Why Ghosting Can Be Harmful to Your Health
I have previously blogged about the ethics of ghosting. I revisit the issue in this blog because I just read a piece about a college student who developed an “exit survey” for those who ghosted her online after dating. She asked questions like: What is wrong with me? At what point did you know this wouldn’t work out? What could I have done to enhance this experience for you?
She received more than 20,000 Likes. It was a brilliant attempt to figure out what she may have done wrong or where she was lacking and how this affected the ghosting party’s decision to ignore her. She did receive some responses, most of which mentioned superficial things: “Come to more bars with me.” “Give me a shoulder massage.” If this is the emotional level of the person doing the ghosting than it’s probably just as well she didn’t hear back from them.
Ghosting often occurs after dating someone for a period of time and then, quite abruptly, that party cuts off all communication. There is no explanation and any attempts to find out the reasons fall on deaf ears. The longer the dating relationship, the more harmful it is to the health of the party being ghosted.
Ghosting can leave emotional scars and do damage to the recipient’s self-esteem, especially if they have a fragile ego. Should you care about how your avoidance affects others? Yes, if you want to be a good person; someone who is caring, considerate, and empathetic. After all, as The Golden Rule commands: Treat others the way you wish to be treated. There are other versions of the Rule. The one most appropriate in ghosting is: Don’t do something to someone else that you would not want done to you. The reason I like this version is it denotes a positive obligation to treat others ethically.
Research from the online dating site Plenty of Fish found that of 800 millennial daters between the ages of 18-33, almost 80% of singles have been ghosted. Why does it happen so often? One reason is communicating on social media sites is impersonal and a form of communication that makes it easier to ignore the other person and be oblivious to their feelings.
I think it goes deeper and points to a lack of civility in society. It’s a lack of respect for another’s feelings. It’s driven by the pursuit of self-interest. It ignores the fact that the ends do not justify the means. How we get to our goals in life are just as important as getting there. Ignoring another’s feelings while breaking up a relationship is the easy way out. It shows no moral courage to act that way. Indeed, it’s the lack of moral courage that drives the inaction.
His Holiness, The Dalai Lama, is quoted as having said: “Happiness is not something ready-made. It comes from your own actions. Happiness is the result of the kind of person we are, the decisions we make, the consequences of our actions for ourselves and others, and whether we meet our obligations to ourselves and others as members of a civil society.
If we accept that definition, then the practice of ghosting falls short of being the kind of person that will be happy. For sure, it is not a practice that would bring happiness to others.
Some may say they are too busy to communicate? They don’t want to explain their reasons. It may be emotionally painful. Others may say they do not feel unhappy when ghosting others. They may rationalize that others do the same to them. I learned long ago from my parents that two wrongs do not make a right.
We are responsible for our behavior. Our character forms based on the motivations for our actions and ability to carry out ethical decisions with ethical action. Ghosting is a form of ethical blindness in that the offender fails to see the ethical consequences of a decision.
If you are tempted to engage in ghosting, ask yourself how you would feel if the other party ghosted you? What if it happened on a job interview where the interviewer never got back to you after the first meeting? You wouldn’t know where you stand and that’s the point of why ghosting can be harmful to your health and, definitely, to others.
The truth is the party doing the ghosting is self-centered. It’s all about them.