Ghosting As a Form of Self-Care
A Modern Date on Tinder
You match with someone on Tinder. Y’all text for like three days straight. Things seems to be going really well. You go on a coffee date. They seem interested and you really like them back.
You go on another causal date. You lightly kiss before saying goodbye. You leave the second date with the distinct impression that Things Went Well. When you get home you text them saying how good of a time you had.
You anxiously wait. Three hours go by. No response. You think they’re probably just busy, knowing something doesn’t quite feel right. Y’all kissed! They seemed interested.
What changed? Was it something you said? Did they stalk your Facebook? Were you not attractive enough? Or was it your personality? A day goes by. Nothing. You text something. Still nothing.
Three days later and no response.
You’ve been ghosted.
“Ghosting” is when someone suddenly withdraws all communication with no apparent explanation. Ghosting has now become a cultural phenomenon with the rise of online “swipe” dating apps where other real human persons are reduced to a skimpy digital profile, a mere blip in the endless stream of potential dates that you callously reject en masse on the basis of purely superficial criteria.
But is ghosting wrong?
A traditionalist might argue ghosting is wrong because you’re not being fair to the other person. They would say the right thing to do is explain why you are breaking off contact: “I don’t like you because [X].” Ghosting seems like the coward’s way out, a way of not living up to our responsibilities as dating partners. According to the traditionalist, ghosting is fundamentally a form of dishonesty.
And besides, we know that being ghosted hurts.
The uncertainty is painful. I’ve been ghosted myself, of course. I still think about those ghosts sometimes. It doesn’t feel good, not knowing why you are being rejected. You come up with your own hypotheses about your inadequacy but you can never achieve closure. And I think it’s that lack of closure in the end that really gets you right in the gut.
So we can imagine an argument that says ghosting is wrong because it hurts people.
But I am not here to criticize ghosting; I am here to defend it.
For me, ghosting is ultimately about self-care. As a woman of trans experience this is especially important to my feeling safe in dating environments. Ghosting can often feel safer rather than risking raising the ire of the person you are rejecting. While normal contexts pretending to be something you’re not is wholly virtuous, the inherent dangers of dating as a woman justify via self-defense keeping up the pretense of liking someone until the date is over and you can go home and ghost the fuck out of them, blocking them on all social media.
And if you haven’t even met in person yet, there is even more justification for ghosting as a preventative measure against the tendency of men to not take rejection well.
Ghosting is merely the logical conclusion of the generally accepted principle that consent can be withdrawn at anytime.
Mix that in with the perfectly reasonable impulse to protect ourselves against the emotional trauma of having to reject someone (and especially of having to reject a man) and you have a good start at defending the practice of ghosting.
Relationship Anarchy and the Minimization of Entitlement
As someone who finds great appeal in the concept of relationship anarchy, my fundamental operating principle when it comes to relationships is to try to minimize my own entitlement. I am not entitled to other people acting the way I expect them to. I am not entitled to anyone’s attention or time. If someone consciously chooses to spend time with me, that’s great: I will cherish that. I am not entitled to people having certain kinds of feelings towards me, or entitled to having certain feelings not change over time. I am not entitled for someone to like me or even love me.
When it comes to relationships — platonic, romantic, or otherwise — the only thing I should be entitled to expect is those things which we have mutually agreed upon in accordance with our own deep desires. If my partner and I agree to be monogamous I can reasonably feel upset if that agreement is broken. But I can also negotiate a different agreement involving multiple people and that would change the nature of what I “should” expect when it comes to relationships unfolding.
And with ghosting, feeling entitled to an explanation of why you are being rejected is pointless unless you mutually agreed that if you broke up you wouldn’t ghost each other. Otherwise, you’re just going to have to deal with it.
Don’t be so entitled.
Learn to embrace rejection as an opportunity at practicing your own equanimity. Know your own value and being ghosted becomes an understandable inconvenience rather than a moral harm.
Originally published at transphilosopher.com on March 30, 2018.