I don’t believe in ghosting.
For those of you that haven’t heard this term (you must either be really considerate people or just people that don’t spend a lot of time on the Internet – god bless you for either/both!), “ghosting” is the method of ending a relationship – any relationship, whether it was two weeks long or two years long – by suddenly cutting off all communication and making yourself unavailable to someone. It’s become a popular method of ditching unwanted relationships among millennials (I know, some millennials hate that term, but you know what, sometimes we use words to describe a generation and sometimes we use words to describe the general behavior of a generation, and while we are all different and don’t necessarily fit into boxes, as a generation, we have created a lot of behaviors and ideas – just like every generation – so we can suck it up when people call us millennials to refer to us as a group.)
I’m not entirely sure where ghosting began, but I have a few suspicions about why it began. The first (and I think, most relevant) reason is that it’s easy to ghost these days. We don’t meet people through our parents anymore or at the grocery store in the same neighborhood, we mostly meet people on the Internet. When we have no significant ties to another human being and we know we’ll never see them again, it’s easy to drop them like a bad habit when we’re “done” with them.
The second reason why I think ghosting began is because we live in a fast-paced world. It’s easier just to ditch someone completely than sit down and have a conversation with them about why you won’t be calling them back (“sit down” here is figurative, it could be on the phone or whatever – you get my drift).
The third (and I think, most important) reason why I think ghosting began is because we’re just not honest with each other anymore.
Readers of The LITMO Life will know how I feel about honesty: I believe in and practice radical honesty, the idea that you should be spilling your guts immediately and authentically and being who you are up front, because I believe there’s no other way to make genuine human connections. We can’t present our best foot when we meet someone (either platonically or romantically) because while that’s a nice thought, perfection isn’t who we are. We think it’s polite to try to withhold information and make small talk but you know what? Small talk is fucking bullshit. The reality is the only things that matter are the things that come from our hearts. (For those of you rolling your eyes here, I’d challenge you to try this for a week. Also – feel free to introduce yourself to me to find out if this is actually true!)
No matter how we got here, we’ve gotten here: a culture where we think it’s fine to just drop someone without another word when they’re no longer useful or interesting to us.
And I, frankly, think it’s bullshit.
I saw an article the other day that was discussing ghosting, and it said something like, “it’s fine to ghost because you don’t owe anyone anything.” Um. Okay. Just because we don’t “owe” anyone anything, does that mean we can’t bother to be decent human beings? Maybe we don’t owe other people anything, but is this the way we want to live our lives?
The practice of ghosting is, in my eyes, one of the worst things we can do to another human being. Whether it’s after one date or whether it’s after ten, it’s not about whether or not we owe explanations: it’s about how we would want to be treated. Did we all forget about that golden rule that we learned the first day of elementary school?
And if you’re one of those people who is telling yourself right now, “Oh but I don’t care when someone ghosts me,” you’re lying to yourself. Being ghosted is awful. It’s not about the fact that someone doesn’t want to be your friend, or romantic partner – that happens all the time, and unfortunately, we gotta roll with it. It’s about the fact that someone thinks it’s fine to just completely discard you and ignore that you’re an actual human, with thoughts and feelings of your own.
And if you can’t wrap your head around that, try this – forget the golden rule (because you might be a sociopath) and try the platinum rule: treat others as they want to be treated.
To be clear, I’m not saying that we owe long, drawn out, hours’ length conversations to everyone that we’ve ever met. And I’m also not saying that if someone treats us very badly, we’re required to continue considering their feelings. And I’m not saying that after we tell a person we’re not interested – in whatever they may be offering – that we have to continue to respond to their every single message. I am, however, talking about kindness. You know, that basic thing that we all learn as children but think doesn’t matter as adults?
It matters. It all matters.
For those of us that love travel and love seeing the world, this phenomenon baffles me even further. So much of traveling is opening your heart and mind to other people – other cultures, other places – so the idea that we’d treat our fellow humans as disposable doesn’t sit right with me.
I know I’ve said this before on The LITMO Life and I may be starting to sound like a broken record, but here it is again: there is nothing more important than kindness. The measure of our kindness shouldn’t just be how we treat people when we have connections to them – friends of friends, family introductions, etc. – it should be how we treat people we know we’ll never see again. How you behave towards someone you’ll never have to see again is what determines your worth as a human being.
At the end of the day – at the end of days – all that is going to matter is how we treated our fellow humans. Because our fellow humans are all going through the same shit, just like we are. You never know who is in crippling debt, who just found out someone they love died, who just got fired, who just got the shit end of the stick. The kindness you show someone versus the callous could be the difference in whether or not they even feel like being alive that day.
We may not “owe” our fellow humans anything, but the truth is, we owe it to ourselves. We create the world around us, with every decision we make, every word we utter, and every act towards other humans.
So, please, stop ghosting. Man up and send a three-second text, if that’s all you can muster, but at least let someone know that you won’t be seeing them again. Don’t give in to the “we don’t owe anyone anything” mentality, because, after all, you reap what you sow.