You’d think that when someone wants to break-up with you, they’ll at least sit down with you and tell you why they are breaking up with you. But instead they ghost you leaving you wondering if you are broken up or not, and what you did to deserve being ghosted?
Ghosting is a term used to explain when someone who expressed interest or was in a relationship with you stops responding to texts or calls, unfollows, unfriends or blocks your phone or on social media platforms without an explanation or communicating that they’re breaking up. You check their social media thinking that maybe something bad had happened to them, but they’re still posting. You send messages asking them what is going on or to at least tell you that they’re not interested anymore or tell you what went wrong and you’d be okay with it, but no response.
This indirect avoidance/withdrawal has been described as the least compassionate break-up strategy and is associated with greater distress following the breakup (Collins & Gillath, 2012). Many people ghosted are not immediately aware of that they’ve ghosted and are left to interpret on their own what the absence of communication means. After realizing they’ve been ghosted they feel blindsided, hurt, insecure, rejected and angry. Many feel ashamed, blame themselves and question their value as a romantic interest.
Ghosting is common with fearful avoidants and dismissive avoidants
Ghosting is not only more common with avoidants, but also considered an acceptable way to get oneself out of a low investment relationship.
Many avoidants claim it’s not done with bad or ill intent. They say ghosting someone is better than telling them “I don’t feel the same way about you” or saying something that may hurt them or their self-esteem. Others say they ghosted an ex to protect themselves from unwanted or aggressive pursuit. They tried to tell the person they wanted to break up but the person refused to accept the end of the relationship and started showing aggressive and stalking behaviour.
But ghosting is not all about the person ghosted. Sometimes avoidants ghost you because you got too close. Fearful avoidants especially have been known to vacillate between wanting closeness and avoiding it. They get overwhelmed with fear of a relationship not working or fear of being rejected and abandoned and ghost someone because it feels safer to just disappear than face failure, rejection or abandonment. Avoidants also admit that they ghosted because they lacked the necessary communication skills to have an open and honest conversation.
And sometimes both individuals with an anxious attachment and avoidant attachment suffering from depression or struggling with life stressors ghost you because they don’t have the motivation or energy to maintain the relationship or even keep in contact.
Why do avoidants who ghost you still follow you and watch your Instagram?
A study (Pancani, Aureli and Riva (2022)) published in the academic journal Cyberpsychology found that after ghosting someone, some ghosters still follow or refollow you or secretly lurk on your social media watching your Instagram stories as soon as you post them but not directly reach out or communicate. They may even like or react to your Instagram story but don’t respond when you try to engage them, or unfollow you only to refollow you a few weeks later (see:
This behaviour is called orbiting and is confusing, difficult to understand and can mess with your head and heart. It’s as if they’re trying to send you a message that they’re still interested but also saying that they don’t wish to reconnect or even open the lines of communication.
Many people find themselves overanalyzing and obsessing over what it could mean that someone who disappeared without a word and is unresponsive is prowling their social media and seemingly keeping tab on them. Others go a step further to desperately try to establish the connection. They post thirst traps to get the ghoster’s attention or post Instagram stories to try to trigger good memories, or try to make the ghoster miss them by posting things that show them happy and “care-free” or with some other guy(s) or women.
They feel that if the ghoster is still following them or watching their stories, there might still be hope that they’re still interested or want to come back.
Avoidants keep people they have moved on from in their orbit
There are so many reasons why an avoidant who ghosted you is orbiting you. They could still be interested or still have feelings for you. They could be trying to protect you from getting hurt (by them). They could have moved on and don’t see anything wrong following an ex or watching their stories. They could be watching stories of people they follow and yours just happens to be one of them. Or they could be messing with you just because they can.
You may never know exactly why an avoidant is orbiting you because both fearful avoidants and dismissive avoidants ghost people they’re no longer interested and also ghost people they’re still interested in and still have feelings for. Fearful avoidants and some dismissive avoidants also keep people they don’t want a relationship with or want back (and have moved on from) in their orbit.
The more pressing and important question in my opinion is not why an avoidant ex is orbiting you or even if it means that there is still hope, but how it is affecting you.
Being ghosted – whether intended to hurt or is misplaced good intentions – is effectively saying, “You are not important enough for me to give you my time or energy”.This can make anyone question their self-worth and relationship value
But research shows that as ghosting becomes more common and accepted as a part of the digital experience, most adults who experienced it don’t perceive it as harmful as say breadcrumbing. There seems to be a consensus that although ghosting is an unexpected and surprising experience, and people who get ghosted suffer psychological distress, they are able to recover from the ended relationship and overcome their feelings of loneliness and helplessness (Navarro, et al 2020). .
Will an avoidant ex reach our or come back after ghosting you?
The majority of ghosters never directly hear back from the person who ghosted them. The ghoster either thinks it’s for the best or feels guilty and too embarrassed to try to reconnect.
But some fearful avoidants and dismissive avoidants reach out and even come back after ghosting you. You think it’s the last you’ve heard from then and months later they reappear out of nowhere.
Usually, you notice that an avoidant who ghosted you and either kept you in their orbit is suddenly very active on your social media, or if they unfollowed or unfriended you are following you again or have added you back on Facebook. Then when they see that you are responding positively, reach out directly.
After ghosting you, dismissive avoidants come back acting like they want to try things again. A dismissive avoidant may text you or call you up like nothing happened and no time has passed at all and for a while things are great, but as soon as things seem to get serious, they again ghost you.
Reaching out or coming back after ghosting you is harder for a fearful avoidant because of their fear of rejection. But fearful avoidants are also more likely to reach out after ghosting you because their attachment style vacillates between wanting connection and fearing and avoiding it, which also means there is no guarantee that a fearful avoidant will not ghost you again.