To Do or not To Do

Ethical dilemma: Ghosting

This topic contains 14 replies, has 6 voices, and was last updated by  _Robert_ 8 months ago.

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  • #51388

    Davis
    Moderator

    When I lived in Spain, I was ghosted by about 10% of guys, though rarely after a longer exchange. Since I’ve been in Scotland, its more like 95%, many after a long chat. It has become so common, I rarely chat with locals as I simply have little faith we will ever meet or that the conversation will go anywhere. I personally find ghosting unecessarily cruel and I have asked many friends, who have admitted to doing it, why. The answers are mostly:

    • laziness/disinterest (not giving a toss)/treating prospects as disposable objects
    • not wanting to hurt the person
    • fear of emotional reaction
    • fear of crazy reaction
    • thinking the conversation just “fizzled out”
    • not knowing how or what to say

    It is interesting how, on the same continent people behave so very differently in Spain vs. Scotland. I have come to see that Spaniards have always been a lot more sensitive to the potential emotional impact of words, how harsh leaving things unresolved can be for others and that having fairly elaborate greeting, interaction and farewell customs also contribute to making ghosting both unusual and considered extremely rude.

    In Scotland on the other hand where Irish goodbyes are common (leaving a party group without even saying farewell to everyone), and dating culture considered far more transactional and general human interaction much more informal, that ghosting is absolutely the norm. I think the fact that it is done by so many makes it so common. None the less, I consider the fact that it is happening in the “dating” world, just creates an excuse for doing something that would otherwise be considered cruel and unacceptable in other forums.

    Getting to the question: under moral systems, what would they say about ghosting someone. Let’s set a more extreme example:

    You’ve chatted with someone, had nice amicable interactions, gotten to know someone, had fun intimate personalised chat over a few weeks (lets say a couple hours of it), divulge personal preferences and a little more about yourself and then a person just never replies. Still online, has even been sent a “hey man, it’s okay if you aren’t feeling it, I understand, but would appreciate just being told so, it’s really okay if you aren’t interested in chatting anymore” and still a ghosting.

    In this scenario, are you maybe doing something rude but not morally wrong? Or is it wrong?

    #51389

    Simon Paynton
    Participant

    In my version of evolutionary ethics, ghosting would come under the category of “unnecessary harm”.  Most of the time, people could take the time to let someone down gently and using words rather than ghosting.  So they don’t need to be causing this harm by ghosting.  They are able to give benefit rather than harm, and what’s more, they have a responsibility to do so since they are part-author of the potentially harmful situation.

    I recently ghosted an old friend of 30+ years.  She told me an egregious lie which left me severely in the lurch.  The reason I ghosted her was that I figured everything henceforth that came out of her mouth wasn’t true.  How can you say a single word to someone if that’s what you think?  What are you supposed to say to the person who says “everything I say is a lie”?

    #51390

    Simon Paynton
    Participant

    In this scenario, are you maybe doing something rude but not morally wrong? Or is it wrong?

    It’s reasonable to politely ask to be treated as a human being, and not an ant or a fly.  If nothing else, it might improve the other person’s behaviour in the future.

    #51392

    Unseen
    Participant

    In this scenario, are you maybe doing something rude but not morally wrong? Or is it wrong?

    I don’t think you can extricate the answer to that question from the context. Let’s see what I mean with a few examples. How would you analyze these hypotheticals if I behaved in these ways?

    I come in contact with a woman through a dating app, things go well in terms of chatting, and we are working up to an initial meeting, and then she goes “Oh, by the way, I’m a trans female.” I say, “Oh, I’m sorry. If you had mentioned that at the start, we wouldn’t have needed to waste so much time getting to know each other. I really have no problem with trans people as friends, but this is a dating app and I am not interested in dating a trans.” At this point, she accuses me of prejudice and insists that we should at least meet. I say, “I don’t see that as being productive. I’m sorry. I need you to move on.” But the person doesn’t move on and insists on contacting me over and over through the app, which only makes her more unattractive to me. So, I simply block her.

    A collection agency keeps pestering me for a debt I haven’t and never will have the resources to even begin paying, so I simply stop responding to them. I toss their mailings without opening and only pick up the phone when it’s a number I recognize.

    I’ve been seeing someone for a while, been having sex, but it’s shallow on my end. Then, she wants to know “if it’s going anywhere” and I explain the situation as honestly and plainly as I can: For me, it’s been mainly about the sex and I thought it was for her as well. If she wants a long-term deep and abiding relationship, she needs to stop wasting her time with me. So, in order to keep things from getting difficult, I simply cut off all communications from then forward, avoiding her in every way possible. Don’t pick up the phone. Pretend I’m not home if she comes to my door. Block her on Facebook. Do “Return to Sender” on any mail she sends, etc.

    Some person who did something unforgivable to me in high school and who I haven’t seen nor heard of in decades gets in touch, probably to beg for forgiveness. However, I can’t forgive them. So, I simply don’t respond.

    My best friend gets cancer and I simply can’t deal with fatal illnesses, so I do everything I can to avoid being with them. I’m sorry, but I simply don’t want to be around death and I don’t want to watch someone wasting away to nothing.

    #51394

    TheEncogitationer
    Participant

    Fellow Unbelievers,

    If it’s just incompatibility about goals, itenerary, chemistry, or styles, then, yes, courtesy and forthright communication is a good way to deal with breaking up and going separate ways.

    However, if someome does something that wrecklessly or deliberately deceives and harms you, you have no obligation to “telegraph your moves” and let the person come and hurt you again. In that case, “burn bridges, cover tracks, and “ghost” away!

    #51395

    _Robert_
    Participant

    At any given time, I’d say 20% of daters get about 80% of the action. The people everyone wants to be with. They will ghost you and not even think about.

    I ghosted a few girls early on, but the town was too small, and it came back to me. So better just to give them the good news, LOL.

    #51398

    TheEncogitationer
    Participant

    Fellow Unbelievers,

    Oh, and “ghosting” bills you’ve voluntarily assumed is a shit move, especially with Medical professionals who are oath-bound to “First, do no harm” and to sustain human life.

    At least make payment arrangements and pay what little you can until it’s all knocked out. No debt lasts to infinity unless you never pay it.

    #51401

    Unseen
    Participant

    At any given time, I’d say 20% of daters get about 80% of the action. The people everyone wants to be with. They will ghost you and not even think about.

    I once saw a piece about a guy who claimed to have sex with different women several times a week. His secret: Just hang out, develop a quick rapport, and ask them up front, “Wanna go somewhere and bump uglies?” (maybe not in those exact words) and if tha answer is “No,” just move on to the next female. He claimed to be successful about 10%-20% of the time.

    #51402

    Unseen
    Participant

    Oh, and “ghosting” bills you’ve voluntarily assumed is a shit move, especially with Medical professionals who are oath-bound to “First, do no harm” and to sustain human life.

    At least make payment arrangements and pay what little you can until it’s all knocked out. No debt lasts to infinity unless you never pay it.

    That applies under most circumstances, but not all. Some people literally are in impossible situations, and if you can’t imagine one, you lack imagination.

    Here’s a scenario from a guy down the hall from me: His income consists entirely of his Social Security, which is how he pays his rent. He can’t move because he can’t afford to (barring moving into a tent on the sidewalk, of course, which would probably be a death sentence). Much of his food comes from food bank boxes delivered by charities. He’s already taking only part of the medications for which he has prescriptions because he can’t afford more. His situation is literslly impossible.

    In his case, since part of his income does go to insurance, it’s his copay that he can’t even in his wildest dreams imagine paying.

    On the whole, I agree with you. I just disagree with what you seem to be implying, that no one is in an impossible situation.

    Also, let me note that not all medical debts are truly “voluntary.” So, I assume you left out involuntary debts like necessary trips to the ER.

    I had a heart attack and, since I was lucky in that I was doing work at Goodwill to keep busy and provide me with some mad money and get me out of the house, I had excellent insurance (while Goodwill tends to pay minimum wage, their benefits rival those of the better high tech companies). My ER visit which resulted in several expensive tests and, ultimately, a stent, left me with a medical bill of only about $30.

    If the same thing happened today, I’d be in a real financial pickle.

    #51403

    PopeBeanie
    Moderator

    I’ve not yet read other responses, to give my most unbiased opinion. Although I’m sure I’m a cultural outlier, I’m also fairly sure that my affinity to bonding with friends, and my level of empathy for strangers lie near the end of a human scale that goes from “really want it and need it, and take this personally” to “meh, I’m not into it and to each his own”. I’m on the “don’t need it” end. I’ve never even dated much, so some might say that I’m not qualified to answer.

    However, don’t answers to these kinds of questions lay on a pretty natural, even instinctive scale of human emotional tendencies and behavior? Along, of course, with the strong influence of “cultural norms” that we’ve been immersed in since birth. In fact, as humans, compared to other animals, social norms and cultural behaviors in general evolved significantly “preternaturally”, i.e. within extremes and normalities that mother nature (i.e. genetics) had increasingly less influence over, while culture (and potential dysfunctions) had increasing influence.

    From tweenhood up about the ripe age of 66, my severe social anxiety was a definite handicap, just in terms of when I was out in public, especially (say) while avoiding parties and other social events. This, then, defined all of my relationships. My ex-wife, naturally sociable and wishing I could attend events that were important to her, took my non-social behavior as a personal insult, back when I couldn’t even understand or explain why I felt the way I did about social events, and making friends.

    As I slowly understood more about my (and human) social dysfunction(s), I also understood how they generally tend to exist on scales of severity, even before they’re officially recognized (e.g. in mental health professions) as mental dysfunctions. Such dysfunctions emerge, usually long before one has a chance to recognize them, much less look for information about them and find treatments for them.

    What you’re asking is not explicitly about dysfunctions that emerge on scales of severity, but about components of mental, moral, philosophical, culture-wide beliefs, mores and other personal preferences. But I think, in a “dysfunctional” context or not, those scales range widely in each person’s mind.

    Perhaps the trick here is to detect and recognize these components and scales in other people, before incurring personal investment in them? Perhaps even before each person recognizes or tries to recognize such components within themselves?

    Personally, I’m still learning how to do this.

    #51405

    PopeBeanie
    Moderator

    In the context of this group, and your topic, specific question and my experience, I don’t think much in terms of valence wrt morality or what’s “wrong”. I focus on improving my recognition and employment of empathy, which has been a decades long process for me. I’d say that empathy plus objectivity, together with limitations on expectations and judgements lead me to positive relationships.

    I still think back at times when a girl was interested in me, but I wasn’t interested in them, and I “ghosted” them or I acted coldly. I now feel ashamed of doing that, and wish I could have at least tried to remain friends or pursue something deeper that may have been more awesome. While I also realize that I was just emotionally not mature enough to both care more and try harder to talk about feelings that seemed ineffable at the time.

    #51407

    Davis
    Moderator

    Thanks for all your replies. I would say that you don’t have to be specific when letting someone down. In your trans case, just tell the person you’re sorry for wasting their time, you aren’t feeling it and wish them the best.

    To give you an idea of how prevalent ghosti g is in Scotland, I had chatted with a lad for 5 weeks, almost daily. Conversation had become personal and intimate (a connection forming). When we started talking about personal preferences he ghosted. He was still online. I wrote: If you aren’t feeling it, I understand it’s okay but please give me the basic courtesy of saying so”. He never reliesd. I ran into him in a supermarket 3 months later and he was eager to chat. I asked him why he was chatting to me and he seemed confused. I told him you ghosted me, it was hurtful to not just get a basic thanks but no thanks. He said “oh yeah I was busy” and asked me out for a drink. I said no you’ll have to appigise and tell me how he’d make it up to me. Again he seemed genuinely confused. Ghosting is simply so normalised here he thought my behaviour very odd.

    I simply cannot get aroused with someone who has such little respect or thought for me. I can be dropped when inconvenient and then suddenly picked back up by a chance encounter.

    He ran into me months later again and genuinely appologised, offered to buy me a drink when and where I suggested. We met and had a knock out date. During the date he admitted he is really indecisive and a little insecure. In the gay dating world you can so easily get a date (if you aren’t picky) you pass up on real opportu ities that require any work or compromise.

    It fizled out and we became pals. He still admits to ghosting people.

    I think, unless the person is being scary or abusive or manipulative, a quick and kind farwell message isn’t much to ask.

    • This reply was modified 8 months ago by  Davis.
    #51409

    Davis
    Moderator

    Pope, you definitely touched on a genuine aspect of why ghosting is so easy. For some people it does require flexing unflexed muscles. In my work, we have to use extreme care with everyword and put significant thought into how we phrase things. This is the opposite of typical locker room talk, where in my icehockey changeroom every ginger is affectionately called a ginger cunt and if you tell any story get ready for ribbing and ridicule. Delivering dissaponting news takes a lot of effort, emotional energy and experience. This is hard to do considering how fragile we all are (some of us much more fragile than others).

    I consider this even more the case in much of Northern Europe where expressing personal feelings is uncommon, people become very bashful on basic compliments and people even get suspicious when you are genuinely nice to strangers.

    #51438

    Simon Paynton
    Participant

    It sounds like the guy didn’t know he was hurting people by ghosting them, when he should have done, because he was.  Maybe British people are used to it, it’s normal to them, so they expect it.

    He had a failure of empathy (cognitive perspective-taking) driven by a lack of empathic concern (caring).  He should have cared enough about someone he was in your level of relationship with, to try and understand your feelings or perspective.

    But if he’s British and everyone ghosts everyone, how was he to know?  Men seem to be worse at empathy and perspective-taking than women.  Maybe it’s because men are more used to having their perspective taken by others (women) than doing it themselves.  I also find that some gay men are much more empathetic than your average straight man.

    #51440

    _Robert_
    Participant

    It sounds like the guy didn’t know he was hurting people by ghosting them, when he should have done, because he was. Maybe British people are used to it, it’s normal to them, so they expect it. He had a failure of empathy (cognitive perspective-taking) driven by a lack of empathic concern (caring). He should have cared enough about someone he was in your level of relationship with, to try and understand your feelings or perspective. But if he’s British and everyone ghosts everyone, how was he to know? Men seem to be worse at empathy and perspective-taking than women. Maybe it’s because men are more used to having their perspective taken by others (women) than doing it themselves. I also find that some gay men are much more empathetic than your average straight man.

    You know the saying “all is fair in love and war”. Well in love, at least. The idea that women are more empathetic ‘seems’ correct. I know many of my steady girls had envious girlfriends who tried to sabotage us, so they could “empathize” with her later. Funny how when my relationship ended some of her “former” girlfriends would come after me wanting to date me, lol. In fact, my ex-wife was once best friends with a former girlfriend of mine. My lazy mistake for not branching out more.

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