Ghosting: The Handbook

Want to get over your ghost?  Expect their handbook excuses

By Rory Morrow

Social interactions, of course, can occur in all manner of form, shaped by, well, who knows?  Fate?  A higher power?  Coincidence?  Luck, good or bad, depending, inevitably on the context of the person and the interaction. 

A chance meeting on campus, the ‘I’m already late to class but f*** it’ stalling chats, also common occurrences outside McClay.  How about an awkward shared 9am radiology lecture, the morning after?  A glimpse, from a dazzling array of angles, in the ginormous SU.  Random ones, are just as, if not better, interactions, I find.  Shared water cooler humour which darkens at the mention of QUB as an institution.  Vague, desperately dialling, recognition of a student barista in the PFC.  Encountering that person you sat beside, joked about Joao Cancelo with once in lectures, asking ‘how it’s been’. 

These are just in-person.  The world of online interactions has been thrust into utmost, heightened importance.  Which is where our old friend, ghosting, comes into play. 

We used to joke, way back before social media was repainted a fresh dollop of murk, that our friend would either reply to messages instantly, we’re talking within sixty seconds here, or not for five, if you were lucky, days.  Of course, though, when technology controls everything that we want to portray as ‘ourselves’, there are, always, reasons for ghosting. 

It’s not that ghosts don’t see your attempts to engage but that they see it and, eerily ghostlike, discreetly disappear through the wall, as though you were talking aloud to yourself.  Which, is how ghosting conversations go, one-way only or get off the road. 

A choice has been made, an excuse concocted about bloody notifications and phone battery.  They have, for now, decided to dismiss you.  And like nobody showing up to your sixth birthday party, the feeling is just as helplessly cruel.  Especially, especially, if you then see them chirping away in a birthday-equivalent group chat, you imagine, whistling nonchalantly, without a care in the world, untroubled. 

Hello!  You bastard!  You want to scream at them.  But you don’t.  Can’t.  Because that then makes you the unhinged bastard.  Public endorsement is one thing because there is an audience, of friends, followers, whoever, important people (more important to your ghost than you), to impress.  They are not complimenting you because they do in fact love your £6 slay, charity shop sustainable fit.   

Do I heal Lazarus because he’s my friend and I genuinely want to help? Or is my true motive to impress ‘God’ with my powerful kindness?

They are doing it in front of people they hope will take heed of their niceness and good deeds, whom, ironically, morph into your ghost’s ghost. We are all, haunted, by someone.

Ghosts use you as a deflector, a human trampoline of which they can bounce off of, see how high it flies, how hard the fall hurts.  You are merely a springboard, a bogus account, a white profile pic of lifelessness, of which they have no shame in repeatedly rejecting. 

And yes, I know, everyone who has ever been ghosted by anyone, we all know, life is busy.  You’re busy.  We get it.  This is not physics, busyness itself does not equate to pain.  It is your willingness to throw our invitations to join in, celebrate enjoy time together, you know as friends do, that, that is what hurts. 

And then, and then!  You have the cheek to answer, after the proposed event.  You were ‘so sorry’ to only see it now.  We can ‘try to make it work’.  That you’ll ‘let me know’.  NO.  Stop saying that.  You f****** won’t.  I know that, you know that. 

Don’t pretend.  Your cowardly dishonesty is salt in the wound.  Whether we move on from our ghosts or not, well, how much you are haunted depends on how hurt you were. 

But this in fact, a handbook, an emergency handbrake to apply when confronted with ghosting.  All the “I didn’t see this”, “feel so bad” etc, they’re in all that playbook.  And are all as disrespectfully dehumanising as the actual ghosting itself. 

Ghosting Translated:

“My messenger/etc isn’t working” = ‘I forgot you existed or that we chatted on that, wow that was a while ago’  

“I’m so sorry, I’ve only just seen this!” = ‘I saw it but knew it would be an awkward/prickly conversation and I didn’t want that’

“Hey mate” = ‘I’m buttering you up because I want a favour’

“I’ve been really stressed lately and just haven’t had time to reply” = ‘you’re not a priority to me and I don’t want to use my free seconds (work break/waiting for a bus) talking to you’

“I feel so bad that I haven’t seen you” = ‘we had plans but I bailed because I got a better offer/really didn’t want to see you in the first place’

“I’ve been really busy” = ‘I don’t want to use my time talking to you/I take you for granted’

For a while, I was, admittedly, completely and utterly lost in what made me so angry about my ghosts.  Like a man stranded in the middle of a maze, I know that I took a wrong turn but where, where exactly??

It can’t be because they’re busy as I myself, after all, am also busy.  Is it that sometimes I feel as if I’m competing to not meet people?  Bow before me, the messiah of being busy!

No, busyness is not a crime.  Using busyness as an excuse to avoid people though is as callous as throwing a dog in front of a car to save yourself.  Yes, you are busy.  But avoiding me is not forced upon you, it is an active choice, thought through, purposeful, rejection of our relationship.  At least, acknowledge, the choice you have made.

Why do I “keep bothering you”? the ghost may wonder.  Because I, naively now in hindsight, cared about you, our relationship was important to me, I enjoyed your company.  Because friends spend time together, being friends with someone is choosing to complain, laugh, chat, drink, run, giggle, Trash Bingo, sing badly- whatever- with them.

Friendships are to be cherished and so when you next walk past your ghost’s grave, on the streets, going up the other way in McClay, don’t, don’t, lay flowers or let tears streak out of your eyes.  They’re not worth that.  Walk on past, head high, giggling and laughing, with friends and relationships that, for all you appreciate them, they, in turn, also appreciate having you as a friend.

Value those close to you, of course, but, as importantly, value yourself.


Published by The Gown Queen's University Belfast

The Gown has provided respected, quality and independent student journalism from Queen's University, Belfast since its 1955 foundation, by Dr. Richard Herman. Having had an illustrious line of journalists and writers for almost 70 years, that proud history is extremely important to us. The Gown is consistent in its quest to seek and develop the talents of aspiring student writers.

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