Ghosting: then and now

Words by Farah Khalek

Image by Julia Pillai

Ending a relationship is never easy, but we find a way to muddle through it. Whether it’s by phone, in person or—if you’re heartless enough—through someone else, whether we tell the truth or make up a lie, all of these options require you to actually speak to the other half. Of course, this has the potential to end up in arguments, awkwardness and tears. Ghosting tries to avoid all threeending a relationship by completely and suddenly cutting contact with your partner.

Dating sure seems like it used to be straightforward. Two people would meet, either in person or through mutual friends, and go on a date. With much of the contact being face to face, to end it, only the cowardly and the most inconsiderate would pull a disappearing act.

Frida, 49, shared a memory of when she was ghosted, and it’s almost comical to compare the idea between then and now. In 1985, 17 year old Frida would ride her bike to her boyfriend’s house just for a chat. A few months into this new, fun and youthful relationship, she found herself getting turned away from his house every time because he ‘wasn’t home’. For a good few weeks, she would walk/run/ride for 15 minutes to get to his house for nothing. If it wasn’t obvious enough, it became obvious when his mum decided to break it to her one day.

Hearing the words “honestly honey, just stop trying, if you haven’t noticed, he’s been avoiding you,” was as painful as you can imagine.

Years later, Frida’s feelings are echoed by ‘millennial ghostees’:

“It was a slap in the face.” – Meaghan, 22

“It just hurt to think that person didn’t care enough to end it another way” – Yasmine, 21

“From speaking everyday to no contact without any warning was really hard” – Lana, 29

Frida’s heartless heartbreaker had to go well out of his way to avoid his ‘girlfriend’ at the time: hiding within his own home and sometimes avoiding it altogether.

Today, that effort can be minimised with the control and sense of power we have as a result of the endless options available to us. With social media, dating sites and dating apps, connecting with someone has never been easier. It’s even easier to disconnect—halting messaging, unmatching, unfollowing or blocking are all tempting ways to cut contact. These can even be necessary, for example, if they make you feel unsafe or just won’t get the hint.

Any person below the age of 25 with a Facebook account is regularly exposed to endless memes and posts about cheating, hating men and having low relationship expectations. Real people create memes, obviously, and these real people exemplify the shift in society’s values, views and expectations.

The fact that we’ve given the avoidant behaviour of ghosting a label shows its prevalence in today’s dating landscape. However, bad dating etiquette is nothing new—just ask Frida.

Catalyst has been the student publication of RMIT University since 1944. We may be older than your parents but we’re still going strong!

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