Two people who have met in a network of contacts, after weeks of talking, are left and intimate. But suddenly, one of them stops replying to messages and disappears from the network without a trace. That's the "ghosting," the silent way to break up with someone in the digital age


Valentine's Day was approaching, and, for Anne, who last Christmas had believed that she would celebrate As Much Valentine's Day alone as the Christmas holidays had happened, love floated in the air.

I'd been chatting with Marco for weeks, and I couldn't feel happier. Since "match" had been given in the Tinder application, the chemistry between them had been evident. So much so that they soon followed each other on Instagram and, very soon, exchanged phone numbers to speak for WhatsApp.

The young woman was convinced that between the two there was a special connection: they spoke for hours, they had added on all the social networks in which they were "liked" and left comments, and everything was told, from the routines of the day to the most intimate secrets.

When they started to stay, things only got better: the dates were going great, getting more intimate, and when they got home, they kept talking until the dream or obligations required them.

The plans between them were becoming more common, as were the illusions of the future. It did not seem that anything could spoil the special relationship that, born through the "smartphone", it was consolidating in real life, with an increasingly tangible "meat and bone"... Until suddenly, it all ended with the abruptest of silences.

It was after one more, seemingly perfect date, that they had said goodbye with the same intensity as usual. When Anne came home, she received no response to her good-night message, which caused her to sleep uneasy, even though she tried not to give it any importance. But the next day, Marco hadn't given him the good morning. He didn't even answer his greeting. Nor to his messages about how the day had gone at work, or how much he missed him.

And, at the end of the day, the young woman discovered, frightened, that not only did she not get an answer by WhatsApp, but Marco's Instagram and other social media profiles had disappeared. It's not that I didn't follow her anymore, it's either that I had blocked it, or those accounts had been deleted.

Worried about whether anything had happened to her, she even tried calling him on the phone.... No answer. And so, it continued for the rest of the days, with an abrupt silence that, suddenly, had been established not to go back. Marco had simply disappeared from his life without a trace.

Did any tragedy happen to you? Was it a magic thing? No. Nothing like that. Ana had simply fallen victim to "ghosting," one of the increasingly fashionable ways to "end" a relationship, especially on the internet.


The story above is nothing more than a related fiction, but cases like Anne's happen in real life and are quite common in the digital age.

The term "ghosting" refers to that: suddenly vanishing, leaving no trace, either blocking the person, deleting accounts, or simply swishing their messages.

But why is it happening? What leads someone to disappear instead of communicating the rupture to the other party? For the psychologist Miguel Hierro, "ghosting" arises because it is more comfortable not to face painful situations such as having to say, 'I don't want to see you anymore'", as explained to the Xataka medium.

Something that, the expert says, "is a comfort typical of how relationships start today in mobile and/or social media applications, where the level of responsibility is lower."

Although there are not yet too many studies that prove the relationship between "ghosting" and the use of networks, according to Iron, "it is consistent to believe that the speed of starting a networking relationship also affects how quickly to quit."

In addition, "no longer giving life signs is nothing new," the psychologist notes, "but now, that the means of communication are much easier and easier, absence becomes more apparent."

In this sense, "ghosting" is the result of immediacy, globalization, anonymity of social media. It could not exist in a village of 200 inhabitants, but takes place in the big cities," Hierro explains.

So, even if "ghosting" isn't something new, Sherry Turkler, a professor of sociology at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, explains to the Huffington Post that "it's almost unique to the online" world.

Turkler says that "with new technologies we've gotten used to getting rid of people just by not responding."

And who does it start with especially? According to the expert, "with teenagers, who grow up with the idea that they may text you and receive no response."

"When they treat us as if we can be ignored, we start to think that's fine and treat ourselves like people who shouldn't have feelings," Turkler says.

The expert also adds that "at the same time we treat others as people who have no feelings in this context, so empathy begins to disappear."

The data are on the table: according to a study by the Journal of Social and Personal Relationship, 25% of people say they have been victims of "ghosting", while 21% confess to having practiced it.

Causes and consequences of phantom love

"Ghosting" obviously has consequences. Psychoperapist Elisabeth J. LaMotte told BBC World: "For the victim the experience can be very painful: rejection causes pain, and "ghosting" is a vague rejection that causes the process of mourning the breakup to take place."

In turn, delving into the minds of ghosts, LaMotte notes that "sometimes they are unaware of the damage they cause." In addition, "in some cases they have suffered breakdowns of relationships that they have not processed correctly," she adds.

Delving into the causes, psychologist Maya Borgueta of the Californian organization Lantern explains to the same medium that "ghosting" is related to wanting to avoid conflict."

Being a victim of it, according to Borgueta, "can reinforce one's insecurities and affect their future relationships."

On the other hand, "it can also have negative psychological effects on the person who practices it, who can develop a great feeling of guilt and shame, feeling that he is unable to handle the difficult times of a relationship," Borgueta says.

Above all this, Efe has spoken to protagonists of real "ghosting" cases, such as Nuria, who confesses that "we had even planned a trip together before this person disappeared."

He explains that "the worst thing was to think that something bad could have happened to him, like denying the obvious, and then to go on and ask me what I would have done wrong and even get to doubt whether the relationship had been real."

Another young woman, Manu, claims to have been both a victim of "ghosting" and practiced it: "When I did, it was because there was something that worried me when it came to continuing the relationship, but which I didn't find myself able to talk about. And when they did it to me, it hurt a lot."

Like him, Clara says he's never been "ghosting," but she has practiced it, "a couple of times." He says, "I was a teenager, and I didn't know how to manage relationships. They were two cases of people I no longer felt good about, but who I found unable to leave directly because I was afraid of conflict and didn't want to witness the pain."