Imagine this: The conversation has been going really well, and then suddenly the other person stops responding. You try not to check your phone every five minutes — maybe you throw it across the room or go for a walk. Still no response. As more time passes, you try to think less and less about the situation at hand. If you’re anxious like I am, this just means you’re going to think more and more about it. Finally, 24 hours pass, and your fate is clear: you’re being ghosted.
Ghosting is an interesting phenomenon because of its implications. When we’re ghosted, we start to believe the other person isn’t interested in us or doesn’t have time for us. Sometimes it can be hard to plan our next move when we’re ghosted, because we don’t want to double-text or seem clingy and attached. Ghosting has become a tactic we use when we don’t want the conversation to continue, or even unintentionally, when we just get too busy to check our phones.
However, there are cases when you shouldn’t ghost. For instance, if you call someone at 3 in the morning to confess your feelings for them, and they text you the next day ask you if you meant it, you probably shouldn’t ghost. Actions have implications, and although Miley Cyrus once sang “If you text it, I’ll delete it,” this can’t always be the case. The unfortunate reality that we live in is one where a lot of our communication happens through our phones and our computers, meaning conversations that might have ended in a screaming match or a perfectly timed slamming of your phone on the receiver, now can end with ghosting.
Something I think we have to remember is that we are all people in our own right. This means we cannot dedicate every second of our lives to communicating with other people. We do not exist to be at the beck and call of others, and I think it’s only appropriate that we extend the same courtesy to those we care about. As with almost everything, communication should be met with understanding.
People will prioritize what is important to them at the moment. If your priority is to have a serious conversation with one of your friends, and your friend’s priority is to study for their final, you might be left on read. Perhaps it’s not that they don’t want to have that serious conversation, but rather, they value getting a good grade on their final over having that conversation at the moment. It is not unreasonable to try to put things into the perspective of others. We are busy people.
Personally, I have seen people get aggressive if they don’t get a response within a few seconds of sending a text. Although their attentiveness might seem endearing the first few times, when it turns aggressive, it does not elicit that same positive response. I’ve had this happen with a few Bumble and Tinder matches who first start with a “Hello?” and quickly devolve into a sentiment of “Well you obviously don’t care about me, so I’m over this.” It would be almost comical if it wasn’t a scary thought that people exist who get aggressive when you don’t respond to them within seconds.
On the other hand, it probably shouldn’t take you 48 hours to respond to someone who is trying to make plans with you within the next few hours. There’s a healthy balance somewhere in there, I’m sure of it. I just don’t believe I’ve found it yet. Sometimes it takes me hours to respond to all the Facebook messages, text messages and emails I get every day.
Try to respond when you can, and be sure to prioritize who you respond to and who you don’t. Your mom? You should probably respond to her. That boy on Tinder you’ve never met who says “We should hang out” every other message? Not as important.
We cannot stop people from ghosting us, just as centuries ago, people weren’t able to stop letters from being sent with no response. We never have to respond to anything in theory, but if we were to all adopt this passive nature when it came to communication, we would isolate everyone we know.
Communication is good. We should not be shying away from hard conversations out of fear of saying the wrong thing. If you’re going to ghost, make sure that your intentions have some purity to them, sometimes it’s what you have to do to save face, sometimes you don’t want to have the last word in the argument. And understand that if you’re the one being ghosted, sometimes that just means people get busy and forget to respond, but sometimes that has few implications on yourself as well.
It’s OK if you’re being ghosted — it happens to the best of us. Throw your phone across the room, go for a walk, solve a century-old riddle or catch up with your friends in the meantime. It will all be OK.