Who Ya Gonna Call? The Psychology Behind Ghosting on Apps
Updated: Aug 19
Spooky season may be in full swing but don’t let the ghouls get you down! Offleash’d is here to help you learn all the tricks of the relationship game so you can treat yourself to amazing new connections. This Halloween, we will be breaking down the psychology behind the most haunting trend on social media: Ghosting. *Cue Ghostbusters Theme Song*
Ghosting is defined as “the practice of suddenly ending all contact with a person without explanation, especially in a romantic relationship.” It is not a new phenomenon, but with the advent of dating apps, ghosting has become an inescapable part of our society’s lexicon. Many of those who are active on social networking apps will most likely have been ghosted or have done the ghosting at some point in time. It has become so common that we often don’t blink twice when it happens, but does this detached mentality actually erase the feelings of shame, regret, confusion, or hurt we may feel on a subconscious level?
The most recognizable form of ghosting often occurs via online mediums like messaging when the other person fails to respond and the match ‘fizzles out’. It is often a matter of convenience, especially when a face-to-face interaction has yet to occur, as there are fewer perceived consequences to ending something that to certain parties never officially began. According to Tara Collins, an associate professor of psychology at Winthrop University, in our new era of dating, “people go on dates with someone they would have never met otherwise. Without a social network tying two strangers together, it’s easier to just drop everything and vanish without any consequences.”
Since most messaging is done asynchronously, meaning that communication is not happening in real-time, ghosting occurs much more frequently as both parties have time to assess the situation and respond on their own terms, if at all. The discordant timeline, while offering freedom and flexibility to some, can be misleading to others.
For those who have been ghosted, the loss of communication and ambiguity of the cause can leave them confused and hurt. In an article written for the Thought Catalog, Heidi Preibe chronicled what it felt like to be ghosted for the first time, stating that “it still felt a bit like someone had punched me in the gut when it happened. The disregard is insulting. The lack of closure is maddening. You move on, but not before your self-esteem takes a hit.” Ghosting doesn’t just end a conversation, it can jumpstart a vicious cycle that disrupts the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of those involved. Since it has become such a common practice, these negative impacts are often overlooked, but upon closer inspection, ghosting actually says more about the personality of the ghoster than the person they’ve left on read.
Collins explains that “ghosting is most similar to the avoidance and the mediated communication strategies”, where a person with an avoidant attachment style tends to avoid getting too close or emotionally attached. This in turn leads them to see ghosting as the best course of action when dealing with a relationship they don’t see a future in. In a perfect world, people would be honest about their feelings and address them head-on regardless of how uncomfortable the situation may be. But we are not living in a perfect world, and humans by nature are flawed and multi-faceted. We have been shaped by people, culture, and the world around us which dictates how we respond to certain situations.
Our culture today, especially in the United States, is moderated by time. It is ingrained in us from an early age to always be working towards a goal, that slowing down is the enemy of progress. So, when we come across people or situations that do not meet our needs, we do not have the patience to nurture a connection. Instead, we move on to the next, because in a world interconnected by apps and the internet, there are infinite possibilities for who or what comes ‘next’. Ghosting itself is neither good nor evil, it is simply a product of our fast-paced, impersonal media-centric culture.
So how do we combat ghosting? At Offleash’d, we believe it all starts with quality, personable connections. Using a specially tailored algorithm to match people based on shared interests and values, we hope to decrease the likelihood of ghosting by providing a platform for more meaningful relationships. And we can’t forget about the important role that our pets play in this strategy. Our goal from the very beginning has been to learn from animals – to create a community based on the compassion, respect, and unconditional love that animals personify.
Ghosting, like many things in life, is not just seen in black and white or right vs. wrong. Every situation offers the opportunity for growth, where you can learn more about your own strengths and how your actions affect those around you.
So, don’t settle for the scaries who can’t text back. Your perfect boo is out there waiting for you. (Too many puns? Ok, ok, we'll stop. For now.)
Have a safe and happy Halloween!!