‘Ghosting’, the relationship phenomenon which involves the practice of ending a personal relationship with someone by suddenly and without explanation withdrawing from all communication, has taken the world by storm.
This extends to both dating and friendships as well as the professional world.
A new study has found that a whopping 84% of Gen Z and millennials have been ghosted.
The research, conducted by the Thriving Center of Psychology, provides insight into how and why more people are resorting to ‘ghosting’ in their relationships than ever before. They also found that women were more prone to ghost someone than men.
The US group practice, which offers comprehensive mental health practice in-person and in virtual care, has revealed in their latest survey that one of the main reasons people ghost is because they are no longer interested in a particular relationship and that they want to avoid confrontation.
The research found that other causes include being stressed or overwhelmed by expectations.
In addition, nearly one in three of the surveyed participants shared that they do it because they’re struggling with mental health. And after being ghosted, many of them said that the most common emotions they feel are confusion, sadness, hurt, disappointment and annoyance.
Clinical psychologist Alexander Alvarado explained that these emotions are not uncommon when it comes to ghosting.
“The high rate of reciprocal ghosting may be due to a cyclical emotional pattern,” she said.
“Once people experience the discomfort of being ghosted, they might unconsciously adopt the same behaviour as a self-defence mechanism, thinking that it’s better to disengage first than risk emotional harm.”
Alvarado explained that one of the possible motivations for ghosting was people’s struggle to deal with relationship dynamics.
“Once people experience the discomfort of being ghosted, they might unconsciously adopt the same behaviour as a self-defence mechanism,” she said.
Despite all this, three in four of the participants said that they believe that ghosting is appropriate in certain situations, and nearly two in three have ghosted someone else. This phenomenon is referred to as “reciprocal ghosting”.
And while some said that they feel respite rather than regret, 86% admitted to feeling relief, many of those women (91%) over men (80%). But just less than half felt regret for ghosting, and just about seven in 10 felt guilty for it.
The Thriving Center of Psychology has also found that this trend is also having a clear impact on friendships, with half having been ghosted by a close friend.
This is as the survey also found that 49% ghosted a friendship to avoid confrontation. In addition, one in three of the study’s participants said that they believed that ghosting was not bad, while 86% admitted to feeling relief after they ghosted someone.
Meanwhile, 65% said that they had ghosted someone while and three in four thought ghosting was acceptable depending on the circumstances.
Other interesting findings from the survey was that more Gen Zers (77%) have ghosted than Millennials (61%) and that two in three think ghosting is a by-product of online dating.
“People report being ghosted most often before the first date, but some people still disappear without a trace after meeting in person,” Alvarado said.
The survey found that about one in four have been ghosted after the first date or after a couple of dates. And shockingly, one in 10 shared they’ve been ghosted after a couple of months of dating.
“Ghosting has made it such a pain that 30% of singles are fed up with dating in 2023,” Alvarado said.
Meanwhile, marriage and family therapist Lindsay Huckaba said that she believes that many ghost others because that can feel like the “easiest” option at the time with the resources they have.
“I recommend that people directly communicate what they are feeling and thinking,” she recommended.
“It is normal to not feel compatibility or connection with every person we meet and letting someone know this can give them clarity and understanding around the relationship.”
Meanwhile, the act of ghosting also extends to the working world as one in four of the Thriving Center of Psychology participants said, that they had ghosted a workplace by quitting without notice or explanation.
In addition, while one in six admitted to ghosting a prospective employer during the interview process, most people shared actually the employers doing the ghosting. The research found that more than two in five have been ghosted by a prospective employer, most commonly in the interview stage.
One in four also admitted to ghosting a workplace by quitting without notice or explanation.
And as for prospective workers, the main reasons they ghost a workplace is because they just don’t want the job anymore, they’ve got another job, or had a bad interview experience.
“You’ve probably heard the phrase, ‘Don’t burn bridges’, but some have ignored that advice when it comes to their career,” Alvarado said.
For the research, The Thriving Center of Psychology interviewed 1014 Gen Z’s and millennials in August this year for their study about the act of ghosting and how it’s impacted their lives.
Respondents ranged in age from 18 to 42 with an average age of 32. 49% were male, 49% were female, and 2% were non-binary. 75% of respondents identified as heterosexual, 17% as bisexual, 3% as gay, 2% as lesbian, and 3% as other.
For the report, the Thriving Center of Psychology analysed Google search volume of 418 terms related to ghosting such as ‘why do men ghost you’, ‘what does ghosting people mean’, ‘am I being ghosted’ over the period from July 2020 to July 2023.