Human Rights, Environment & Social StudiesMY LNA

Are you being ghosted?

By: Assoc. Prof. Dr. Adelina Asmawi

The way a youth is treated in class or at home has an impact on whether he or she remains interested and is willing to further engage with you. Whether or not the youth will open up to you and discuss issues with you are dependent on the environment you have prepared for them.

What are strategies that could help you reduce the gap with your youth? Most importantly, to stop being ghosted by them?

Ghosting occurs when a person stops participating in a class or at home with activities set out for them, either physically or virtually, most times without informing or giving a valid reason. Ghosting here can also mean being withdrawn from these activities and simply staying quiet, shutting down from the surroundings right under your nose.

Interestingly, they do not disappear suddenly, but they do show some signs of disengagement before they start ghosting. Progressively, they start struggling with making commitments, do not share personal stories and information, refuse to meet many family members and then, stop responding to calls or texts from you. Therefore, it is crucial to understand the causes of youth disengagement from the classroom and at home, how to spot it, and how to act before they start disappearing altogether.

The first key is communication. Through the right kind of communication, you create a compassionate environment where the youth do not feel distant, fear, disengaged or uncared for by those surrounding them. Their issues and concerns are supposed to be channelled to be heard first and not shot down at first glance. As adults or leaders of the youth, our job is to be more understanding of them when they are going through confusing and difficult times and how, above all, to communicate and engage with ghosting youth.

With the not-so-long-ago pandemic-induced environment of quarantines, mental health issues, loss of loved ones, and lack of social norms, normalcy in life does not come instantly. Normalcy, in fact remains out of reach for a while for many people especially our youth. The way they communicated for the past two years and the way they were communicated to were not at the best communication normalcy. If not addressed well, we will lose more youth as they start ghosting us, thinking that no one understands them.

They look and act as normal beings around us, eating, going to college, reading and completing errands but be mindful of the slow progress of ghosting creeping into your life should you not be careful. It is a new term, referring to a new way of life post pandemic and requires a lot of compassion, flexibility and communication on our part.

Although experts say that proliferation of ghosting might be an acceptable exit from someone’s life when required, this is actually arguable as it can be a manifestation of the decline of empathy in our youth, transcended from our own lack of empathy for them.

In a societal culture, expectations and trust built through good communication are in constant question. There needs to be stability particularly for the youth, post pandemic because any state of communication ambiguity inevitably creates an atmosphere where at least one person feels lingering uncertainty, and neither person feels truly appreciated nor nurtured. Building relationships through open communication with the youth is central.

With appropriate communication which highlights compassion, flexibility and care, we may just bring back relationship accountability with our youth and stop them from ghosting us.


The author is an Associate Professor at the Department of Language and Literacy Education, Faculty of Education, Universiti Malaya. She may be contacted at

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