Dating Dilemmas: Is Ghosting Ever Actually OK?
We may not be proud of it, but whether it was in high school, uni, or later in adult life, chances are we’ve all ghosted someone.
It could’ve been someone you started chatting to on Tinder and then never made the time to meet up with them. It could be someone you went on three dates with but then communication slowly died off and you exited from their life like you never really existed. Maybe someone showed some massive red flags after a first date and you just quietly ignored their texts from then on.
Or perhaps you just weren’t That Into Them and you didn’t have the guts to have the chat so it was easier to fake your own death. Look, I’m not here to judge, I’ve probably done it all.
Yes, I admit it – I have ghosted people and I’ve done it as the coward’s way out in some circumstances. But I’ve also done it because, sometimes, you don’t owe people shit. And in the world of ghosting karma, I have also been ghosted. I’m not saying it’s fun, I’m just saying, well, that’s life.
Important poll for an article I'm writing: Is ghosting people sometimes OK?
— Tahlia Pritchard (@Tahls) January 28, 2020
Like everything in life, ghosting can be circumstantial. Don’t get me twisted: I don’t condone ghosting someone if you’ve been dating for weeks or months, and things appear to be going well and then all of a sudden one person just drops off without a hint, a sign, or badly worded text message. But I also firmly believe you don’t owe people long-winded explanations about “not feeling it” if you’ve only ever been on a couple of dates.
We decided to break down the pros and cons of ghosting because in the world of modern-day dating, it’s simply unavoidable:
When Ghosting is maybe, kinda OK:
We’re all adults, so let’s read the signals
Scenario one: You go on a date and it appears to go fairly well. But contact drops off in the days following, and they’re not even watching your Instagram stories anymore. Firstly, rude! Secondly, you’re probably being ghosted.
Sorry, it might be annoying. You might’ve had fun. But there’s plenty more fish in our dying oceans, so let’s read the signals here. If they were into you, they’d message you. In a world where we’re connected to our phones, if you have any unread messages for longer than half a day you are probably being ignored.
Scenario two: You match with some thotty on Tinder and the banter is off the charts. You try to set up a date, but they’re “busy” and they’re like “next week I’m probably free?” and then you keep having that conversation until one of you dies.
Cut the cord and don’t waste your time – if they wanted to meet up with you, they’d put in a better effort to find a day that suits you both.
Scenario three: You meet someone and hit it off, and it quickly turns into a friends with benefits situation. We all know most of these are doomed from the start, but may as well have some fun while you can, right? One day, your FWB stops writing back to your boozy brunch text of “You up?” at 3pm on a Saturday arvo. The signal is clear. Your FWB is slowly ghosting out. Let them go, and don’t mourn their death – celebrate the fun you had while it lasted.
Ban the micro breakup, sometimes things just fizzle
Breakups are bad enough as it is at the best of times, so do we really need to be putting energy into breaking up with someone we barely know/have only seen a handful of times?
If it’s been an intense and fast connection, maybe it’s worth a micro breakup. But if it’s been a couple of drunk nights ending in some public pash and pawing of each other in a bar and then life has got busy again and shit’s going on, then sometimes things just fizzle and that’s OK. Unless the person wants an explanation or was visibly more into it and still trying to catch up with you, save your breakup talk for the more serious ones later down the track.
And when there’s no other option, sometimes you gotta ghost
In some cases, you’ve tried getting the message across and your signals haven’t been picked up on or just blatantly ignored, and you’re left with no other option.
“Sometimes ghosting is for the greater good. Men are hopeless at picking up signals,” Punkee’s senior writer, Tara Watson said. “You can give them every single sign that you are not interested but you’ll still get a message from them. You could even say the words ‘I am not interested, OK!!’, and still keep getting texts. So ghosting is really the only way to get that message across.”
When ghosting isn’t OK:
If you’ve had more dates than you can count on one hand, have the chat
No, not that chat. But if you’ve been on a fair few dates and things have just died, be a better person than the ghost of boyfriend/girlfriends past. Even if you feel like it’s not micro breakup worthy, the dating cliches exist for a reason. Variations of “I can only focus on myself right now,” “I’m sorry I’m not feeling this anymore,” “I think we’ve settled into being more friends than friends with benefits” should all get the message across. Hopefully.
“When the other person has invested even a little bit of their time to you, there’s no excuse to not have the courtesy to at the very least say ‘hey this isn’t gonna be a thing'”, Marie told us. “Like, sure, there’s gonna be scenarios where the other person is an asshole or a dickhead and there are enough red flags to start a war, but it’s better to be direct than leave anyone hanging.”
If they reach out to you for an explanation, have the decency to reply
Whether it’s date two or date five, if the person on the other end wants to know if you’re interested or not and has directly asked you, don’t ghost that shit! That’s even coming from me, who will ghost someone after date two. There’s a difference between things fizzling out and slowly “caspering” off VS. knowingly ignoring someone who has asked for an explanation or has given clear signs that they are still interested in you. That’s when it’s time to put the big boy/girl pants on and clear the air.
And at the very least, have a good think about whether ghosting is the right way out of your specific situation or if you could benefit from practicing open communication
Sure, there’s learning to read signals but the counter-argument is simply just about trying to be a Good Person.
“As with every other interaction in our lives, open and honest communication is paramount,” Jerome told us. “While almost all of us have been guilty of ghosting in the past, it’s crucial that we learn to move past this inconsiderate and, at times, cowardly practice. People deserve better. You may worry that saying ‘thanks but no thanks’ may hurt someone’s feelings, but it’s a hell of a lot better than thinking you’ve had a great date, getting excited and telling your friends, only for that person to never contact again. At least if you’ve been upfront, they won’t get the wrong idea. You would want others to be honest with you…so you must do the same – no matter whether it’s been just one date or several.”
Dating Dilemmas is a Punkee column where we tackle modern-day dating issues. Got a pitch idea? Need to get something off your chest? Send it to [email protected]