Left on read

Emma Gallagher examines the concept of ghosting and its implications

Message delivered 5 minutes ago. Delivered 5 hours ago. Delivered yesterday. Opened 3 hours ago. No reply. Ouch. 

No matter how cool you are or believe you are almost everyone in the modern realm of dating has experienced ghosting. We have all waited for a response and got stressed about it, even if we pretended we don’t really care (but we kind of do). The reply never comes and you can’t help but be just a little bit annoyed, maybe a bit confused, and maybe if you’re a truly honest person a little bit upset. Ghosting sucks, but is it always necessarily as evil as it is made out to be? Is there ever a case in which ghosting is okay? 

“But just because you’re annoyed and upset doesn’t mean the action is objectively evil; in fact, sometimes there’s the right time for ghosting.”

A controversial take for some, but I don’t think ghosting is always exclusively a crime. There are of course times when ghosting is, without doubt, the right thing to do. You should never feel guilty about cutting someone off if they are making you feel uncomfortable or unsafe. Explanations aren’t necessary when you’ve been disrespected. But it is necessary to look deeper at the cases that aren’t as black and white, when there’s debate over what you should do and how you should do it. Ghosting is shit; it’s annoying and it’s upsetting. But just because you’re annoyed and upset doesn’t mean the action is objectively evil; in fact, sometimes there’s the right time for ghosting. I’m also here to tell you that it’s okay to think you’re going a little bit crazy in how you react to being left on read. 

It’s shitty when someone you know and like suddenly ignores you out of the blue – and God forbid it’s someone you’re actually going out with. But sometimes the theatrics aren’t worth it to end a conversation with someone, especially if the connection is not well established. In order to gain further perspective on the matter, I asked around for some consensus, and the conclusion was that you have to have met them in person for the ghosting to hurt. This has its obvious exceptions but it shows something much bigger; there is a level of establishment in any relationship which demands the respect of an official end, and if you disregard that you’re a dick without doubt. However, if you’re still talking to someone, be it on a dating app or on social media, it is more acceptable to cut the conversation when it’s no longer serving you. That’s what online dating is for! The entire point is to chat to someone and see how you feel; there are no strings attached, and you’re allowed to cut it off whenever you want. This has had positive and negative effects on the wider approach to relationships, but being ghosted on Tinder is not worth villainizing the person on the other side of the screen. Sometimes they just won’t reply; there’s not necessarily always going to be a reason, and it might not be something either one of you did, but it just sort of happens. 

Taking the controversy even further, I would go as far as saying sometimes ghosting is the right thing to do. I hope to sound relatable when I say that sometimes you can find yourself stuck in a conversation that is being dragged out far longer than either of you would like. You don’t want to be the rude one so you keep replying, but they don’t want to be the rude one either. Damn. The time between responses becomes longer and longer, with less interesting messages being sent until finally somebody cracks and just stops. I think in this instance, ghosting is the best option. Otherwise you run the risk of growing resentful of the other person and their increasingly terrible messages, which neither of you really want to be sending anyways. By cutting the conversation off you take away the pressure of the relationship. While it may be a  sign that you probably won’t work romantically, there’s now more scope for maintaining a civil connection and being able to have a casual conversation if you ever run into them again. For some that might be a worse outcome; to have an awkward platonic relationship with someone you once fancied, rather than a clean cut off, but for me ghosting takes the win on that one. 

“The culture of constant communication and instant replies is far too pressurising on relationships of any kind.”

All this said, sometimes ghosting is horrible. You go back and forth wondering whether you should just leave it. You make excuses for them: maybe they dropped their phone in the Liffey, or maybe they’re lost in a place with no signal, or maybe something totally major and super excusable has happened. Maybe if you send another message, they could reply. The culture of constant communication and instant replies is far too pressurising on relationships of any kind. Being able to know when someone was on their phone and if they didn’t respond to you is insane; no one is under oath to respond to you as soon as they see your message, but the digital age makes us feel like we are owed a reply, even if it’s from a stranger we met online. It’s not normal to be in constant communication with anyone, and as much as that’s a harsh truth, it is still the truth. Ghosting is shit, but it doesn’t deserve the hatred it gets. It’s not always your fault, but it’s not necessarily anybody else’s fault either. Sometimes it just doesn’t work out.