Though people have been abruptly and silently dumping their partners since the dawn of time, ghosting saw its heyday in the 2010s, when the rise of dating apps forever altered the way we casually date and reject each other. It was the decade that gave us interviews with ghosts of relationships past, stories of ghosts that just want to be friends and spooky research on the psychologically damaging effects of being ghosted.
Somewhere along the way, the men of the manosphere decided ghosting should be a lifestyle. For them, living the “Ghostly Life” is about cutting oneself off from all connection and communication — not only in relationships, but with society.
According to Jessica Aiston, who studies male supremacy and the manosphere with Lancaster University’s MANTRaP research project, “going ghost” is one of the multiple levels within the manosphere. “Men may start by avoiding all serious and long-term relationships with women, then avoiding short-term or casual relationships,” Aiston tells me. “Eventually, they ‘go ghost’ and limit interactions or even withdraw from society altogether.”
The manosphere is made up of an array of ideologies based in male supremacism, and includes incels, adherents to the red-pill ideology and Men Going Their Own Way (or MGTOW), who desire to separate themselves from what they believe is a feminist-dominated society.
One of the largest MGTOW forums hosts an entire subforum called “For Ghosts,” where those hoping to achieve ghost status can learn from one another. “[Ghosts are] ‘antisocial,’ but we’re generally asocial, indifferent to Society and its expectations, rules, and roles,” reads the subforum’s introductory post titled, “Welcome to the Ghostly Life!”
“We’re not here to entertain, or to serve, or to be of utility to The Princess Class. We live on our own terms, as much as we can, and we won’t be arsed to live up to the ‘Real Manhood’ terms thrust upon all men by Society.”
It’s an arguably vague description, but one that ultimately aligns with male supremacists’ view that “society is inherently gynocentric, or revolving around women,” Aiston explains. The perceived gynocentric society is toxic to men, they believe, and thus, “men shouldn’t have to contribute to society as they’ll get nothing back in return.”
And so, these men slowly but surely ghost everyone in their lives and search for ways to become as isolated and cut off from the rest of the world as possible. In the “For Ghosts” subforum, for instance, men often wonder what jobs are best suited for ghosts. Answers range from “night-time truck driver” to “mechanic” to “day trader” to, per one ghost, any job that requires a hi-vis vest, since those “instantly make you invisible to women.” Hobbies and workouts best suited for ghosts include listening to music, reading, cycling and gardening. “In general, activities can be enjoyed without being held hostage to other people and their flakiness,” explains one ghost.
Because male supremacists are a very individualistic group, “their solutions are focused on self-improvement and making positive changes in their own lives rather than protesting or campaigning for large-scale changes that would affect men as a whole,” Aiston tells me. “In that sense, going ‘ghost’ is how they can achieve their goals of self-improvement and self-sufficiency without the perceived corrupting influence of feminism or the distractions of women, and without having to concern themselves with anyone other than themselves.”
Living free of distractions as a ghost can be difficult. Consider one ghost poster who describes struggling with the fact that ghosts don’t browbeat people with whom they disagree. “I am finding it difficult to turn a blind eye when I hear someone say, ‘We need more socialism so these people can get a living wage,’” writes one poster. “It pisses me off and I find myself getting more and more vocal. … Does anyone here have any mental practices to enter the matrix as a ghost from day-to-day?” To that end, another ghost poster explains, “I simply ghost in plain sight; common courtesies and smiles as needed, but absolute zip for purposeful interaction with folks that I absolutely do not have to interact with or do not want to interact with.”
For her part, Aiston suggests these phantom-aspirational men may find solace in taking a job where they work exclusively with other men, traveling to parts of the world where feminism is supposedly less influential or just floating away in solitude on a houseboat. “However, becoming a complete ghost is perhaps unattainable,” she says, “since the men who are truly untouchable and dedicated to remaining off-the-grid would probably not be posting on these forums about being a ghost in the first place.”