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The Ghosting Phenomenon

Posted on 27 September 2019 by Caitlin

A lot of what we do here at the Classification Office involves impacts on young people, and we try to always have their interests at heart. Whether it's content in films and shows or our research into pornography we seek to give useful information and advice. In that vein Classification Advisor Caitlin has a look at the phenomena of ghosting.

Ghosting is a not so nice side of our increasingly online lives. Sadly ghosting is not Patrick Swayze showing up from the afterlife looking hotter than most men do when they’re alive. I’d be OK with it. But in fact it’s quite the opposite.

For those of you that are still confused - and lucky you - Uncle Google says ghosting is “the practice of ending a personal relationship with someone by suddenly and without explanation withdrawing from all communication.”

Digital culture means online dating and apps like Tinder, Bumble and Grinder rule the dating world. Young people are turning to these apps instead of dating the old fashioned way. Did New Zealand ever have a prominent dating culture before online dating? Anyway, with this new method we are now faced with issues like ghosting.

I don't mean when you start talking to someone and the conversations fizzles after a couple of days. It happens a bit further down the track. You may have gone on a couple of dates - in real life and not just virtual. Perhaps you became intimate, you shared a few cheeky kisses or just a great meal. At this point the “what if” has been established. And no, that doesn’t mean you are planning your future wedding and what your kids will be called. The “what if” is that excitement you feel in your gut and the fun unknown feeling not knowing what will happen next.

This excitement is such a great feeling. We have all felt it. It is fun, flirty and you have an extra spring in your step. But at the same time it is this very excitement that makes us vulnerable.

Suddenly they disappear. No explanation. Nothing. The butterflies in your stomach has morphed into a punch in the gut. And it’s not because you were in love and you expected a full blown relationship. It is the lack of communication. We start to question things like should I have sent that message, was I not funny enough or did I say something wrong? Sometimes you think back on your actions, should I have slept with them, sent that nude pic they asked for or not been so forceful about paying half the bill in the name of feminism?

With the digital world we become more vulnerable to harms in many ways. The ways we communicate with each other have changed, and not always for the better. Mental health can be affected in ways it has never been before. This grey area that I am talking about is a huge contributor to feelings like disappointment, rejection and decline a general in self-esteem. It also facilitates sexting, #sendnudes and intimacy which could later turn into guilt or regret.

Pop culture is now looking at ghosting with its keen eye. A new show is coming out on MTV that exposes “ghosters,” which to me sounds like a glorified version of stalking.

So what am I trying to say? Don’t ghost? Definitely don’t. Be a human and consider how others feel. If someone tells you they have been ghosted empathise and ask them if they are okay. If you are no longer interested in someone let them know. It isn’t easy but in the long run being transparent is best for everyone involved. To simply not communicate at all is not healthy and disrespectful.

This is the world that our young people are trying to navigate. They have unfairly been labelled the “Snowflake Generation” but look at what is against them? This week is mental health awareness week and I think it is important to take a step back and call out behaviour like ghosting. Feelings are real and what they feed into is even more real.

Caitlin works at the NZ Office of Film and Literature Classification. Her views do not necessarily represent those of the Chief Censor or of the Classification Office. Keep up with our blog posts by following us on Facebook and Twitter.

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