The Ethics of Ghosting

Sadie Basila, Managing Forum Editor

 “Ghosting” is not abuse. But if you spent five minutes watching dating videos on TikTok or reading dating takes on Twitter, you might think it was a crime on par with human trafficking. 

I personally feel that “ghosting,” or abruptly withdrawing all communication with a person you’ve had some involvement with, is neither always okay nor always wrong. If I have random casual sex with someone and I get their phone number but decide not to text them, that is beyond okay. In fact, to imply that isn’t okay is to say that just because you choose to have sex with someone, you now owe them a personal relationship. If I date someone for a year and then disappear from their life completely with no explanation, that’s obviously unacceptable. 

So when I saw numerous women on TikTok crucifying a man they call “West Elm Caleb” for being a minorly shady dater, I thought, wow, none of us uncommitted girlies are safe. Caleb was accused of matching with girls on apps and seeing them once or twice, sometimes making them an insincere Spotify playlist, and then ghosting them. These videos also focused on the horror that was the overlapping timelines of these “relationships”; he was going on first dates with different girls on consecutive days. (Vox reported that he was accused of sending unsolicited naked pictures to women, which is a very serious offense that clearly deserves criticism, though this was not the focus of the videos I’ve mentioned.) 

There’s nothing wrong with someone in their mid-20s playing the field. None of these women claimed that Caleb met them and immediately promised exclusivity, so why is it wrong for him to date multiple women or message several women on dating apps? There should be no expectation of automatic monogamy, unless it is explicitly agreed upon. 

I’ve been single for six months, and I enjoy seeing different people casually. I am ashamed to admit this in this cruel, judgmental world, but I could not count how many people I’ve “ghosted.” It’s very common that I meet someone on a dating app, talk to them a little and then just decide I’m not interested. When people call this “ghosting,” I am genuinely confused. If you’ve never met someone and talked for two days, you weren’t even a fully formed character in their life. 

As I mentioned before, seriously dating someone and then vanishing is certainly disgusting behavior. I think it goes further than that, too; there are cases of “ghosting” outside of a relationship context that are clearly wrong. The rules are not rigid. If you got someone’s phone number and text every day for a month before ghosting, that’s totally not chill, even though you never met in real life. 

So, sometimes it’s obviously awful, but in most cases, ghosting is a perfectly normal thing to do when you haven’t obligated yourself to be with someone. It is never emotional abuse, and overstating harm in that way is severely damaging to people in seriously toxic romantic situations. 

 I will warn you, though — ghosting is not for the faint of heart. If you go to a school as small as Bates, you will regularly see the people you’ve ghosted. For a very minor crime, I think that’s punishment enough.