By Elizabeth Walker
I can’t pretend there is an ethical reason for ghosting. How do you explain yourself to the lame animal you are about to put out of its misery? While ghosting probably shouldn’t be a default response, there is no denying its utility. There’s euphoria in waking up from a Facebook marketplace trance and realising that some mouldy grey couch isn’t worth anywhere near $300.
Or ignoring the email requesting your presence at an extremely sketchy job interview.
Message deleted. Moving on.
Aside from trivial matters, there is the more traditional ghosting. In the termination of a relationship, an honest debrief and emotional transparency is the right thing to do. But surely, in certain situations, mercy killing is better than flogging a dead horse. Maybe the interaction has been mutilated beyond repair. If it is flatlining, why not just let it pass on?
Is it not better to hang up the portrait of a person in their prime, than to have the corpse of a failed conversation rotting away, in the back corner of your messenger app?
Maybe we met once, in a club. Or maybe we ended up going on a few dates, and it just wasn’t clicking. And so I told you that it wasn’t for me. Explained in writing, in voice, and in person, and still it seems like I haven’t been clear enough.
I know one way to send a pretty clear message. Become completely transparent, as it were.
The hyper-connectivity of social media makes us feel like we are entitled to an explanation. To be held accountable for every action, or the lack thereof. A screenshot of a final message sent, left on read, is a powerful piece of propaganda. But it doesn’t exist in a vacuum. There is the question of culpability, of accessory to a crime. There are two sides to every (ghost) story.
In all honesty, I prefer being left alone, rather than exchanging 16 paragraphs of quasi-psychological Instagram-slideshow relationship counselling jargon to “soften the blow.”
It’s me, or it’s you, it’s the obvious rift between us, it’s the shamanic cult I decided to join, it’s the lycanthropic curse afflicting second-born daughters in my familial line. There’s nothing I can say that will make anyone feel any better.
As that great philosopher, my mum, used to say: “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”
By Rose Dixon-Campbell
“Hey, it’s been great spending time with you, but I don’t see a romantic future between us. You deserve honesty from me because you’re a great person so I wanted to let you know sooner rather than later instead of ghosting.”
Sent. Delivered. Read.
This small mercy of open communication has saved us both from the slow death of our pointless relationship. No more delayed replies to texts or cancelled dates, a simple and straightforward text allows closure and a clearly defined licence for us both to move forward.
And what trouble did I put myself through for this act of emotional transparency? Nil. Nada. Zilch. The inconvenience of critically considering your feelings and intentions is not so great as to preclude you too from such courageous and courteous communication.
Admittedly not everyone deserves this little kindness and in those cases I urge you to act according to your intuition: tell them they are an arsehole and a prick or block them and never think about them again. Generally, in these cases the cause for the termination of the relationship will likely be mutually understood. It’s when one party is in the dark and unaware of the other’s unhappiness that ghosting is particularly uncouth.
As an exercise in empathy, I want you to imagine that individual you intend to ghost now. They’re smiling down at their phone as they scroll through your catalogue of messages, excited about your relationship and hopeful for the future in which they continue to have the privilege of spending time with you. And then without warning or explanation you ignore their texts and stop answering calls, forcing an end upon them without any notification.
If you have any respect at all for the person on the other side of the phone, then the tiny task of sending a text is a decency you ought to feel you owe. It is not an acutely tiresome undertaking nor some mammoth task – it’s just a text.
Please know that in this impassioned condemnation of ghosting I mean not to be preachy or patronising. Everyone has different communication styles and different levels of confidence in speaking about their feelings. However, I am struck that modern dating seems to be experiencing an empathy drought of which ghosting is symptomatic.
I have personally never been ghosted however I have sent texts similar to the one above and the recipients were universally grateful for my openness and relieved to have closure. It’s easy to be cold and selfish but fortunately it is just as easy to be decent and kind.