Harder Than Goodbye

Students share experiences with ghosting, a trend where a person leaves a relationship by refusing to communicate suddenly

Words by Rebecca Dawidziak | Illustration by Alexis Scranton

Mallory Roman feels her heart leap into her chest as she walks away from her crush. “Will you go to prom with me?” he asked her moments ago.

“We had a relationship before, but not romantic,” says Roman, a senior studying fashion merchandising. “We were just friends. I was taken aback. I had feelings for him but didn’t know he felt the same way.”

When the date finally arrived, Roman’s prom experience was less than she anticipated. Prom is supposed to be one of the most memorable nights of high school, but for Roman, her experience was memorable for a different reason. Roman experienced ghosting.

Ghosting occurs when one person disappears from a relationship without explanation. All texts, calls, social media interactions or responses of any kind suddenly stop. The trend most commonly occurs between the ages of 18 and 44, which includes the generation most active online.

At the prom, Roman spent most of her time with her friends—her date nowhere to be found. He kept disappearing and reappearing until the end of the night when he disappeared for good without warning.

He never offered an explanation, and he avoided her after the dance despite their lockers being right beside one another.

It wasn’t as if Roman expected a relationship to form after the dance. She only wanted to have a good time. Though Roman was a little upset by the way he treated her, she quickly got over it. She wonders why he acted the way he did, and he never gave her the chance to find out.

Kenneth Hanson, a graduate student from the Department of Sociology, says this trend has taken off in the last few years.

“Ghosting became much more common when people started being able to use social media on their phones,” he says.

When people get involved with online relationships, they often become less invested in the relationship, Hanson says. Access to social media has allowed people to form wider networks and contact more people, which creates more options for relationships.

Hanson says it’s that opportunity for a better relationship that causes some people to stay distant from their budding relationships, making it easier to walk away without a word if something better presents itself.

Mint Coursen, a sophomore studying pre-nursing, met a guy on Instagram when she was a freshman. Though they never met in person, Coursen said they messaged regularly for about a month before he stopped communicating with her entirely. She messaged him to ask what was up, but he never contacted her again.

Hanson says ghosting typically occurs when the person doing the ghosting does not care too much or has not invested in the relationship.

According to an online article by The New York Times, many people who have ghosted someone say it is because of “their own fear, insecurity and immaturity.”

“I was a little insulted and annoyed,” Coursen says. “I was fine with it if he no longer wanted to be friends with me, but he should have explained himself.”

Though the relationship was strictly friends, Coursen says she would have felt less insulted if he had just said he didn’t want to be friends anymore.

Jacquelyn Kulish, a senior studying zoology, experienced ghosting her junior year of high school when she attended St. Ursula Academy, an all girls school in Toledo, Ohio.

Students from her high school went on a trip with the students from her brother’s school to Washington, D.C.

While in D.C., Kulish met an attractive guy who was “everything you thought you wanted in high school.” He had an irresistible smile. He was funny, charming and sweet. She immediately hit it off with him and they began dating.

Two blissful weeks into the relationship, Kulish felt comfortable around her new boyfriend, and she began to think the relationship would last a long time. She saw potential in him, and all her friends told her they were “the perfect match.”

Then week three took a turn for the worst. Days and then weeks passed with no word from Kulish’s boyfriend. One minute everything was going great, then nothing. No texts. No calls. No messages on Facebook or mentions on Twitter.

After a few weeks of nothing, Kulish realized it was over.

“I blamed myself,” Kulish says. “It seemed as if I wasn’t enough for him. Maybe I wasn’t pretty enough or smart enough.”

Kulish struggles with depression, and when she thought it could have been her fault her boyfriend ghosted her, it was a blow to her selfesteem.

Though she vividly remembers how she felt when her ex-boyfriend cut her off, she no longer blames herself. For Kulish, the hardest part of the breakup was not knowing what happened or why he suddenly disappeared.

“If someone tells you straight up, you can accept or reject the criticism,” Hanson says. “When you’re ghosted you don’t know what people think of you. It creates a space of uncertainty.”