Ghosting (relationships)

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Ghosting is a colloquial term used to describe the practice of ceasing all communication and contact with a partner, friend, or similar individual without any apparent warning or justification and subsequently ignoring any attempts to reach out or communication made by said partner, friend, or individual.[1][2] The term originated in the early 2000s. In the following decade, media reported a rise in ghosting, which has been attributed to the increasing use of social media and online dating apps.

Origin of term[edit]

The term is used in the context of online exchanges,[3] and became popular by 2015 through numerous articles on high-profile celebrity relationship dissolutions,[4][5] and went on to be widely used. It has been the subject of numerous articles[6] and discussions[7] on dating and relationships in various media. It was included in the Collins English Dictionary in 2015.[8]

In popular culture[edit]

Ghosting appears to be becoming more common.[9][10] Various explanations have been suggested, but social media is often blamed,[11] as are dating apps and the relative anonymity and isolation in modern-day dating and hookup culture, which make it easier to sever contact with few social repercussions.[12] In addition, the more commonplace the behaviour becomes, the more individuals can become desensitised to it.[13] Others have suggested that it is due to the decline of empathy in society, along with the promotion of a more selfish, narcissistic culture.[14]

Ghosting is not limited to only intimate relationship contexts. It can also happen between friends or even family members,[15] and be practiced by employers with prospective candidates.

In personal relationships[edit]

Ghosting may be especially hurtful to those on the receiving end, causing feelings of ostracism and rejection. Some mental health professionals consider ghosting to be a passive-aggressive form of emotional abuse, a type of silent treatment or stonewalling behaviour, and emotional cruelty.[13]

In his article, "In Defense of Ghosting", Alexander Abad-Santos states: "the thing that undermines these diatribes against ghosting is that...[we] know what happened with their ghost. It just didn't work out and sometimes we just can't accept it."[16] He continues: "[a]t the heart of it, ghosting is as clear as any other form of rejection. The reason we complain about it is because we wanted a different outcome ... which is totally understandable."[16]

However, this argument does not account for the inherent ambiguity in ghosting—the person being ghosted does not know whether they are being rejected for something they or somebody else did, whether the person doing it is ashamed or does not know how to break up (or is scared of hurting the other's feelings). Also the ghost may simply not want to date the victim anymore, or may have started dating someone else while keeping the ghostee as a reserve option in case a relationship does not work out with said other date, as well as they can be facing serious problems in their lives. It may become impossible to tell which it is, making it stressful and painful.[17]

Related terms and behaviors[edit]

While "ghosting" refers to "disappearing from a special someone's life mysteriously and without explanation",[18] numerous similar behaviors have been identified, that include various degrees of continued connection with a target.[19][20][21] For example, "Caspering" is a "friendly alternative to ghosting. Instead of ignoring someone, you're honest about how you feel, and let them down gently before disappearing from their lives."[22] A possible response to ghosting has been suggested with "ghostbusting": forcing the "ghoster" to reply.[23] Then there is the sentimental and positive, but also ghost-related in origin, Marleying, which is "when an ex gets in touch with you at Christmas out of nowhere". "Cloaking" is another related behavior[24] that occurs when an online match blocks you on all apps while standing you up for a date. The term was coined by Mashable journalist Rachel Thompson after she was stood up for a date by a Hinge match and blocked on all apps.[25]


In 2014, a YouGov survey was taken to see if Americans have ever ghosted their partner to end a relationship. In a 2014 survey, 1,000 US adults were interviewed about ghosting with results yielding that just over 10% of Americans have ghosted someone to break up with them.[26]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Safronova, Valeriya (2015-06-26). "Exes Explain Ghosting, the Ultimate Silent Treatment". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-02-10.
  2. ^ "Where Did the Term "Ghosted" Come From? Origin of the Web's Favorite Term for Abandonment". Mic. Retrieved 2020-02-10.
  3. ^ Bartz, Andrea & Ehrlich, Brenna (April 14, 2011). "Don't be offended by online-dating rejection". Netiquette. CNN.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  4. ^ Edwards, Stassa. "Charlize Theron Broke Up With Sean Penn By Ghosting Him". Jezebel. Retrieved 2016-02-03.
  5. ^ "Charlize Theron Gets a Black Belt in Ghosting". The Cut. Retrieved 2016-02-03.
  6. ^ "The Common 21st-Century Dating Problem No One Knows How To Deal With". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 2016-02-03.
  7. ^ Safronova, Valeriya (2015-06-26). "Exes Explain Ghosting, the Ultimate Silent Treatment". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-02-03.
  8. ^ "'Ghosting' is now in the dictionary - so is dating etiquette dead?". The Independent. Retrieved 2016-02-03.
  9. ^ Perel, Esther (2015). Stable Ambiguity and the Rise of Ghosting, Icing and Simmering.
  10. ^ "I Asked Men Why They Ghosted Me". VICE. United States. Retrieved 2016-02-03.
  11. ^ "PsycNET - DOI Landing page". doi:10.1037/1089-2699.8.4.291. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  12. ^ "And Then I Never Heard From Him Again: The Awful Rise of Ghosting". The Date Report. Archived from the original on 2014-08-20. Retrieved 2016-02-03.
  13. ^ a b "Why Ghosting Hurts So Much". Psychology Today. Retrieved 2016-02-03.
  14. ^ "It's time to bring back relationship accountability". Be Lucky In Love. Retrieved 2016-02-03.
  15. ^ "I Was Ghosted by One of My Closest Friends". Cosmopolitan. 2015-08-27. Retrieved 2016-02-03.
  16. ^ a b Abad-Santos, Alexander (24 March 2014). "In Defense of Ghosting". The Atlantic. Retrieved 9 June 2018.
  17. ^ "Why Ghosting Hurts So Much". Psychology Today. Retrieved 2016-02-03.
  18. ^ Peters, Mark. "How Tinder and OKCupid spawned a new genre of slang". Boston Globe.
  19. ^ Lanquist, Lindsey (September 29, 2017). "Breadcrumbing, Stashing, and Other Internet Dating Slang I Wish You Didn't Need to Know". Self.
  20. ^ Swantek, Samantha. "Breadcrumbing Is the New Ghosting and It's Savage AF". Cosmopolitan.
  21. ^ Alves, Glynda (May 15, 2018). "Breadcrumbing, orbiting and more: Update your dating dictionary with these new-age terms". Economic Times. India.
  22. ^ Benwell, Max (1 March 2018). "Ghosting, Caspering and six new dating terms you've never heard of". The Guardian. Retrieved 9 June 2018.
  23. ^ Benwell, Max (1 March 2018). "Ghosting, Caspering and six new dating terms you've never heard of". The Guardian. Retrieved 9 June 2018.
  24. ^ Dermentzi, Maria. "'I was cloaked.' What it's like to be blocked and stood up by your Hinge date". Mashable. Retrieved 2019-05-11.
  25. ^ Thompson, Rachel. "My Hinge match invited me to dinner and blocked me as I waited for our table". Mashable. Retrieved 2019-05-11.
  26. ^ "Poll Results: Ghosting | YouGov". Retrieved 2020-02-10.