will not be begging or asking what I did wrong. It’s on her, and I’m okay thank you very much.
People simply don’t know how to express themselves adequately, and the pandemic has ‘sped things up’ - relationships, changes, breakdowns, positive change even. Things that would take years to occur gradually. ‘Cancelled’ friendships seem to be a by-product of those simply trying to avoid having any kind of conversation leading to conflict or discomfort, so they avoid it entirely.
And it sucks. And it is immature. When we are ghosted, we are left feeling rejected or inadequate. It’s not fair to be left without closure or explanation.
How can we deal with being ghosted? Head-on or move on seems to me to be the only answer. Don’t forget that you are very unlikely to get an answer out of someone who has, well, stopped answering. It makes it more painful when you simply do not know what happened. You want to be able to apologise for or explain something you may or may not have done. What is vital is to understand that another's behaviour is of no reflection on you or your own self-worth.
Moving on isn’t easy, but it’s necessary. Hopefully, the person isn’t someone who needs to see often in real life. I appreciate it if it is, this makes it so much harder. Remember though, that even if this abrupt end is down to something you may have said or done unwittingly, the other party is at fault by not giving you the respect to discuss, resolve or simply level up. Keep the upper hand. go about your business as usual. It can help to unfriend/follow on social media platforms too – especially if having them there as a reminder may make you feel worse.
Let it be a reminder to never be the ‘ghoster’ yourself. Sometimes relationships come to a natural end, sure, or you are bonded only by a particular circumstance that might now be over. Never an excuse not to message back and be an adult about things though is there? No is a complete sentence. We are all adults, and we need to act like it, online or off.