Ghosting a friend is cowardly.
Ghosting a friend is selfish.
If a friend ghosts you, it’s all about them being a Bad Person, and not because you’ve done anything wrong.
But…. here’s the thing. One survey suggests that as many as 50% of us have been ghosted at one time or another – and the same survey shows that almost as many of us have been the one who’s done the ghosting.
Including me. I’ve ghosted people.
I felt worried about posting this article, because according to my friends on social media, ghosting is despicable, and I’m sure lots of people won’t agree with my actions.
However, I actually have two theories about ghosting.
- It’s like masturbation. Many of us do it, but nobody wants to talk about it in polite company.
- Sometimes it’s the only way to end a friendship without one or both of you being badly hurt.
Ghosting a Friend: My Story
I met Sarah (not her real name) at a social event. As a single Mum it’s hard to make friends, so I was thrilled to find someone I clicked with. Our friendship started with coffee dates and lunch. Then movies and family get-togethers and trips away.
Sarah was a lot of fun, and kind. The sort of friend who would walk your dog in the rain, or run a stupid errand to rescue you. She was really, really funny. She could make me laugh like nobody else I know.
The other thing about Sarah? She had the Worst. Luck. Ever. Seriously. If she took a flight it was delayed. If she bought a car, it caught on fire. If she went out for the day, she locked herself out of the house. Her life lurched from disaster to catastrophe.
The longer we were friends, the more I wondered if Sarah had more than bad luck; perhaps she had depression?
Certainly, she was erratic, forgetful and unreliable. At times, she’d go AWOL for days or weeks at a time. She would regularly forget small jobs or tasks, and a small problem would spiral into something far bigger. Inevitably, this would cause Sarah to blame herself and get upset, and everything just got worse over time.
As a friend, your job is to be supportive. I would offer advice, and practical support and sympathy where I could. And I regularly reminded myself that if Sarah was struggling with depression (although she never agreed with this) then she was doing the best she could in a challenging situation. But watching someone struggle for years at a time is hard. Being their friend is hard.
I know that we all have quirks and problems, and we should accept and love people regardless. But we’re also human. It’s hard to never mind being let down, or being stood up, or having to pick up extra commitments to plug a gap someone else left. Although I tried not to show when I was annoyed, sometimes it couldn’t be helped. Sarah hated if you were ever frustrated or disappointed with her, and the tearful crisis that resulted could last for weeks. She’d feel rotten for messing something up, and I’d feel rotten for hurting someone I cared for (again).
Still, for many years, I loved being friends with Sarah. Some of the very best times of my life were with her. I did my best to focus on the positive things and I tried not to focus on that little resentful feeling deep in my gut. Years went by like this. Things only really changed when I went through a tough spell in my own life.
I wasn’t depressed, but I was sort of sad, and anxious. It was the sort of mood where you sometimes cry in your car and lay awake at night. And you post on social media about the tough time you’re having.
Luckily, my friends rallied. They called for long chats, took me for walks on the beach, bought me coffee. Sarah? I didn’t hear from her for almost two months. Nothing. Nada. For whatever reason, she couldn’t be there for me.
A few months later, Sarah reappeared, in the midst of another crisis. She was in a hole, and needed money. I sent her some, which she never acknowledged. But we did have a couple of nice chats. I made plans to meet her for lunch. She stood me up.
Maybe you think it’s wrong, it’s cowardly, it’s selfish. But that was the day I knew I had to walk away.
I realised that being friends with Sarah was like pouring all my energy into a leaking bucket. I wasn’t able to help her, and our friendship felt hopelessly one-sided when I was struggling.
According to Psychology Today, “People who ghost are primarily focused on avoiding their own emotional discomfort and they aren’t thinking about how it makes the other person feel,” but I think that’s a massive over-simplification.
Ending my friendship with Sarah wasn’t an easy decision. It was actually one of the hardest decisions I’d ever made. But sometimes friendships evolve to a point where they are unhealthy for everyone involved. I felt frustrated and hurt, a lot of the time. Sarah told me often that my attempts to help her made her feel useless.
Could we have talked it out? I don’t think so – certainly not without another tearful confrontation and the resulting spiral into despair that I knew so well. At that time, my own mental wellbeing was pretty fragile. I didn’t have it in me to have a big, emotional confrontation.
So I got busy. I took longer to reply to messages. I didn’t accept invitations. I unfollowed her on social media, and removed her from my followers.
I did get one text from Sarah, a few weeks later, asking why I didn’t follow her social media any more. I said that for my own wellbeing, right now, I couldn’t watch her updates. And that was it. She never asked for details, and I never gave any.
Ghosting a friend isn’t something I’m proud of. Maybe it was cruel or unfair. I can’t ever say for sure.
But what I do know is that it felt like the best choice for everyone concerned, in that situation.
What do you think?
If you liked this post, here are some other posts about ghosting a friend (from the perspective of the person being ghosted) that you might enjoy:
- Ghosting: How to Let it Go by Rice Cakes and Raisins
- What to do when you’ve been ghosted, by Miss Tilly and Me
- My Cyber-Sadness Journey, by Living Unplugged