Researchers examine causes, effects of ghosting behavior

With the rise of cellular communication, it’s easier than ever to talk to others. However, it’s also easier than ever to ignore them. When communication ends with someone without explanation, it’s called “ghosting.” Though it’s more likely to happen in romantic relationships, it also happens in friendships as well.

A team of researchers at the University of Vienna studied the consequences of ghosting others in emerging adults’ romantic relationships and friendships. The study focused on individuals between the ages of 16 and 21 years old, as 84 percent of people in this age group use at least one social media site and about a third use online dating platforms. This demographic also heavily engages in ghosting behavior — 29.3 percent had at some point ghosted someone, 25.3 percent had been ghosted, and 44.2 percent had been in both positions.

The study examined ghosting of relationship partners and friends as two separate phenomena. The researchers found that when it comes to ghosting romantic partners, communication overload positively predicts ghosting behavior. In this scenario, communication overload is the feeling of receiving more messages than one can handle. The researchers noted that ghosting others within romantic relationships did not yield any effects on well-being.

While this was the case for romantic relationships, the researchers found that ghosting friends could instead be predicted by one’s self-esteem; when someone had greater self-esteem, they were more likely to ghost their friends. Also unlike romantic relationships, researchers found that when someone ghosts a friend, they are more likely to develop increased depressive tendencies over time, which they said demonstrated that ghosting is harmful to both the person who was ghosted and the person who ghosted.

The last area that researchers looked at was if depressive tendencies were an indicator of ghosting behavior. In both romantic relationships and friendships, the authors found no predictive influence from depressive tendencies.

The authors of the paper closed with what they considered to be the practical implications of their work: “Our findings may also have practical implications as they may prompt individuals to reflect on their own ghosting behavior as well as app designers to minimize unforeseen harms that may come not only with being ghosted but also with ghosting others, particularly friends.”