If you ghost people, you’re an asshole.
It seems that in the era of social media, smart phones, and dating apps, ghosting is a regular feature in the world of modern romance — indeed, sometimes even in relationships that are purely platonic.
Quick reminder for the old folks: ghosting is when a person you’re interacting with drops off the map and stops communicating — whether it’s after a few short messages after matching on swipe/online dating (SOD — don’t recommend this btw), up to an actual relationship that may or may not have involved sex.
What I find troubling is that we seem to accept ghosting with a shrug of the shoulders — that the person ghosting is somehow justified in doing so (this seems especially true when the ghoster is a woman), or even that the person being ghosted is somehow at fault.
If there is such a thing as ethical ghosting, it’s only during that first phase of interaction on SOD: because at that point you have no idea, really, who this person is, and the connection is so tenuous neither party owes each other a damn thing. This is especially true of platforms where you don’t have to match first to send people messages.
But otherwise, if you ghost people, you’re an asshole.
You’re choosing to subject the other person to tremendous anxiety and disrespect, when all that’s required is a simple response, explanation, or excuse. Just one. And to be honest, because we know as humans it’s an implicitly shitty thing to do, you’re debasing yourself as well.
Because we evolved in tribes and small communities. Indeed, up until the birth of the suburbs and growth of large metropolis type cities late in 20th century, almost all people were involved in some sort of local community, organization, or religious group — often all three.
And whether it’s a tribe or a church or a small town, you can’t just ghost people. In a tribe, that kind of unsociability would get your ass killed or exiled. In a church or small town it wouldn’t be that extreme, but the social effect would be the same: the ghoster would become a ghost — people would shun them like they had the plague.
Sometimes it’s hard to remember in an age when everyone’s constantly staring at their phone, but human beings are the most social of animals. We thrive on connection to one another and our inclusion in groups — we derive great meaning and pleasure from relationships and communities. And ghosting is basically failing to recognize that the person you are interacting with is a human being.
And if you’re wondering, yes: I get ghosted all the time. But I also have dates every week and plenty of women in my life. What I’ve come to learn is that modern dating, at least for men (maybe for women too — I’m not one so I don’t know), is a numbers game, because some portion of women are going to ghost or flake no matter what you do — no matter how cool or intelligent or confident or attractive you are.
Indeed, ghosting is the default reaction I get from women who give me their number or Insta and then decide for whatever reason they’re not interested. I’m not mad they changed their mind and aren’t into me — that’s their right. It’s how it goes.But either don’t give me your number in the first place, or if you do and then change your mind, just say so.
Trust me, I’ll move on.
I know for an absolute fact that any single guy out there who’s honest is nodding, and I’m sure this happens to a lot of women as well. In some ways actually, my guess is that it’s worse for women because guys sometimes ghost them after sex, which is the shittiest version of ghosting there is.
And I don’t care who you are: no matter how famous or cool or rich or whatever, if you’re in touch with your humanity and not a sociopath, being ignored — ghosted — feels shitty. That person is denying your existence (although they’re often perfectly happy to have you following them on narstagram), or at the very least your importance, and in a nation where we claim to believe that no one is better than anyone else, it’s hard to not take it personally.
Do you get used to it? Sure to some extent, but that’s only because it’s so common and you realize over time that it’s not really about you — the fact is they don’t even know you well enough to make that judgment.
They’re just an asshole.
And that’s where the tables turn. Because ghosting, in the long run, isn’t nearly as shitty for the person who’s ghosted as it is for the person who’s ghosting — in life: you get what you give, you reap what you sow. And if ghosting tons of dudes is a woman’s MO, it means she’s got a lot of other problems underneath the surface.
The same is true for guys who ghost women, but because the economy of modern dating means women live in a state of abundance and men live in a state of scarcity (guys, seriously, get off the apps — unless you’re Chad, they’re worthless), my guess is that it’s far more common for women to ignore messages they get from men than the other way around.
The irony is that while we’d all like to be in a state of abundance, there’s such a thing as too much: as I’ve stated many times, when humans have too many choices, we either make bad choices or have trouble making any sort of choice at all.
And women — particularly attractive women — garner a ton of attention on social media, on dating apps, and to some extent IRL. Of course, there’s a degree to which this is out of their hands: men are attracted to beauty, women are attracted to power, and that is what it is.
But in another sense, it’s not.
Like, no one forces women (or men) to sign up for SOD or make their Instagram public. And IRL, no one is forcing you to give a dude your number; tell me you have a boyfriend you’re in love with, that you’re married but forgot to wear your ring, that you’re a lesbian, or maybe even just tell me the truth, which is that you’re not interested.
So the excuse — which I’ve seen even guys offer in defense of female ghosting— that she’s got so much attention she doesn’t know what to do and loses track…that’s within her control. Again, no one is forced to be on social media or SOD, and from what I’ve learned meeting women IRL, it doesn’t happen very often (outside of a bar or nightclub) that guys approach women and ask for a number — which again, she doesn’t have to give out.
But the other thing is: just reply! If you decide to connect on Insta, give a dude your number, or you set up a date on SOD, and then change your mind — just say so.
Like: hey, it was nice meeting you the other night but I’m not really dating right now.
Or: I’m super busy with work rn (for the old folks, short for right now).
Or whatever excuse you want to make — the point is there are a million polite ways you can acknowledge someone’s humanity while turning them down for a date.
Not replying — ghosting — means you’re an asshole.
Are some people going to be upset you don’t want to hang out?
Are some guys going to be jerks about it?
No doubt (guys play it cool — getting upset is never a good look).
But wouldn’t you rather not be the asshole?
And let’s be honest: ghosting someone doesn’t prevent them from reacting like a jerk. Like, they still have your number or social media or can contact you on SOD, so they can still spout off — and I’d argue they’re actually more likely to be assholes when ghosted than politely rejected, because there’s basically nothing worse you can do to someone than failing to acknowledge they exist, which is what ghosting is.
And that’s the danger for the person who ghosts. Because they are so regularly failing to acknowledge the humanity of others, they lose a large measure of their own.
We gain from social interactions, especially the difficult ones, where there’s some confrontation or disagreement that has to happen. It’s how we learn about who we are and what we want, but just as important, we see the other person’s perspective: what they want, who they are, how they feel.
We gain empathy by interacting with others — and humility. Ghosting people robs one of that experience: it’s an avoidance tactic, a symptom of a deep social cowardice, and again, a sign that one lacks humanity, compassion, and respect for the dignity of others.
I mean, does anyone really want to date someone long term who treats other people that way? What does that say about how they’ll treat you when it suits their purpose — a person who’s either so narcissistic they have to fill their life up with so many people they can’t manage to text them back, and/or can’t confront even the lowliest sort of adversity? That doesn’t sound like a human being — it sounds like a bot.
And again, don’t tell me people who ghost are so inundated with attention they can’t get back to people — if you have time to post eight updates on your narstagram story every day, you have time to text someone back.
But if that’s truly the case, their social group is too large.
Seriously, if it’s not a business account, how many followers on Insta does your ego need? How many people do you have to match with on Tinder before you feel validated as a person? How many orbiters do you need to string along to feel like you’re attractive?
At some point, the truth is, we as humans can only handle so many choice and so much attention. Beyond that line, it’s detrimental. It robs us of our humanity.
And ghosting is a perfect example. It means someone has so much choice and attention they view other people as numbers or handles, disposable and valueless. That or they’re just shitty at communicating.
But either way, if you ghost people, you’re an asshole.
Jeff Allen is an independent author and blogger living in Portland, OR. His website is ChuckingRocks.com, where he writes about Health and Fitness, Dating, Existentialism, and whatever else he happens to get spun up about. You can find a few of his short stories there as well.
His first novel, Cherry City Pulp, is darkly comic take on modern American society and what happens when coincidence and human frailty break the wrong way — click on the link for a larger description and reviews.
His new novel, Say Yes, debuts in June 2019.