On friendship and ghosting: Why are we so bad at hanging out IRL?
We live in a busy world with lots of distractions — from endless texts we need to answer, to Netflix shows we must watch, and countless events we need to attend. This can often leave us being ghosted — or doing the ghosting, especially in romantic relationships (or potential relationships that never manifested IRL).
In my “year of realizing things” à la Kylie Jenner, I found that ghosting doesn’t only exist with guys you went on a few Tinder dates with — ghosting also happens with your friends.
There’s always one flaky friend in a group that everyone recognizes, and you simply learn to live with their behavior. But what happens now that we’ve seemingly all become flakes? Why are we so bad at hanging out?
A few years ago, I was semi-ghosted/benched/breadcrumbed for the first time, before people had names for these dating habits. A guy I’d been seeing for a couple months texted me at 2 a.m.:
“Hey, it’s a bummer that I have to tell you this way but I’m really busy right now and am only going to get busier in the next few weeks so I don’t think we can hang out.”
I was in shock. Even though we’d only been seeing each other for a short time, I couldn’t believe he was using the old “I’m too busy” line. I wondered why his schedule took priority over my similarly busy schedule. In the end I was annoyed and hurt — and decided not to respond.
But with friends, it’s different. Friendships, whether close companions or mere acquaintances, are about being there for each other, communicating, and sometimes making plans for real life meet-ups. It seemed so much easier in high school — or even college — when school and friendships easily blended together. Cramming for finals was also an excuse to eat bagels with your best friend and take study breaks to watch videos of cute baby animals. Now things are different— maybe because of the age we live in, or maybe because we’re out of school.
One thing is for certain: It’s becoming harder to navigate the waters of friend hangouts.
How far in advance do you plan a hangout? A couple weeks might seem too long, but what if you need to save-the-date? If it’s too spontaneous. you run the risk of someone else being too busy. And if it’s a Facebook event, you might think 28 people are “attending,” but only one person shows up. It’s confusing, and then discouraging — because friendships shouldn’t be confusing.
While it’s frustrating when plans fall through or when you receive an underwhelming excuse via text, it’s also easy to be on the other side.
I’ve definitely had nights when I want nothing more than to lay in bed and bingewatch Vanderpump Rules, unable to rally myself to go out. I’ve cancelled on friends because I felt so exhausted from the world in general. Figuring out how to deliver these excuses over text is tricky — especially because you want to respect your friend’s time.
With or without the distractions, friendships are constantly being negotiated in life. Things change. You lose track of time and your friendships take on a new form, hopefully transforming into something stronger. Sometimes, the ones who show up to spend time aren’t the ones you expected to be there for you — and that’s okay.
We shouldn’t have to lower our expectations and assume that everyone will cancel on plans. Maybe it’s time to not only re-assess our friendships, but also think about how we communicate with each other in general.
In what feels like a world gone mad, it’s time to be there for each other in a capacity beyond Instagram likes and Snapchat views. We can all do better by saying what we mean, showing up for each other, and creating true #friendshipgoals offline.