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Ghosting vs Ignoring: Are They The Same Thing?

The world of human emotions is nothing if not complex. Nowhere is that more true than with ghosting.

But what is ghosting, really? Isn’t it just a catchy name for ignoring?

The truth is, there exists a continuum from ghosting to soft ghosting to ignoring, and no one is … totally clear … on what the they all mean.

Whether you’re wondering if you’ve been ghosted or are just being ignored, thinking about calling someone out for ghosting, or considering other ghosting responses, it’s important to first know what you’re dealing with.

We’ll take a look at ghosting, ignoring, and everything in between.

A woman stares down at her phone wondering if she's being ignored or ghosted
ghosting vs ignoring

What Is Ghosting?

First, let’s acknowledge something upfront:

You’re going to get different definitions of these terms depending on which friend you ask or what website you pull up. However, there are some pretty clear differences between ghosting and ignoring.

Ghosting is when someone abruptly disappears from your life, without a word of explanation. It often applies in a dating context, but it is equally valid for friend and family relationships.

It’s even happening in professional environments. Have you ever had a recruiter or HR rep stop replying to you at some point during the hiring process? That’s also ghosting.

Ghosting is no longer just a Gen Z slang term … it’s a real, measurable problem in society. Meta-analyses show this to be true.

For instance, a “sample of 554 US adults [found] that 25.3% reported they had been ghosted and 21.3% had ghosted a dating partner. In a second sample of 747 participants, 23% informed that they had been ghosted and 18.9% reported having ghosted a dating partner.”

Other studies have found even higher numbers, specifically “72% of the participants informed that they had been ghosted by a partner, whereas 64.5% of participants reported ghosting a partner.”

What Is Ignoring?

Merriam-Webster defines ignoring as “refusing to take notice of.”

It’s an active behavior. You’re consciously deciding to not respond or pretend someone isn’t there when they are, usually to make a point or get some space.

You text someone, they see it, but don’t respond. They’re ignoring you.

Sometimes it’s intentional, but there are times when it’s not. There’s more ambiguity and nuance with ignoring, whereas ghosting pretty much just is what it is.

Ghostings vs Ignoring: What’s the Difference?

Ignoring is more like a short-term thing. Even if they don’t respond right away, maybe they do eventually.

They might be busy or just not in the mood to talk, but it’s generally a temporary situation. Eventually, they’ll probably get back to you or acknowledge you in some way.

Ghosting, on the other hand, is like the nuclear option. The ghoster cuts off all communication with you, no warning, no explanation, just poof, gone.

You’re left hanging, wondering what the heck happened. It’s more of a long-term thing. This person has decided to exit your life without having the courtesy to tell you why.


So, if someone’s ignoring you, there’s still some hope they might come around. But if they’ve ghosted you, it’s more likely they’re out of your life for good, or at least for the foreseeable future.

Make sense?

How Long Before Ignoring Becomes Ghosting?

Honestly, it depends on who you ask.

Our research and anecdotal surveys have found that most people think 3 days is a solid ghost. However, if you and someone else were going strong on communication and it abruptly ended, ghosting may be the right term after 24 hours.

What Does This Mean for You?

So, what’s the takeaway? That ignoring hurts, but ghosting hurts more. Neither is the most mature way for handling difficult situations.

But whether it’s ghosting or ignoring, what’s most important is that you take care of yourself.

If you’re unsure if somebody is ignoring your or ghosting you, you have a few options. You could give it a couple of days and ask explicitly. If they get back to you, maybe you can establish what’s going on.

And if they don’t?

Well, you know where you stand.

And if you ever need to talk to someone about it, there’s no shame in reaching out. You deserve to be happy.

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