The Psychology of Ghosting: 5 Facts You Need to Know

Of course, people have been abruptly cutting off relationships forever—and not only their romantic relationships but also their friendships, even their family ties. The difference is that, before the internet, you might still have been bumping into that person because you’d originally met through friends, family, coworkers. The potential awkwardness was usually enough to make people work out their differences, have the conversation, and move forward accordingly. But now, with more singles than ever meeting online and therefore having no mutual social connections, it’s all too easy to hit “unmatch” and pretend nothing ever happened. Why is it easy? Because often the other person is simply an avatar, a handful of photos a few lines’ worth of a bio. And even if you’ve met up—even if you’ve been dating for months—there’s still that crucial lack of common social ground. You’re done with this person but can’t face telling them you’re done? No worries! One tap of the screen and poof. They. Are. Gone.

…Except, they’re not gone. Not really. Because they’re a human being—and ghosting has psychological consequences. If you’re reading this you may already know that, having experienced ghosting yourself. Or perhaps you’re considering being the ghoster because it’s simply the easy way out. And hey, sometimes it can even be the right way out, the only way out. Why? Because meeting people online means having no prior knowledge of their disposition, and if you’ve got involved with someone scarily intense then you may feel you have no option but to ghost, because any attempt at letting them down gently will only magnify their intensity. But even then, it’s best to be honest with yourself and be informed about what you’re doing. That’s why today I’m laying out 5 facts about the psychology of ghosting.

1. There are different levels to ghosting

We can quibble over what counts as ghosting—and some people do, when they’re trying to figure out whether they have indeed been ghosted or rather just brushed off. Consider the following scenarios. At what point does the action becomes ghosting?

  • You exchange numbers at a bar but never get a response to that first fateful “Hello”
  • You exchange messages on a dating app for a few days, then they fall silent
  • You message for weeks, then they delete their account (or unmatch you—you’ll never know)
  • You go on a few dates and things seem to be going well—then you never hear from them again
  • You date for months—then they drop off the face of the earth

2. Ghosting may reflect their issues, not yours

Before you have a crisis over what you did or “what this all means,” it’s worth remembering that ghosting may not be remotely personal. Perhaps they just weren’t ready, or weren’t mature enough to tell you they had too much other stuff going on in their life right now. At the end of the day, remember: If someone you thought could be right for you has it in them to ghost you, to disregard your feelings and the dynamic you’ve both built—then they were not right for you. You deserve better, do you not?

3. People react very differently to ghosting

Being ghosted is a miserable experience, but some people respond better than others. That might be because they have more dating options, or are more confident in their romantic prospects, or else just accept that “That’s life” and can move on without too much fuss. But some people do react more aggressively, and will continue pursuing the ghoster as much as possible. This is what I was alluding to in the intro when I said ghosting can sometimes be the only logical way out of a relationship with someone you realize is far too intense for you, or even has stalking tendencies.

4. Ghosting can be pretty damaging to your self-worth

Ghosting can leave people reeling emotionally, unsure of what they did and what happened. Those who have suffered in the past with low self-esteem or abandonment issues may not take well to this new sense of rejection, as it may exacerbate their underlying struggles. If they already had difficulty trusting but had put their faith in the other person, well—that distrust has just been amplified manyfold.

5. Ghosting can hurt like hell

There’s no escaping the fact: Ghosting is a net-negative behavior. Even if you’re the one doing the ghosting, it’s not great. At best it’s a get-out-of-jail-free card for a burgeoning relationship that was already unhealthy. At worst you risk normalizing a lack of empathy in yourself. And if you’re on the receiving end, you feel disposable, disrespected, and fundamentally unwanted. Of course, none of those things may be true—but the very nature of ghosting means you’ll never find out why they did it. There’s no closure—and that can be pretty damaging psychologically.

In an era of online dating and increasingly atomized singles, it often feels like hitting Hinge, Bumble, or Tinder is the only way to meet someone. It can seem like the risk of ghosting is an inevitable evil—but it doesn’t have to be that way. There are lots of people out there who want to date “organically,” meeting a handful of special singles with whom they have incredible compatibility and a shared outlook on the world, the future, and their lives. And we should know—we work with them every day!

Maclynn is a boutique, multi-award-winning introductions agency with offices in New York, New Jersey, California, and London. We’re world-renowned for bringing together highly compatible singles within our vast network of attractive, intelligent professionals, and our matchmakers are relationship experts in their own right. Get in touch today, and prepare for genuinely meaningful dating—just like you deserve.