How ‘shadows’ relate to mental health


Check your phone. Are there any missed texts, snapshots, or direct messages that you ignore? Should you reply? Or is it the “ghost” of the person who sent them?

Shadows occur when someone cuts off all online communication with another person without explanation. Instead, like a ghost, it fades away. The phenomenon is common on social media and dating sites, but with the isolation created by the pandemic – forcing more people together online – Happening now more than ever.

I Professor of psychology which examines the role of technology use in interpersonal relationships and well-being. Considering the negative psychological consequences of failed relationships—especially in Emerging adult yearsaged 18-29 – I wanted to understand what leads college students to ghost others, and whether ghosting has any observable effects on an individual’s mental health.

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To answer these questions, my research team Recruited 76 university students Through social media and on-campus posts, 70 percent are female. Study participants were enrolled in one of 20 focus groups, ranging in size from 2 to 5 students. Group sessions lasted an average of 48 minutes per session. Participants provided responses to questions asking them to reflect on their experiences in the shadows. This is what we found.

Some students admitted that they were kept in the shadows because they lacked the communication skills needed to have an open and honest conversation—whether that conversation took place face-to-face or via text or email.

From a 19-year-old woman: “I’m not very good at communicating with people in person, so I definitely can’t do that through writing or anything like that.”

From age 22: “I don’t have confidence in telling them that. Or I think it might be because of social anxiety.”

In some cases, participants chose the ghost if they believed that meeting with the person would trigger emotional or sexual feelings that they weren’t ready to pursue: “People fear that it will become too much…the fact that somehow the relationship will move to the next level. .”

Some stealth due to safety concerns. Forty-five percent ghosted to get themselves out of a “toxic”, “unpleasant” or “unhealthy” state. A 19-year-old woman said, “It’s very easy to chat with complete strangers [ghosting is] Like a form of protection when a scary guy asks you to send nude pictures and things like that. “

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One of the least reported, but perhaps the most interesting, reasons for slandering someone: to protect that person’s feelings. It is better to ghost, the thinking goes, than to cause the hurt feelings that come with outright rejection. An 18-year-old woman said shadowing was a “slightly more polite way of saying no to someone than directly saying, ‘I don’t want to talk to you.'”

So he said, Recent data indicate American adults generally view separation by email, text, or social media as unacceptable, and prefer a personal break-up conversation.

Then there is the ghost after sex.

In the context of fusion culture, there is an understanding that if the ghost gets what they were looking for – often, this sex – that’s it, they will no longer need to talk to that person. After all, more talk can be interpreted as wanting something more emotionally intimate.

According to the 19-year-old woman: “I think it’s rare that there is an open conversation about how you really feel. [about] What you want from the position. … I think fusion culture is really harmful in promoting honest communication.”

But the most common reason for a ghost: a lack of interest in pursuing a relationship with that person. Remember the movieHe doesn’t like youAs one participant said: “Sometimes the conversation gets boring.”

College attendance represents critical turning point To establish and maintain relationships outside the family and hometown neighborhood. For some emerging adults, romantic breakups, emotional loneliness, social exclusion, and isolation can occur Potentially devastating psychological effects.

Our research supports the idea that shadows can have Negative consequences for mental health. In the short term, many of these oppressed felt extremely rejected and confused. They reported feelings of low self-esteem and self-esteem. Part of the problem is the lack of clarity – not knowing why the connection suddenly stopped. Sometimes, an element of paranoia arises when the ghost tries to make sense of the situation.

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In the long term, our study found that many of these abusers reported feelings of mistrust that developed over time. Some bring this mistrust into future relationships. With this may come an understanding of rejection, self-blame, and the potential to sabotage those subsequent relationships.

But just over half of the participants in our study said exposure to shadows provides opportunities for reflection and flexibility.

“It could be partly positive for the ghost because they are aware of some of their shortcomings, and they might change them,” said an 18-year-old woman.

As for the ghost, there were a bunch of psychological consequences. About half of the focus groups who were wronged experienced feelings of remorse or guilt. The rest did not feel any emotion at all. This finding is not surprising, given that the individuals who initiated the separation Generally report less distress of recipients.

Also emerging from our discussions: the feeling that ghosts may be stunted in their personal development. From a 20-year-old: “Can [become] usually. And it becomes part of your behavior, and that’s how you think you should end a relationship with someone. …I feel like a lot of people are serial ghosts, that’s the only way they know how to deal with people.”

Reasons for feigning fear of intimacy are a particularly interesting avenue for future research. Until this work is completed, universities can help Provide more opportunities For students to enhance confidence and hone their communication skills.

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This includes more courses covering these challenges. I remember Psychology class I enrolled as an undergraduate at Trent University which introduced me to the work of a social psychologist Daniel Perlman, who taught courses in loneliness and intimate relationships. Outside of the classroom, college residential life coordinators can design seminars and workshops that teach students practical skills in resolving conflict in relationships.

Meanwhile, students can subscribe to Relationship Blogs Provides research answers to readers. Just know that help is there. Even after the shadows, you’re not alone.

Rewitt T Dubar Professor of Psychology at Wesleyan University.

This article was originally published