ghost·ing \ ˈgō-stiŋ \
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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