Single in the City is a reoccurring column on Philly Happening that will appear on Wednesdays. It chronicles a single thirty-something, new to the Philadelphia, searching for friendship, love, and her place in this vibrant city.
Ghost Busting: The Truth About Ghosting and Why Ghosters Aren’t Worth Your Time
Well, it’s been awhile. Single in the City has been on hiatus since June, but it is officially back. You can once again expect to find fresh, reoccurring content. In the next few months, you can expect to find advice for forming your online dating profile, how to construct those first crucial online messages, all the best places to go on first dates in Philadelphia, and some ideas for progressive dates in the city, as well. (What is a progressive date? It’s exactly what it sounds like and you’ll have to stay tuned for more details!)
Given the prolonged editorial break, with no heads-up that this disappearance was happening, the topic of “ghosting” comes to mind. No, ghosting has nothing to do with “Terror Behind Walls” at Eastern State Penitentiary. I’d actually recommend that. What I’m talking about here is people who flake out. Ghosting is when someone that you are in a relationship with, whether its casual or serious, suddenly disappears from contact without any explanation at all. No email, no phone call, no text, no nothing.
Psychology Today reported that 50 percent of men and women have been ghosted on before, or have done the ghosting themselves. I was ghosted on last year and it was one of the worst things. Ever. I’ve recently talked to more local women who have had this happen to them and it was equally devastating.
My purpose for writing about ghosting is twofold. One: I have never formally shared my ghosting experience and I would like for other people who are going through this to know that they aren’t alone and that things will be okay! And Two: If there is a ghoster out there reading this, or someone who is considering ghosting, maybe this column will help them to understand how terrible ghosting makes the other person feel and maybe this will prevent it from happening again.
So the question is, why do people ghost? I have to admit that this concept is hard for me to comprehend, but this is why I think it happens. Ghosting typically occurs when the ghoster doesn’t want to be in the relationship anymore, but doesn’t have the courage to be honest, and doesn’t want to face conflict, so just stops talking. It’s easier for the ghoster to spare his/her own feelings than to consider the feelings of the person he/she is flaking on.
And as for how the ghostee feels, it’s soul-crushing. The confusion, assumptions, second guessing and hurt that results from this scenario is maddening—and heartbreaking.
Ghosting is far worse than a conventional breakup, in most cases, because at least with a conventional breakup, you typically have a conversation with the person you’re breaking up with. You typically know the reasons why you’re ending things; you don’t just one day, out of nowhere, never hear from the person again.
For some reason, people who are ghosting think that the way to solve the problem is by not facing the problem. By ignoring the problem, the problem will just go away. Well, yeah, sure, eventually all problems fade in time, but in how much time and at how much expense to the other person?
Let me paint this picture for you in a couple different scenarios.
In the past I worked as a recruiter for a financial firm. Sometimes I would interview people who were interested in the job, but after delving a little deeper, I would realize that that they weren’t the best fit for the role. What I would do then is immediately contact them and let them know that we wouldn’t be continuing with the interview process for this reason and that reason. It wasn’t easy to do, especially if I had a good connection with the candidate and genuinely liked them, but then that was all the more reason to be honest with them. This was not only considerate, it was professional.
Now on the flipside, sometimes a candidates would decide that they weren’t interested in the role. Instead of letting me know, they would just drop off the map. They would stop returning phone calls and emails and were never seen or heard from again. I always found this perplexing. As a recruiter, you understand that not everyone will be interested in the role and you receive tons of a rejections a day. It was not a big deal to be rejected, but it was a big deal to not be informed. That was not only inconsiderate, it was unprofessional.
Workplace ghosting at its finest happened to a co-worker of mine. She had recruited a really talented candidate, who had a fun and quirky personality. The two of them had a great rapport from the start. In one of their interviews they discovered that they both enjoyed running and the candidate was nice enough to share a list of local running clubs with her.
This candidate made it all the way through our four-step selection process and was given an offer. He was always very responsive to my co-worker throughout the process. He was scheduled to start training with our company on a Monday.
Well, Monday came and went and this candidate did not show. He did not call or email to explain his absence, and all calls and emails to him went unanswered. This was very uncharacteristic, given his previous behavior, and his good rapport with my co-worker.
He did not show the next day, or the next. By Wednesday, it was clear that he was never going to show.
I can clearly remember the range of emotions from my colleague.
At first, she was genuinely concerned. Was he okay? She knew that he had gone on his honeymoon the week before training. Did something happen while he was away? Did something happen with his flight? Did he get sick?
Then she started thinking of scenarios of what could have gone wrong.
Maybe they had the dates mixed up and he was on his honeymoon during the training week, which would explain why he couldn’t be reached? Maybe something had happened to his phone? Maybe there was a death in the family? (She even checked the obituaries to make sure that he wasn’t listed!)
Then her emotions turned to confusion.
Why wouldn’t he call her? Why wouldn’t he email her? Hadn’t they had a good relationship? This didn’t seem like something he would do? Couldn’t he have just sent her a quick message?
Then her emotions turned to self-doubt.
Was she not clear about when training started? Was she not worth taking seriously? Hadn’t she done a good job recruiting him? Was it something she said? Was it something she did?
Then she became frustrated because his not showing up had actually affected her professionally.
He was going to be her first recruit, which was a really big deal for her because this was a new job. She was embarrassed that she had given this candidate such a high billing to her boss and then he never showed.
And then her emotions turned to anger.
How could he do this to her? It was fine if he changed his mind, but how could he just not say anything??? How hard was it to send an email? How could he be so rude?
Then she saw that he posted something on his Linked-In feed, so she knew for sure that he was in fact alive (!!) and active online. He had clearly seen all her messages and was now just ignoring her. It felt like a slap in the face.
If the candidate had been honest with my colleague, she would have understood. Sure, she would have been disappointed at first, but if he had given her his reasons, the situation would have made sense, and she probably would have moved on in the next day or two. Instead, with no communication from him, her emotions spanned for well over a week, causing her a lot of undue distress.
In handling the situation this way, the candidate proved his character more than any reference check ever could. He wouldn’t have been the type of employee that we would have wanted anyway. In the end, he did us a favor.
The rollercoaster of emotions in this workplace ghosting scenario closely mirrors what it feels like to be ghosted on in a relationship. Except it hurts so much more in the relationship scenario because your heart is involved.
In my case, the ghoster and I had corresponded with for more than a year and we had spent a significant amount of time together. He went so far as to invite me to his city to visit in the summer.
In person, looking me in the eye, my ghoster made up a story about how great it would be if I could spend time with him at this place, and that place, and we could go out on his boat!
Oh wow! How flattered and excited I felt that this person wanted to invite me to all these places with him and spend so much time with me! Little did I know, as his Exterra pulled out of my street and disappeared down the road, that I would never see or hear from him again.
After weeks of radio silence, the reality of the situation started to set in and I tearfully crafted an email to a good friend:
It has now been ONE MONTH since I last saw him and he has never once reached out to say so much as hello.
Is there even an excuse for that? No matter how busy he is, the truth is that it takes ONE SECOND to send a text message.
A few of my friends think that he invited me to hang out with him this summer just to appease me. They think he never had any intention of following through on this, but he just made something up so as to not hurt my feelings, rather than be truthful and have to face an awkward conversation in that moment.
Seriously? Do you really think that’s what this is? I can’t even wrap my mind around that level of deception and duplicity. I can’t imagine that he would look me in the face and lie. He’s 30, not 3, but unfortunately, maybe that’s the same thing.
I feel manipulated, played, and so disappointed. It’s incredibly cliché, but I thought he was different.
I wrote that email a little more than 15 months ago and this much has become clear. Sometimes a person’s silence tells you more about them than their words ever could. Their disappearing act says little about you and volumes about them.
There are countless times in your dating life that you will truly believe that someone is “different.” However, if someone doesn’t have the courage and the decency to make the effort to talk to you and tell you the truth, then that person is not “different,” but is exactly the same as all the other ones who were not right for you.
The person who is truly “different” is one who doesn’t even have to think about making this choice but just innately knows that being open and honest with someone you care about is what it means to be a good human. When you find this person, all the ghosts of your past will begin to fade.