Welcome to the third installment of Ask Wesleying, an advice column about any and all things Wes! Have a question about life at Wes? Submit it to get it answered in Ask Wesleying! You can find all of the Ask Wesleying columns here.
This week’s question is HALLOWEEN THEMED, and deals with ghosting (of the friend variety):
How do you navigate friend ghosting on a small campus like Wesleyan?
Casper the Not-So-Friendly Ghost
You can read the answer to this week’s question below the jump!
Dear Casper the Not-So-Friendly Ghost,
Getting ghosted sucks. Typically, when we talk about ghosting, we mean having a romantic/sexual partner “suddenly and without explanation withdrawing from all communication.” This is a common trend in hookup culture, and there’s been plenty written about the phenomenon (and related dating phenomena) all across the internet. A quick Google search or swipe through the daily Cosmo/Teen Vogue/Seventeen/People/Buzzfeed/Refinery 29 Snap Stories will generally point you toward plenty of content on all things ghosting when it comes to sex and romance.
I would argue that getting ghosted by a friend sucks even more. Having a person you thought cared about you essentially say (without actually saying anything!!!) “You are so unimportant to me that it’s not even worth my time to tell you that I don’t want you in my life anymore.”
Of course, it’s almost never that straightforward. Even if you know that your friend doesn’t feel that way (and is probably just going through something or is too uncomfortable with confrontation and communication to talk with you openly), getting ghosted still feels bad. And just because your former friend is no longer talking to you doesn’t mean that you won’t still run into them—like I’ve said before, Wesleyan is tiny, and it’s nearly impossible to avoid anyone entirely. So what’s a person to do?
First, it’s important to figure out if you’re actually being ghosted. Sometimes, you may think you’re being ghosted, but actually neither you nor your friends just aren’t initiating plans/communication. It is always nice to have a friend reach out first, but sometimes people just get so caught up in their day-to-day patterns that you are no longer at the front of their mind when they think of people to hang out or grab a meal with. This isn’t because they don’t care about you as much as you care about them, just that neither of you can read the other’s mind. If you start reaching out to make plans, they might begin to reciprocate, voila! Problem solved!
However, sometimes you reach out and still don’t hear anything back. There can be many reasons for this, but one big one stands out. There is an epidemic going around Wesleyan (and no, I’m not talking about Hand, Foot, and Mouth disease, though please, for the love of all that is good WASH YOUR HANDS!!!): the Wesleyan Busy Bug. Symptoms include: committing to too many plans and then flaking on some or all of them, disappearing for days at a time into the library with no warning, rescheduling plans at the last minute, and saying “Oh, I’m so busy, I can’t” and then posting about going out/partaking in substances/watching Netflix/etc. to social media.
At Wesleyan, we’re expected to do everything. I’m not sure if this is an internal or external pressure, but it’s real, and something that most students face. We’re expected to take our classes, work campus jobs, lead and participate in all the student groups, make time for friends, exercise, play sports, and hopefully squeeze a couple hours of sleep somewhere in between. We talk about the Rule of Seven as a way to moderate this busyness, but in reality, that almost never happens. The result is a lot of people trying to do way too much and often not actually doing much of anything.
A by-product of the Wesleyan Busy Bug is that when you’re overwhelmed with so many responsibilities and demands on your time and attention, it’s easy to slip into the habit of treating plans you make with your friends the same way that you might treat that meeting for a club you always wanted to join but never had the time to get involved in (i.e. saying you’ll go and then flaking). Ostensibly, you care more about your friends than you do about that student group (hence they’re actually your friends, while you still only talk about getting involved with the group), but the Wesleyan Busy Bug makes it hard to tell the difference between what matters and what doesn’t.
If you feel like you’re being ghosted by a friend, they may have fallen victim to the Wesleyan Busy Bug and may not actually be trying to ghost you. That doesn’t make it okay for your friend to just stop communicating with you, but it can at least help you to understand where they’re coming from. If you think your friend has come down with the Busy Bug, the easiest way to be sure (and to get them to stop ghosting) is by asking them if that’s what is going on. You can say something along the lines of:
Hey, I miss spending time with you and have been trying to make plans for a while but it doesn’t seem like it’s working. If you’re too busy to hang out, I get it, but just let me know so I don’t feel like you’re ignoring me. I’m also happy to do laundry or homework or something else on your to-do list together so we can still hang out but also not take away from the time you need to get everything else done. Just let me know!
By being direct in how you’re feeling, you force your friend to respond with the same directness. And by offering options (including giving them an out), you take the confrontation out of the interaction. Most of the time, someone will see a message like this and stop friend ghosting. And if you still receive radio silence, you know that this person probably isn’t worth your time or friendship in the first place.
This level-headed response is obviously not the only option, but it is a good one if you want to go back to being friends with the person who ghosted you. If you’ve already decided that you’re not interested in being friends with someone who’s ghosting you (which is totally valid and reasonable), but you still want them to know that they’ve hurt you, you may take a less padded approach and say something like:
Hey, I’m not expecting you to start communicating now after you went silent on me, but I just wanted to say that when you don’t reply to my texts, flake on plans we’ve made, and don’t make any effort to reschedule, I feel bad. It’s also just a shitty way to treat another person. Hopefully you can take this and do better in your other relationships so they don’t end the way ours has.
They might still respond and want to try to fix things (which you can decide to participate in or not), but you at least get a chance to get the last word and say your piece on the matter. Also, if you just want to express your anger/hurt/sadness and aren’t trying to resuscitate the friendship, it’s totally reasonable to just say your piece in whatever tone feels right and move on.
Beyond just navigating friend ghosting, I hope this helps you navigate how to be a good, communicative friend before it gets to the point of ghosting.