Given the accessibility of instant communication tools, we are constantly bombarded with messages from friends, family, and significant others, making it challenging to disconnect. With multiple social media profiles and methods of contact available, cutting off communication with someone has become increasingly difficult. Ghosting, which involves terminating a relationship by abruptly ceasing communication without explanation, has become more common in dating over the past decade. The practice raises questions about the negative impact on the ghoster. With a significant percentage of young people reporting both ghosting and being ghosted, the topic is worthy of exploration. Researchers at the University of Vienna have delved into not just romantic ghosting but also the phenomenon of ghosting friends.
Over the course of two surveys conducted four months apart, 978 participants completed the initial survey, with roughly 415 participants completing the second survey. The participants were on average 19 years old and comprised 54.81% females and 44.48% males in the first survey, and 58.31% females and 41.69% males in the second survey. The study involved inquiring about the frequency of participants breaking off contact with friends and romantic partners, while being cautious not to use the term “ghosting”. Additionally, participants were asked to evaluate their level of communication overload.
Interestingly, the study revealed that the act of ghosting did not seem to impact participants’ self-esteem over time, regardless of whether they ghosted a friend or a romantic partner. However, those who reported ghosting their friends in the first survey were more likely to experience depressive tendencies in the second survey. Lastly, the study found that older participants were more prone to ghosting their romantic partners, while highly educated participants were less likely to do so. The findings also suggested that communication overload was a significant predictor of ghosting within romantic relationships, but not within friendships. In other words, participants tended to ghost their romantic partners when they felt overwhelmed, but not their friends. Conversely, participants with higher self-esteem were more likely to ghost their friends, but not their romantic partners.
Of course, as with all studies this one too had limitations. The study used self-reported data, a narrow definition of ghosting, a short follow-up period, and a sample that may not generalize to other demographics. While the findings provide some insight into the factors associated with ghosting, caution is warranted in interpreting them. Further research is needed to explore the motives, contexts, and impacts of ghosting in diverse populations and over longer periods of time.