Ghosting has been linked to a lack of psychological well-being and increased levels of distrust in a relationship.
Ghosting friends and ghosting partners are two distinct phenomena with two different causes, according to a two-wave panel survey of young adults looking at the modern age phenomenon of abruptly ending communication with others.
According to research published in the journal Telematics and Informatics, ghosting romantic partners was linked to communication overload, or receiving more messages than one can handle, and had no effect on wellbeing.
On the other hand, ghosting friends was linked to low self-esteem and increased depressive tendencies over time.
Ghosting has become a novel relationship dissolution strategy in the modern age, thanks to features of digital communication apps and devices that allow individuals to completely block contact by others.
Many, particularly youths, have firsthand knowledge of ghosting. According to studies, roughly 30% of young people have ghosted someone, 25% have been ghosted, and 44% have been in both positions.
The few studies that investigated ghosting mostly focused on being ghosted and studied it in the context of romantic relationships.
From the perspective of ghosters, study author Michaela Forrai and her colleagues wanted to investigate the factors that precede and those that develop as a result of ghosting in romantic relationships and friendships.
“My interest in the topic was sparked by seeing many people post about seemingly similar experiences with ghosting on social media,” explained Forrai, a pre-doctoral researcher within the AdMe Research Group at the University of Vienna, in a media release.
“In particular, I was intrigued by ghosting among friends as well as the perspective of ghosters, both of which have received relatively little scholarly attention. Admittedly, I have some personal experience with the topic too: Like many other people, I have also ghosted others.”
The researchers conducted surveys four months apart for their new study. The first survey’s responses from a total of 978 participants were analysed. The second survey was completed by 415 of these same individuals.
The average age of the participants was around 19 years, with slightly more females than males.
Participants were asked how frequently they ghosted others in romantic relationships as well as how frequently they ghosted others in friendships.
Researchers took care not to use the word “ghosting,” but rather to ask participants about behaviours that constitute ghosting, such as discontinuing contact with someone on social media without explaining why.
Communication overload predicts ghosting others in romantic relationships but not in friendships, according to the findings. In other words, when they were overburdened, participants ghosted romantic partners but not friends. Participants with higher self-esteem were also more likely to ghost friends, but not romantic partners.
“My co-authors Kevin Koban, Jörg Matthes and I were able to show that ghosting within friendships and ghosting within romantic relationships are separate phenomena that are rooted in different antecedents and have distinct detrimental outcomes,” Forrai explained.
“Another key result is that ghosting others can have negative effects on one’s well-being: People who stated that they had ghosted friends in the past were more likely to report increased depressive tendencies four months later. Based on these findings, we would like to encourage people to reflect on their ghosting behavior, especially within friendships, so as to avoid negative consequences for themselves as well as potential ghostees.”
Ghosting others had no effect on self-esteem over time, whether it was a friend or a romantic partner.
Participants who reported ghosting their friends in the first survey tended to be more depressed in the second. Finally, older participants were more likely to ghost their romantic partners, whereas highly educated participants were less likely.