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Description: There is a tired old social meme about relationship abandonment that went sort of like “Dad went out for cigarettes one night 15 years ago and never came back.” Now while the idea of people running away from relation ships is not new the ways people are doing the running away are changing. Have you heard of ghosting? It is usually invoked as a description of people who simply vanish from contact usually by simply do longer responding to text messages. Psychology must keep up with new social trends and so think about how we might define the concept of ghosting. What does it involve? Are there levels of severity associated with ghosting (perhaps related to the nature of the relationship that has been dropped by ghosting)? Once you have gathered your thoughts about these questions and, perhaps, posed one or two of your own have a read through the article linked below that talks about some of the initial efforts on the part of research psychologists to figure out how to characterize and study “ghosting.”

Source: Why People Ghost – and How to get Over It: Time to go ghostbusting, Adam Popescu, Smarter Living, The New York Times.

Date: January 22, 2019

Photo Credit: Pablo Rochat/The New York Times

Article Link: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/22/smarter-living/why-people-ghost-and-how-to-get-over-it.html

So how does Psychology seem to be doing in trying to get our heads around what ghosting is and how to deal with it? It is clear that ghosting is tied into relationships and into how people cope with either side on ended relationships (the same way that people had to cope when “Dad” went out for some smokes and never returned). What is perhaps different about ghosting today is how it is played out through texting and other forms of communication media. Just as Facebook’s use of the term “Friends” to describe the entire array of people one is connected to through that social media platform is drawing us to ask if this represents a sort of concept creep or if we should avoid applying much of what we know (Psychologically) about the nature of friendship to those sorts of connections. Figuring out what is the same as before (ghosting = dumping and ignoring) and what is different (end of relationship expectations in the age of social media and electronic connectedness) are interesting and important research tasks as we all try and figure out how these things work these days both personally, relationally and psychologically.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What is ghosting?
  2. What aspects of human relationship dynamics and outcomes does ghosting match up with and what does ghosting add into our considerations of relationships that was not here previously?
  3. Is thinking about and deciding what, if anything, needs to be done about concept creep (e.g., Friends before and after Facebook)?

References (Read Further):

Koban, L., & Pourtois, G. (2014). Brain systems underlying the affective and social monitoring of actions: an integrative review. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 46, 71-84. https://biblio.ugent.be/publication/4365065/file/7276788

Durso, G. R., Luttrell, A., & Way, B. M. (2015). Over-the-counter relief from pains and pleasures alike: Acetaminophen blunts evaluation sensitivity to both negative and positive stimuli. Psychological science, 26(6), 750-758. https://kb.osu.edu/dspace/bitstream/handle/1811/60313/Tylenol_and_Evaluation_Hayes_Forum_Version_2014-04-28.pdf?sequence=1

Freedman, G., Burgoon, E. M., Ferrell, J. D., Pennebaker, J. W., & Beer, J. S. (2017). When saying sorry may not help: the impact of apologies on social rejections. Frontiers in psychology, 8, 1375. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.01375

Freedman, G., Powell, D. N., Le, B., & Williams, K. D. (2018). Ghosting and destiny: Implicit theories of relationships predict beliefs about ghosting. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 0265407517748791. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Gili_Freedman/publication/322442819_Ghosting_and_destiny_Implicit_theories_of_relationships_predict_beliefs_about_ghosting/links/5a8335e6a6fdcc6f3eb001a3/Ghosting-and-destiny-Implicit-theories-of-relationships-predict-beliefs-about-ghosting.pdf

Dwyer, C. (2007, January). Digital relationships in the” myspace” generation: Results from a qualitative study. In System Sciences, 2007. HICSS 2007. 40th Annual Hawaii International Conference on (pp. 19-19). IEEE. https://www.computer.org/csdl/proceedings/hicss/2007/2755/00/27550019c.pdf

Freedman, G., Powell, D. N., Le, B., & Williams, K. D. (2018). Ghosting and destiny: Implicit theories of relationships predict beliefs about ghosting. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 0265407517748791. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Gili_Freedman/publication/322442819_Ghosting_and_destiny_Implicit_theories_of_relationships_predict_beliefs_about_ghosting/links/5a8335e6a6fdcc6f3eb001a3/Ghosting-and-destiny-Implicit-theories-of-relationships-predict-beliefs-about-ghosting.pdf

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