I don’t even know where to begin with writing this post.
Sometimes the weirdness of life just turns up and blows my mind.
Is this intended to be a cautionary tale? I shall let you decide.
Halloween feels like a good time of year to tell it.
Like many, I am discovering that successfully navigating modern relationships can be all consuming if we allow ourselves to be gobbled up by “good” social media etiquette.
I am beyond thankful that I found my beau before smart phones, although I suppose you could say we chiselled away with text messages on stone tablets for a while before finally getting together, which was pretty cutting edge at the time, I’ll have you know.
I sometimes wish I could have dabbled a tiny bit with the new era of online dating before settling down, although mainly for social anthropological research purposes, despite hearing about a million horror stories from friends.
But that’s a thought for me to develop another day.
So. Lately, I’ve become familiar with the term: Ghosting.
Ghosting basically means being dumped by another person via the means of total radio silence on all phone and social media channels.
The desired outcome of the ghoster is to disappear off the face of your earth never to be seen or heard from again rather than admitting in person to you that they no longer want you in their life.
Virtual death if you will.
This can be achieved with relative ease because real people are largely extinct these days anyway.
To add a bit of glamour to it all, I hear that the latest high profile victim is Sean Penn, whose wife, Charlize Theron, has reportedly just upped and disappeared from his life without explanation and then blocked him from all direct communication channels so he couldn’t ask why.
Well & truly ghosted there, Sean.
I guess the idea that ghosting is a modern phenomenon is amusing to me because I come from a generation that vaguely remembers being able to say “I wonder what ever happened to X from high school” or just choose not ever call a guy back if I couldn’t be bothered.
People used to just come and go as time passed.
Untrackable without significant effort.
It was just the way it was.
I have drifted from friends through gentle coast erosion as well as not receiving call backs myself.
Just one of those things.
And I miss the sweet nostalgia of remembering people as they were without actually knowing how middle age spread has got the better of them.
Now they’re all over my Facebook.
There’s no mystique.
No escape without erasure.
But equally, it can be quite compelling to have them along as ever present, low maintenance, passengers on the journey.
Call me chicken, but I’m actually a fan of ghosting as a concept.
At the end of a relationship, it’s sometimes been easier just to walk away and not discuss it than get into a confrontation.
Usually, I’d have been poised at the end of the plank after months of building up to jumping off with a speedboat at the ready anyway.
Never have I felt that I owed anyone a friendship after parting ways, even if amicably. If they don’t know why I’m gone, maybe that’s the problem. Mainly I just got bored. And chances are I’d moved on already in mind if not body. Or maybe knew they had.
I think this could be perceived as cowardly. Fair cop. There might be a bit of that. But mostly I just want to avoid trying to have a nice conversation with someone I probably now hate about why nothing they say will change my mind into falling in love with them.
I’ve definitely been the victim more than the ghoul.
But then again, all this stuff happened in my youth.
Resigning myself to feeling pretty comfortable with the concept of ex-communication, I recently performed my first act of ghosting a “friend” in the modern sense.
Deciding to actually go for it in an adult context wasn’t as easy as I had hoped.
For complex network reasons, I suspected that this person wasn’t going to let me go quietly or without a fight.
Boy oh boy. This bird really loved to hate me when we were “friends.” Being passive aggressive to me both on and offline was her favourite game (she even made me cry once at age 35) and so, needless to say, noticed pretty much straight away when I unfriended her on Facebook.
I suspected this might happen and so had fortified my ramparts in readiness for an attack.
Within hours, I got a private message,
“Hey, what are you up to? I see we’re not friends on here anymore for some reason, but I hope you’re good?”
Like all good bullies, she was adept at making me feel over-sensitive or that I was always in the wrong.
As much as I wanted to, there was little point in rising to her stabbing my eyes out, as to do so would make me look bad, such was the skill involved.
The mean girl act was already about a year stale before I slung her out on her ear. I let it go on way longer than I should have. I let it become a thing.
Her private message made me cower. She had invaded my private space. It would have been easy to relent to my unfriending and pass it off as the Facebook gremlins being weird.
But the first rule in the ghosting handbook says “stand firm.”
And so I didn’t reply.
Two more Facebook messages, three emails and a text later along similar lines, I still didn’t reply.
I felt quite pleased. Ghosting seemed to be working quite well as each message from her seemed to suggest that she thought I was probably more likely to be dead than deliberately stonewalling her.
Then one of her friends started commenting on my statuses and texting. Friendly enough – but clearly sent to infiltrate by her and report back for bitching purposes.
Can you believe that the three of us are aged 35-45? This is what social media does to people, folks.
Women are complex creatures enough.
I didn’t ghost the friend.
A few months later and they’d given up. Eventually I felt safe to tell an on-side mutual friend what had happened, who thought I had done the right thing given the nature of the beast.
Fast forward three months.
My ghostee is dead.
I mean actually ashes-to-ashes, in the ground stone-cold dead.
Yes, really. I bumped into her spy the other day in the park and she told me.
“Don’t you wish you had met up with her just one last time before she died?”
The spy eyeballed me, knowing full well that we parted on my terms, of course.
What a stupid, and actually very mean, thing to broach.
The true answer to that question is: No.
Why should I feel bad for kicking her to the kerb under the circumstances? We fell out.
She wasn’t a nice person. To me anyway. I just wanted her out of my life. For good.
I deleted her.
But I clearly didn’t want her dead, let alone ill. I feel horrible about that part for her family, obviously.
But she wasn’t my friend. That is the reality. Let’s not pretend. I’m not going to be made to feel guilty just because she died and we didn’t get along.
I’m not the bad guy here.
All I did was delete a virtual profile from my Facebook account.
Ten years ago, I would have simply avoided her.
I don’t want to make light of it but the whole incident feels all a bit like something out of Roald Dahl’s “Tales of the Unexpected.”
I can’t get rid of her.
Her spectre now lingers in my air space; even if her online profile does not.
Now she’s gone.
She’s on my mind a lot.
More than before.
Puts a new perspective on ghosting.
For me anyway.