Is It Ever Okay to Ghost?
Recently, Business Insider published an article about employees "ghosting" and what managers learned from so many workers simply no longer showing up for work. No notice, no contact, nothing. They simply stopped showing up and made no further contact with their employer. I was shocked ––it would never occur to me to do something like this––but apparently, employees have been walking off the job in droves. Employers see this as a lesson in retention, which is a much-needed practice if we want to fully come out of this pandemic with our economy intact, and their lessons have relevance for us in the dating world, too.
The approach that employers have taken and the approach daters take to ghosting differs wildly, though. Employers have seen this as an opportunity to learn, see their shortcomings, and hopefully improve to rectify the problem. In other words, they see themselves as at least partly at fault for being ghosted, not so in the dating world. You can't get two steps into the dating world without hearing someone complain about ghosting. No one thinks it's OK under any circumstances, and to listen to the howling about it, no one seems to believe they ever ghost anyone else.
But everyone can't be a victim of ghosting, and no one is doing the actual ghosting. While we might like to think of ourselves as never doing something to someone else that is so painful for us to experience ourselves, is it really true that we have never ghosted someone in our dating history? Especially with the different definitions of ghosting out there, there is likely someone out there who believes you, in fact, ghosted them. And, actually, that this is OK. I don't ever hear anywhere in the dating world that ghosting is OK, and, in most circumstances, I would agree. However, rather than add to the chorus of condemnation of ghosting, I'd like us to consider that there are times when ghosting is not only OK but advised.
First, many behaviors are labeled as ghosting: such as "leaving people on read" or failing to show up for a date––what is otherwise known as being "stood up" has been called ghosting by someone. This might account for a large portion of the fact that nearly everyone thinks they've been ghosted, yet it doesn't seem that anyone is willing to own that they have ghosted someone. I think it's unreasonable to accuse someone of ghosting unless you've actually met them in person at least once; being left on read isn't pleasant or fun, either, but it's a regular part of dating in 2022, especially for those that are in the trenches of online dating. We need, among many other things, to reign in the definition of ghosting and stop taking things so personally if we want to have a successful dating experience that's actually enjoyable.
Second, I'm going to say what it seems like no one is willing to say: there are times when it is appropriate, even advised, to ghost someone. They are rare––for example, if you agreed to go on a date with someone, and you wake up on the appointed day just not feeling it, you need to do whatever works to get yourself in the space to show up for that person. The rise of canceling last minute on people, whether you know them or not, and calling it "self-care" is for another article, but "just not feeling it" is not a sufficient reason to ghost or stand someone up.
If, however, you are in a situation where a potential date is making you feel uncomfortable, pressuring you to do things you've clearly stated you don't want to do, or otherwise attempting to manipulate or control you. If you've tried to communicate your discomfort to them to no avail, ghosting is appropriate. There is a difference between feeling uncomfortable because you are stretching yourself and putting yourself out there and feeling uncomfortable because you feel unsafe, disrespected, or used. There will likely be some anxiety accompanying the dating experience for most people; this is not a reason to ghost. I'm not advocating for ghosting at the slightest feeling of discomfort or because you overbooked your schedule or because you changed your mind about the person. The solutions for that are pushing through your own insecurities, owning your own time, and realizing that you are not a victim of your schedule. Give someone a chance or communicate with as much advanced notice as possible in the kindest way possible that you are no longer interested. The first rule of thumb, if you want to have a successful dating life, is to leave everyone better than you found them.
But ghosting is acceptable if your boundaries are disrespected after you clearly state them or if you have any reason to fear for your physical or emotional safety. The loud and persistent decrying of ghosting overlooks these very real and, sadly, more and more typical scenarios. We need to have a more nuanced conversation lest we condemn someone whose sense of danger provoked them to ghost.
Oh, and if it's not clear, I still can't envision a scenario in which it's OK to ghost your employer. An individual coworker may be making you extremely uncomfortable, but all workplaces are required by law to have policies that do not tolerate harassment. Of course, things do no go perfectly in the bureaucracy of the workplace, so there may be an odd employer so lacking in safeguards for employees experiencing unsafe situations that fleeing without a trace is the only option. Still, they would be few and far between. In general, clear and direct communication should always be the first policy. But if your date––or your boss and all of the other systems set up in your workplace to handle unsafe situations––do not listen, ghosting may be the most appropriate course of action.