Disposable people are the 21st Century’s new global currency and they are a direct by-product of our throwaway culture.
With so much of the world at our fingertips, it is hard not to take people for granted. Our access to human beings has commodified our value. Our pool of human resources is bloated. Our ability to focus and immerse ourselves in our relationships is compromised.
We ghost, block, crop, delete and vanish at the click of a button, because there’s plenty more where that came from.
So, What’s the difference between ghosting and blocking?
Well, ghosting someone isn’t immediate. It’s gradual and ambiguous. You go from talking every day to talking every now and never. No more paragraph- long replies or 😂😂😂😂😂 emoji hysterics.
You’re punched in the gut by a solitary ‘kk’ or an utterly mirthless ‘haha.’
Eventually the messages are so painfully sparse that you commit voluntary conversation suicide and give up. Your connection collapses into itself like a dead star. Nothing left except interstellar dust and the faint dying embers of a relationship that used to be. 🍃
Blocking is the middle-finger of the instant messaging world. It’s an immediate response that submits your relationship to a complete system shutdown. They will never be able to see or interact with you online again.
And you? You’re free to forget them. Finally able to let go and get on with your life.
My first ghost 👻
When I was 8 years old I became pen pals with a school friend, and every summer holiday we’d write to each other. We shared letters every year until we were 13 years old and then as suddenly as they started, the letters stopped.
At the time, I wouldn’t have called it a ghosting as much as it was a quiet exorcism of our childhood. We never did rekindle our friendship after those sweet summer letters were gone. Yet I still hold those memories close, and I will probably never forget how excited I felt when I’d spot one of her floral envelopes on the floor under the letterbox.
I don’t quite know how it happened, but I suppose we grew up and forgot about each other in a way that only people who lived before the internet know how.
Nowadays we talk about ghosting people because social media and technology makes us appear so relentlessly present and uncomfortably available.
You need to fade away because you can’t disappear anymore.
I’ve thought about this a lot lately and I can’t decide if I think ghosting is always cruel. Could it be that ghosting is also a necessary part of our personal evolution? Shedding the ghosts of old friendships and relationships may be exactly what we need to do to usher in the new.
I was a serial ghoster during my time at school, but back then it was all very real and painful.
I remember ghosting a girl I was friends with, and the strenuous physical effort of looking through her in class, or the mysterious bout of deafness I had to develop when she’d call my name. It was hard and emotional and probably hurt us both a lot more than an honest conversation would have done.
Hasn’t ghosting always been around in some form or another?
When I was younger we called it blanking, but it all amounts to the same painful realisation; they don’t want you anymore.
It kind of reminds me of the transition from postal system to email; we still communicate the written word, but email has killed the suspense and intimacy of correspondence.
Replace post with a ghost and it seems we have always let people go. All that has really changed is the mechanism.
And, in this era of persistent engagement and double-blue-tick scrutiny, is it any wonder we’re pulling back from our relationships? It’s exhausting.
So, we ghosted people before the internet?
Yes, we did but it wasn’t a publishable offence. You had the right to drop out of a life; and it was a timestamp-less event that happened in the privacy of your relationship. You may even have had the time to meet up and discuss the dissolution of your situation. Now we all have phones full of people we can talk to, and very little accountability for the way we handle their emotions and our own.
My last block 🚫
A while ago I blocked my best friend of over a decade. I have no regrets. After discovering some of the awful things she had been saying behind my back, it was easy to tap out of our friendship for good. People may disagree with my decision, but I made a choice that reflects who I am offline. Boundaries are important, and when we are subjected to bad behaviour we have the right to walk away. It just so happens that walking away on the internet is a button on a screen.
There is a place beyond wrongness and rightness where blocked people reside, and I think individuals exist there on a case by case basis.
I’ve blocked people to get over all kinds of relationships in the past, but I think blocking is intrinsic to the lives we now lead. Whilst social media and messenger services have created global accessibility and an incredible way to share, they’ve also created a dark side.
The ability to forget is important. It can help heal yesterday’s pain and it can open us up to a different tomorrow…
Moving on and making a fresh start is challenging at the best of times. Trying to do this in an environment where you are constantly prompted with artificial nostalgia makes moving on a seemingly impossible task.
I talk to so many people that battle with the grieving process of letting go because technology has created a vicious cycle that invites relapse. Whether that relapse involves returning to an ex or a toxic friendship; the temporary relief that stalking social media or messaging them encourages is phoney.
Whilst I personally struggle with the unresolved feelings that ghosting and blocking can sometimes cause; if done for the right reasons, and with our mental health at the top of the priority list, then sometimes saying goodbye forever can be good.