Dear Di

When used sparingly, ghosting can get you out of sticky situations. Image: Tinderkits/Edits Rame Abdulkader
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Dear Di,

Look, I’ve been ghosted plenty of times, and I’ve done my fair share of ghosting, too. But after a couple of dates, the ghosting I took this week stung a little extra. I was wondering what your thoughts were on ghosting and whether or not there’s a way to do it right.

— Ghost Buster

Dear GB,

We should start by providing an operating definition of the term “ghosting.” Urban Dictionary defines it as “when a person cuts off all communication with their friends or the person they’re dating, with zero warning or notice beforehand. You’ll mostly see them avoiding friend’s phone calls, social media, and avoiding them in public.” 

The cold, hard truth of ghosting is that it’s become an absolutely socially acceptable way to deal with budding relationships that have hit dead ends. If you’re dating — and especially if you’re using online dating apps — it’s unavoidable.

That said, there are some simple rules to minimize the damage.

First of all, there are two very small windows where ghosting can be used most effectively. The first is before you’ve even met them. If you’ve been sending some flirty snaps, or saucing some Tinder messages back and forth, and you mention that you might want to go out but lose interest? Perfect ghost territory, minimal feelings hurt. 

After you’ve seen them once, you have one more shot to ethically ghost. After one date, even if it goes badly, you pretty much owe the person one more shot or you risk coming off as super petty. You never know, they could’ve been having an off day. But if you’re still not feeling anything after date two, welcome to Ghostville. Three dates is still a little ambiguous. But if you see someone four times or more, you definitely owe them at least a note on the fridge. 

There are also some basic rules of what kind of person you can ghost. A GQ Ghosting Guide tries to highlight the degrees of separation. For example, if it’s a coworker? Forget ghosting. But a random Tinder swipe, you can probably get away with. 

And finally, just know that if you’re going to ghost someone, that’s not something you can come back from. Forget the late-night “come over” texts, that door has closed.

In terms of having been ghosted, just take comfort in the fact that we’ve all been there. In all likelihood, it has nothing to do with you and everything to do with wanting to play the field, but it’s a sucky feeling to be sure. Maybe just keep that feeling in mind the next time some bland Bumble date triple texts you and you feel the urge to ghost coming on. 

Some people (for example, the author of this article in Oprah Magazine) hold that it’s an evil practice that reflects the narcissism and lack of authentic connection that characterizes the digital age. To be honest, they’re probably right, but hey, it sure does give us an easy out.