Rosie Walsh considers the idea that perhaps 'ghosting' isn't just a modern dating concept and introduces her new novel The Man Who Didn't Call which publishes in hardback in June 2018.
The first time I was ghosted, the verb did not exist. Neither did the internet, the mobile phone, or any other modern tool of passive rejection. But the set-up was then as it is now: I was a girl, he was a boy, and he was meant to call. He hadn’t.
I installed myself by my parents’ telephone and remained there for several days, hypothesising the many terrible things that could have happened to him. The possibility that he might not want to see me again barely crossed my mind. He had kissed me for twenty minutes straight at the under-sixteens disco - it was serious.
I told myself that he had probably called while the line was engaged. More likely still, he had been taken hostage, or, simply, dropped dead. I fumed at the limitations of modern technology. This would be so much less painful, I thought angrily, if I knew how and when his sudden death had come about.
Fast forward to the present day, where hyper-connectedness has taken the ambiguity out of ghosting. The ghostee of today is surrounded by evidence that their ghostor is alive. They can choose to view pictures of what their ghostor has been up to, check when they were last online, and establish beyond reasonable doubt that their messages are getting through. Similarly, there is little hope of convincing themselves that their ghostor is incommunicado: almost everyone on earth is twenty-four hours or less from a mobile phone, be they Amazonian tribesmen or fishermen in remote arctic villages. The ghostee, therefore, is required to plumb new depths of self-deception if she’s to continue with the narrative that something terrible has happened.
And this is how my new novel, The Man Who Didn’t Call, opens: with a phone that does not ring. Sarah and Eddie have supposedly fallen in love, yet he is nowhere to be seen. In spite of credible evidence to the contrary, however, Sarah is convinced there is a more sinister reason for his disappearance.
Because this is a novel, it turns out that there is. In real life, though, I doubt such cases account for even one percent of ghostings. (It’s also a noun, these days.) And yet – and yet – anyone and everyone I know who has been ghosted in the digital age (myself included) – has still persisted with the same rigmarole that I put myself through in those painful days following the under-sixteens disco. We tell ourselves his phone has broken, his voice is lost, his arm fell off. Anything, rather than experience the pain of a lazy, passive rejection.
Oh, for the agony of a silent landline! For the ignorance, for the what-ifs. And above all, for the unlimited opportunities for self-deception! Technology has a lot to answer for.