For a reason I’ll share shortly, I imagined a high school seminar today somewhere in Knox County on career planning:

“How many of you want to become a doctor?” the guidance counselor might first ask. I bet half the classroom would quickly raise their hands, fingers wiggling in excessive pride.

“How about a lawyer?” Perhaps 25 percent would cautiously raise their right hands.

“Politician?” I fantasize the lone school resource officer in the back raises her hand, as well as the president of the Young Republicans Club in the first row.

“How about a pollster?”

Likely crickets.

I thought of a pollster because I’d like one of them to pose a question to my county neighbors: Which is your preferred technique for ditching a friend or family member?

Ghosting (never calling them back or responding to their requests), or:

Un-friending (directly telling someone via email, text, phone call, or face-to-face of the specific reason you think they are a stinker)?

Unfortunately, I am quite familiar with each approach. For example, as a young teen I fell hard for the short and full-figured Crystal. This first romance lasted just weeks, yet she has been in my memory like a small shard of glass trying to emerge from just under the skin.

It’s not that she was all that terrific a girlfriend, other than she was the first. This is more about how it ended.

She finally had her family run interference when I called.

“No, sorry, Crystal isn’t here. I’ll tell her you called, though,” they would say, affect flat as a pancake. She never called back. People today would call that ghosting.

I once called Crystal, desperate to talk with her.

“Hello?” It was Crystal’s younger sister, Topaz. (Nah, I made her name up).

“Is Crystal in?”

“Oh, hi. Is this Butch?” Topaz innocently asked.

“Um, yes,” was the only thing I could think to mumble.

She yelled, “Hey, Crystal, it’s not Mike, it’s Butch!”

I heard Crystal’s girlish squeal of delight in the background, and when she answered the phone, I informed her I wasn’t her Butch, and she answered, “Oh. It’s you.”

That is called un-friending. But being ghosted was much worse.

A more recent example comes to mind. A professional colleague with whom I worked and became friends decades ago suddenly went under the radar. I finally reconnected with her over email and had great conversations, catching up on our lives. We even did a Zoom call, the first time I had seen her in almost 20 years. Then, nothing. Ghosted again.

Emailing and getting no answer felt like the adult equivalent of fruitlessly calling Crystal.

A much more difficult situation came about last year. A very long time ago, I went to college and rented a house off-campus with three other fellows. We (and our spouses) have continued to be part of each other’s lives now for almost 50 years. Two of these guys had been close; they considered themselves best buddies.

But something happened over a year ago that made one of them suddenly refuse to return the phone calls, texts or emails of the other.

“I don’t know what happened. It must be because we are so different politically,” the ghostee said to me. “I must have said something wrong, but he won’t talk to me.”

The ghoster finally sent a terse un-friending text many months later, writing something to the effect of “nice knowing you, but…” There was nothing specific except there was no need to think of themselves as close friends anymore. Hurt feelings trailed.

I talked with the ghoster later, and he said this break with our friend was a long time coming, and much less about politics than growing differences of what each valued. He just didn’t want to debate it.

Two close friends for fifty years and then, snip, it’s suddenly over after a long-delayed brief text. I don’t know the exact behavior that my friend found inexcusable, but I told him he was wrong to use ghosting to express his dissatisfaction. While I still love him as if he were a brother, I thought his inaction bordered a little on cruelty after such a long friendship.

So, my Midcoast neighbors, which is your preferred way to receive news of a severed relationship: being ghosted or un-friended? Mine is un-friending. I have become a ghosting-buster, wishing to know what went wrong versus being left hanging. Give it to me straight; if I get defensive, that’s my problem, not yours.

By the way, Crystal was way too short for me anyway.

Mike Skinner is a writer who lives in Tenants Harbor. Skinner was a medic in the U.S. Army, a hospital executive, and a college educator. He is the author of “My Life as a Non-Valedictorian,” available through Maine Authors Publishing, local bookstores, and Amazon and Kindle.