So… ghosting is an acceptable thing now

ghosting
ghost·ing \ ˈgō-stiŋ \
noun

2. the practice of ending a personal relationship with someone by suddenly and without explanation withdrawing from all communication.

It’s been a thing for a long time, the origins of the term date back to 2006, and it was added to the Merriam-Webster dictionary in February this year.

What has changed, and what I’m seeing more of lately, is people strenuously defending ghosting as a perfectly valid and acceptable relationship-ending option, and insisting that anyone who doesn’t think so is being entitled. Because ‘nobody owes you anything’.

In these days of constant contact and smart phones and social media, it takes a special effort to disappear from someone.

There is a point after which ‘disappearing from someone’ is an arsehole move. One of the bones of contention is ‘where is that point?’ It’s tricky biz, because the ‘when’ and ‘what came before’ and ‘what was said’ becomes vital in determining what’s ‘okay’ and what’s ‘you’re an arsehole’.

Ghosting is largely about expectations, and to me when either party has set expectations that this communication or relationship is going somewhere, either through their behaviour or explicitly by using their actual words, and THEN they disappear off the face of the earth: That’s ghosting.

Having said that, there are ambiguities all over that idea because it’s so dependent on personal perception.

With online dating and remote connections, the definition of when something is a ‘personal relationship’ and when it’s reasonable to start having expectations starts to become hazy, which leads to a huge grey area where ghosting is concerned.

For me, if someone stops responding to me after we have been communicating consistently for a month or so, where we have both expressed genuine interest in a relationship, in meeting up, are exploring compatibility, have shared personal details, exchanged photos, maybe sexted (I don’t, but many do), have emotional investment, are making plans, even if we’ve not met yet… and then they disappear. That’s ‘ghosting’.

At that point, there is enough investment and agreement on ‘what we are doing’ that a ‘sorry, not interested’ is a reasonable expectation. At the very LEAST if I send a ‘hey what’s up I haven’t heard from you’ follow up, they should reply with ‘this isn’t working’ or something to close the door.

Let’s go further.

Let’s take that month of online communication and add an actual date and sex to it, add sweet words, and plans to get together on Saturday and for Sunday brunch. And THEN someone ghosts. Now the ghoster is a special kind of arsehole, the kind that the lovely Hy over at A Dissolute Life had the misfortune of meeting recently.

I don’t even care what the reasons are*. Ghosting like that is not okay.

While I can forgive some dubious instances of not proactively saying ‘I’m done here’, if the other person contacts you, ignoring them when they reach out (vs replying with ‘sorry, I’m not feeling it’ or something) is not acceptable.

Some people like to pretend that they are doing the kindest thing by ghosting, or some get all chest-beaty in an ‘I don’t owe them anything’ kind of way, and it’s the biggest load of bullshit, truly. The truth is that they are too socially stunted to deal with doing a difficult thing, and if that’s the case, then they shouldn’t be dating in the first place.

If I get to a certain point of interest with someone, I will explicitly ask them not to ghost on me. It’s not necessarily going to stop them from doing it if that’s their way, not at all, but at least then if they do it I will know 100% that they are aware that it will hurt me and that they don’t care. They are that special kind of arsehole, and I can more easily forget about them.

In all of that ranty business, the defence of ghosting as a perfectly valid way to end things is new to me. Previously I’ve seen pretty broad agreement that it’s not an okay way to behave and those who did it were totally in the wrong.

But recently I’ve been seeing robust defence of ghosting as a way to end a relationship. I assume the defenders have a point after which it’s no longer okay, though where that point is I’m not sure: Two dates? Sex? Sex twice and BDSM play 3 times? 5 dates? 10 dates? 3 months? 6 months? Meeting family? Living together? Perhaps 10 years and 3 kids is the point at which it becomes unacceptable to ghost someone…

Obviously as the investment gets bigger, the idea of ghosting becomes more and more the domain of the arsehole and I probably sound like an old curmudgeon to say that my tolerance for it is pretty much nil. I see defence of the practice as eroding our sense of kindness and respect in dating interactions. I see the lack of care in it leading to a kind of ‘fuck you’ level of passive-aggressive combat in the dating world that is going to put us all in an place where ‘they who display the least care wins’.

*Caveat: I’m very aware that sometimes it’s not emotionally or physically safe to reject someone. If someone is scared that getting in touch with the other person to end it will trigger some kind of abusive response, then I think that ghosting is a completely valid option. I’m certainly not referring to those people in this little rant.

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26 Comments

  1. I’ve been on the receiving end and it sucks big time.

    The only time I think it’s fully okay is if you have exchanged only a few messages on a dating app. I had a guy text like crazy in an app for a few days and then spontaneously deactivate his profile. While I’m not hurt, when I’ve been ready to deactivate my profile I send a quick note to people I’m chatting with to tell them I’m taking a break or met someone I’m going to focus on. I figure it’s just good karma for when I come back and they are still there ;)

    1. It does suck!

      From discussions I’ve seen lately, I think we are now entering ‘phase 2’ of ghosting where people will argue that it was a totally reasonable and socially acceptable thing to do and you are being an entitled arsehole if you think otherwise. Blergh.

      Ferns

  2. I was going to comment that ghosting May be acceptable if one party has a reasonable fear of the other. But you covered that in the footnote.

    So, yep, ghosting is for asshats.

  3. I get ghosted with regularity. 2 possibilities I’ve considered alongside the obvious asshat conclusion. One is freaking out after getting pegged for the first time (concerned he might be gay, etc). The other is he’s fantasized about BDSM and pegging for so long and those fantasies don’t hold up against reality of good negotiations and responsible play.

    1. Heh, the post I linked to above (from 2015) was prompted by something you wrote about ghosting back then. And here we are, still. Again!

      I agree that fear, freaking out, ‘whatever’ might be a reason (thought I wrote about that once also, but can’t find it now). Either way, I don’t even care. Underlying any of that is the behaviour of a person who believes that their feels are sooooo much more important than being a kind and decent human being and they can fuck off with that selfish cowardly bullshit.

      The thing that is blowing my mind is that now people are earnestly arguing that it’s a perfect valid thing to do, and anyone who doesn’t think so is being the arsehole.

      Ferns

      1. I recall encountering this defensive attitude on the dating site plenty of fish regarding a non-response to my initial messages. The prevalent attitude was, a non-response IS a response. That this attitude has gone further into actual ghosting territory after interacting with the person for some time is so fucked up. It’s lacking in the most basic human kindness and grown-up communication.

  4. Speaking as a curmudgeon, I am totally with you on this. I have never understood the whole ghosting thing and I would much rather be a curmudgeon than an asshat. :-D

  5. i am with you 1000 per cent.
    one should have the basic sense of decency to at the very least have a chat – especially where stage 2 has been reached. (stage one – no sex …..stage 2 – sex, but not sure to commit….stage 3 – kind of committed already – if not via words, just by default of time together, intimacy and sexual frequency)

    i recall being ghosted by a lovely gal about 20 years ago.
    i still wish she would have given me a brief chat opportunity, if only just to say, it was sweet but it’s time for goodbye….

    best wishes and i enjoy reading your thoughts,
    robert

    1. Phew, 20 years ago?

      I keep thinking of that story (urban legend?) of the father (always the father) who leaves the family home to go get some milk from the shops and never comes back. THAT was an old school story

      I think it was actually easier then. Social media and the internet in general now means you have to REALLY make a special effort to ghost.

      Ferns

  6. The other thing that I have noticed happens sometimes, and which bothers me enormously, is the instances when people will ghost you and then return at some later point, wanting to have sex or ‘hang out’ or play. If you’re in the early stages of seeing someone, and you ghost, that, to me, is a pretty brutal form of rejection. And yet, I have had at least two people ghost me, pop up later asking for casual sex (which I am down for with people who are polite to me), and then act as if I am being the entitled one when I decline and explain why. It blows my mind!

    I don’t feel like my behavior is always perfect in this area, though. If I don’t think something is going to work, I try to tell the other person in so many words, but there have been times when I was very busy with work and personal life or started seeing someone else and forgot that I had a message pending. But as much as people defend ghosting, the couple times I’ve done this I’ve felt really terrible.

    1. Ha! That happens A LOT.

      And with this new ‘yes, of course ghosting is fine!’ attitude I’m seeing, this response of calling YOU, the ghostEE, ‘entitled’ is going to happen more and more.

      It’s going to be a desolate social wasteland out there :/.

      Ferns

      1. The thought process is just…”Oh, I have this girl who’s been verbally enthusiastic about meeting me/having sex with me again/scheduling another date, I think I’ll just keep her on the back burner for a week or two…maybe I’ll text when I have nothing better to do, to make sure she doesn’t erroneously think she’s going to be a priority…oh, wait, she doesn’t want to have sex with me now that I ignored her…that ENTITLED JERK!”

        I have no idea what miraculous alchemy happens during this thought process that keeps these people from spending the entire day rolling around on the floor laughing at how ridiculous they are.

  7. salam to all,

    in my opinion ghosting is cowardly unless as mentioned its due to pyscho behaviour on one person, but even in that case i would proably say your a pyscho, i am done with commuication. i would never want to leave anyone wondering, worried etc. when i hear about things like this i am glad to be owned, collared, and married. i don’t understand al;ot of aspects of this time.

    sayyidnas shaykh-puppy

  8. Hello, Ferns. Its been a while since I’ve commented on your writing. Really hope that this absence does not fall into the category of “ghosting”. I just don’t spend as much time on line as I once did. I’m getting pretty old now and the effort to do things is not the same (just turned 68). For me, “ghosting” is unacceptable in all social interactions, with the exception of the one you mentioned. My son has had it done to him and, in turn, he has done it to others. I’ve had several long discussions with him to no avail. He’s his own person now, and dad has little influence in matters such as this. Bonnie and I are both glad we are no longer young and in the “dating game”. Hope all is well for you and those close to you.

    Stan

  9. Ferns;
    The ghosting you are referring to seems to indicate, at least to me, that the perpetrators are displaying conflict / confrontation avoidance (sometimes referred to as conflict aversion or conflict phobia) traits. As you expressed, the behavior displayed by the “Ghoster” (person performing the ghosting) terminates communication, and as a result, the relationship, but leaves the “ghostee” unsure of the relationship status and the reason for the termination, at least immediately. It also leaves an empty feeling.

    Sometimes, the avoidance is an based on a personality trait, and the person displaying the behavior generally acts the same in most or all of their personal interactions. Often , the behavior indicates a lack of maturity – as the Ghoster does not have the experience to know how to end the relationship in a more constructive manner. Sometimes, the Ghosting indicates that the Ghoster probably does not value the relationship enough to spend any serious energy ending the relationship in a courteous and empathetic manner, as the Ghoster does not believe that the other’s emotional pain is important to them.

    That is my guess here. The Ghoster probably does not take the relationship seriously. Because relationships form more easily and more anonymously online, the people involved in the relationships may not take them as seriously. Therefore, at least in their mind, minimum energy should be expended to end the relationship. To me though, the lack of courtesy, respect and empathy displayed by the ghosting behavior is not acceptable.

    It is possible to treat each other with the same respect and courtesy that we would want to be treated with (not the minimum level that is displayed by others – but the amount that we would “want” to be treated with by others – wait – isn’t that the “Golden Rule”?)

    I am sorry that you had to suffer such fools.

    My best advise: Ignore the foolish – keep connecting. There are serious people who will show you the courtesy, respect, and empathy you deserve, and who will value being in a relationship with you.

    God Luck.

    Jack

    1. I think a problem with drawing the line IS that one person may take something seriously and the other may just be filling in time. That mismatch can certainly cause issues if the latter just goes ‘nah’ and disappears.

      BUT EVEN THEN if someone you have been pleasantly interacting with follows up with ‘hey, where’d you go’, then the minimum level of courtesy would dictate they say *something* to indicate they aren’t interested any more vs just silence.

      And to be clear, this wasn’t about me. It was about seeing a discussion where people were actively *defending* ghosting as a perfectly legitimate way to end a relationship. Apparently that’s where we are now, socially speaking :/.

      Ferns

  10. The next step on from ghosting is the ghosting/reappearing, and repetition of, so it’s a push/pull cycle. ‘I’m gone’… then ‘I love you & want you back’… then ‘I’m gone’… then ‘I love you & want you back’… then ‘I’m gone’… Real mindfuck.

    The ‘I owe you nothing & ghosting is a fundamental human right so THERE!’ brigade are adopting a defensive posture because they know they’re being cowardly. People shout that they don’t need to justify something when they don’t feel like they’d be able to.

    Tbh though, as I write this I remember I’ve platonic friendship-ghosted. When I’ve hung around with a good friend, a lot, and one day I fizzle myself out. That’s been when myself and the friend have shared a strong interest or way of looking at life, which I’ve then drifted away from. I was probably still a nobhead for handling it like that though. It’s not something I’ve done for 10 years I don’t think, so probably it was an immaturity thing.

    Love your blog Ferns. X

  11. Wow, Yes. To everything. I’m still in the late stages of denial after having been ghosted by a girl I had been playing online with for the last two months, sexting and having lots of fun. I had never done that before, the online thing does very little for me, but the situation for both was quite unique and we were a match: both femme into femmes, very compatible in our kinks and way of understanding the whole dynamic, same percentile IQ, great sense of humour, both of us work-a-holics…

    She disappeared suddenly, right after asking for instructions for the following day… For the first days the possibility that she was really really busy with work was real, so I didn’t worry too much. But then she deleted her profile from the app we had met through.

    My expectations, play withdrawal and such I can manage. But I’m the type who bought EMT scissors before ever tying someone up. So I’ve spent three days worrying about the remote possibility I’ve been somewhat of a neglectful online Domme for a very shy sub with avoidance issues.

    So yeah, immature behavior on her part. But I can’t help but cringe at the thought of what would have been like after dating or sex or a more serious emotional investment. Just in case I’ll never play so much with someone i’ve never smelled. Even though after reading some experiences, 3D interaction doesn’t make ghosting any less possible.

    I can’t see how this ghosting thing can be considered an acceptable way to “break up” whatever.

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