Ghosting and Dark Psychology
Awareness

Ghosting and Dark Psychology

dark-psychology-and-ghosting

The beauty of social media and the internet is that it helps us connect to so many people all across the globe at any given hour. Now let us look at the other side of this coin. Imagine you are deeply interested in someone, and then one day, they are gone without a trace, poof! This, essentially, is what ghosting is in the era of social media. Ghosting refers to a sudden termination of all contact with a person on all social media platforms without any explanation whatsoever. Recent research conducted in 2019 has indicated that out of a sample of 332 young individuals, 72% had been ghosted by someone while 64.5% were the ones who ghosted.

This act of essentially disappearing suddenly from someone’s life has essentially become an increasingly favourable method to end friendships and relationships. This is especially prevalent among young people. It is an easy way to cope with a romantic or platonic relationship that one no longer wants to be in. With the advent of online dating, it has become a norm to ghost matches you are less interested in. Research has, however, indicated that a certain type of personality is more prone to such behaviour than others. Let us examine.

The Dark Triad

We all have a dark side to us. No human is perfect, and thus, we all have certain negative traits. However, psychologists have determined certain traits that primarily characterise the dark side of personality. The Dark Triad primarily consists of three traits: psychopathy, narcissism, and machiavellianism

Psychopathy

is characterised by a lack of empathy, dysfunction difficulty in forming interpersonal and emotional connections, and a tendency towards antisocial and hostile behaviours. Psychopathy as a trait has been found in most criminals according to a study done in 2011. Riteish Deshmukh in the movie ‘Ek Villain’ is a fairly accurate representation of a psychopathic killer. However, it must be noted that psychopathy is a spectrum and it can exist in good-natured people. It only marks a higher possibility for exhibiting antisocial behaviours.

Read More: Antisocial Personality Disorder: Symptoms, Causes and, Treatment

Narcissism

is characterised by self-absorption, self-admiration, and selfish behaviours with less empathy and regard for others. It is most outwardly seen in Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Narcissistic people tend to put themselves on a higher pedestal. Around 2% to 16% of people show symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder in India. They exhibit perceptions of grandiosity and get aggravated when faced with even the smallest amount of criticism. 

Machiavellianism

has gotten its name from the philosopher Niccolo Machiavelli. In the book ‘The Prince’, Machiavelli expands on his idea that rulers must bend their morality and even be cruel to secure what they desire. It rests on the theme that it is better to be feared than loved. People with this trait tend to be highly manipulative and form relationships that will ensure their benefit. In leadership positions, they are more likely to be ruthless in their drive to achieve a goal. While some degree of indulging in this trait can bring you more career satisfaction, higher degrees of it can result in disrupting interpersonal relationships and workplace balance.

Read More: The Psychology Behind Manipulation

The descriptions of the above traits do show more of an inclination towards performing behaviours that are self-serving even if they may hurt the other person. Ghosting holds the same base.

Ghosting and The Dark Triad

Numerous studies have explored the way people who inhibit traits from The Dark Triad behave in relationships. However, as of late, studies have explored how such individuals behave at the termination of relationships. During the course of the relationship, people high on these traits tend to be downright abusive and self-centred throughout which tends to hurt the partner but also keep them invested in the relationship because of the inherent manipulation exhibited in all three traits.

1. When is ghosting acceptable?

According to research done in 2021 by Davis and Jonason, people with higher levels of narcissistic tendencies tend to find ghosting a more acceptable form of ending a short-term relationship than others. Moreover, those who have been ghosted previously and have ghosted people themselves tend to be higher on Machiavellianism than psychopathy.

Read More: The Onion Model: Understanding the Psychology of Human Personality

2. The role of reduced empathy.

People with the Dark Triad traits are marked by reduced empathy and concern for others. Ghosting someone leaves them with no explanation while the person who ghosts does not have to answer any questions or deal with the aftermath of terminating the relationship. Research has found that it is easier for people, especially men who hold a high self-regard, to end short-term relationships by ghosting.

3. What about long-term relationships?

Luckily, even those very high on Dark Triad traits do not find ending long-term relationships by ghosting acceptable. Only a very small percentage of people which is not statistically significant who were extremely high on Machiavellianism tend to find this acceptable. While these results are promising, one must note that the data was gathered by a survey where social desirability can be at play. Social desirability is the tendency of people to answer what people deem to be socially acceptable.

Read more: How Does the Psychology of Mahabharata Reflect Human Nature?

4. The experience of having been ghosted

Research conducted in 2019 has reported that 74% of the people who have been ghosted believed ghosting to be an unacceptable method of breaking up with someone. The same results cannot be seen in studies conducted with people high on Dark Triad traits. Such individuals find ghosting an acceptable strategy for termination of relationship even after having been ghosted themselves. 

5. Ghosting during the relationship

People with the Dark Triad are more likely to become abusive partners than others. Abusive behaviour includes verbal abuse, physical harm, and emotional exploitation. The act of suddenly disappearing from your partner’s life is regarded as abuse. Often as a manipulation tactic, ghosting for a couple of days is employed by people high on the Dark Triad especially those high on Machiavellianism and Psychopathy.

These are the perceptions on ghosting that can be found in people high on the Dark Triad. How many of these would you agree with? Now, let us look at some other aspects of ghosting.

Further Research Findings

A qualitative research carried out in 2019 has examined various other looming questions that remain after speculating on the concept of ghosting. The findings are briefly elaborated on below:

1. Implementing Ghosting

The research indicates that people who ghost usually go one of three ways going about it. These are namely contact interruption, disappearing act, and forewarning. Contact interruption refers to the most common way of ghosting which includes unresponsive behaviour towards any form of contact and can extend to even blocking the person on social media. Disappearing act is a more gradual way of exiting a person’s life but can also be vanishing entirely. Forewarning was when people ghost after giving some sort of a lie or excuse and passing it off as an explanation.

2. Motivations behind Ghosting

The most common perception we hold of ghosting involves the person leaving with no explanation and thus, no detection of motivation by the one who got ghosted. Statistics indicate that 13% of those who got ghosted had no idea why they were ghosting. However, certain people have assumed certain reasons that could be behind such behaviours. These reasons are avoidance of direct conversations, easier than confronting the issue, fear of hurting the partner and the most common perception held that the person who ghosted must have been interested in someone else.

3. Dealing with being ghosted

In the aftermath of being ghosted, participants had different ways of going about the situation. 29.3% of people did nothing and were simply okay with the ghosting. 19.4% were reportedly attempting to simply let go and move on from the situation, this result was repeated with those who attempted persistent communication with a ghosting partner and ultimately gave up. Barely 8-9% of the participants attempted to retaliate by sending aggressive messages, contacting mutuals and blocking the person.

In today’s day and age, with the advent of casual relationships and online dating, ghosting as a form of termination of relationships has become exceedingly normalised. The online dating sphere is nothing less than a marketplace where romantic connections have become a transactional entity. Thus, if you are more interested in someone else or there is some obstacle in the path, it is perfectly okay to simply leave without any explanation. It has become more difficult to form meaningful connections where termination would require an explanation.  

References +
  • Jonason, P. K., Kaźmierczak, I., Campos, A. C., & Davis, M. D. (2021). Leaving without a word: Ghosting and the Dark Triad traits. Acta Psychologica, 220, 103425.  https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S000169182100175X
  • Koessler, R. B., Kohut, T., & Campbell, L. (2019). When your Boo becomes a ghost: The association between breakup strategy and breakup role in experiences of relationship dissolution. Collabra, 5(1). https://online.ucpress.edu/collabra/article/5/1/29/113028/When-Your-Boo-Becomes-a-Ghost-The-Association
  • Pechorro, P., Curtis, S. R., DeLisi, M., Marôco, J., & Nunes, C. (2022). Dark triad psychopathy outperforms Self-Control in predicting antisocial outcomes: a structural equation modeling approach. European Journal of Investigation in Health, Psychology and Education, 12(6), 549–562.  https://www.mdpi.com/2254-9625/12/6/41
  • Wikipedia contributors. (2024b, February 12). Machiavellianism (psychology). Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Machiavellianism_(psychology)
  • APA PsycNet. (n.d.-b).  https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2019-14898-000
  • Anderson, N. E., & Kiehl, K. A. (2014). Psychopathy: Developmental perspectives and their implications for treatment. Restorative Neurology and Neuroscience, 32(1), 103–117. https://doi.org/10.3233/rnn-139001
  • Niccolò Machiavelli (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy). (2023, December 6).  https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/machiavelli/
  • Akre, K. (2024, February 22). Psychopathy | Definition, Studies, Characteristics, Origins, & Treatment. Encyclopedia Britannica.  https://www.britannica.com/topic/psychopathy
  • McRae, M. (2021, November 12). Ghosting in casual dating is linked with ‘Dark triad’ traits such as narcissism : ScienceAlert. ScienceAlert.  https://www.sciencealert.com/ghosting-a-recent-love-interest-is-linked-to-a-dark-triad-of-relationship-traits
  • OSF. (n.d.).  https://www.researchgate.net/publication/336970032_Integration_and_expansion_of_qualitative_analyses_of_relationship_dissolution_through_ghosting

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