Ghosting Isn’t Cruel, It’s Elegant

One would think that living in the second-most populated country in the world (especially one where parents obsess about their child’s marriage from the moment you’re born) would make it easy to find a mate. But most of us reject our parents’ choices or indulge ourselves before we’re arranged away.

Enter modern dating.

At some point just after puberty, we all dove headfirst into the dating pool. We clung to our dating apps like buoys, fully believing that our tireless, swiping thumbs would keep us afloat. Modern dating (the app kind) is like, but with lower expectations. It’s a maze – except in this maze, you’re blindfolded and have earplugs stuffed, rather unceremoniously, into your ears. Basically, you’re toast. Attempting to interpret any communication on an app, or worse, trusting anything on a dating app, is a pointless endeavour. However, there is one phenomenon in the dating mosh pit that’s particularly easy to decode – ghosting.

Ghosting or the slow fade typically starts with drastically decreased communication, monosyllabic replies, repeated cancelling of plans to meet and ends with the disappearance of the ghost-er. The ghost-er could be someone you’ve been dating casually, seeing or talking to for a short while. If you’re a Tinder-happy singleton, chances are you have ghosted someone or been ghosted on, or both. It could’ve been as easy as not responding to a message on Tinder because your match typed something off-putting (like misspelling ‘odyssey’). Or it could be that you never got around to replying to that request for a second (or third) date.

While widely condemned as a way of ‘breaking up’ with someone, the practice does have its merits. Especially when it involves two people who haven’t really known each other for a long period of time or are not – and haven’t ever been – in a serious relationship with each other.

Society has ingrained in us that if you’re just not that into them, the decent thing to do is be honest and try to let them down easy. So why do so many of us indulge in paranormal games of the dating variety? Here’s the fundamental truth: You’re essentially strangers. Whether you stumbled upon each other on a dating app or at a bar, you and your love interest don’t really know each other beyond a few cursory ‘What do you do?’ texts or the occasional meme. Once you realise this, you realise just how little you owe each other.

You’ve never actually met, and if you don’t want to interact with them anymore, it is completely fair to just not interact. You may not even recognise this stranger if you walked past them on a street; to expect them to give you undivided time, attention and justifications seem unreasonable – and a little ridiculous, to be honest. Every man or woman that lives on your phone is only half-real.

The act of ghosting is a very direct message in itself. Those well-versed with the low-expectations world of modern dating get the message loud and clear – but it can be hard for the uninitiated. Radio silence is not recognised for what it means, and the dismissal is taken to heart.

Recently, I matched with a man (let’s call him Rahul) who seemed sweet, smart and funny. After a few days of conversation and revelations regarding mutual acquaintances, I decided that it wasn’t really worth the effort and ceased communication. Rahul didn’t get it. What followed was a barrage of messages that ranged from innocuous question marks to wondering what he had done wrong. What Rahul didn’t get was that it wasn’t something he had done, I just didn’t want to continue the conversation, or go out on that inevitable date.

Is it not better that this happens before either party actually meets each other? What if you keep talking, go on dates, establish real intimacy and then this indifference sets in? Is it not kinder to let them get out before they get really invested?

Personally, I’ve ended conversations simply because I got tired. It’s exhausting to be clever and witty all the time. It’s hard work obsessing over what your next reply should be – just so they stay hooked. A lethargic, dead-ended conversation deserves a natural death. It seems self-indulgent to give a near-stranger a lengthy explanation for why ‘things aren’t working out’. To assume such importance in others’ lives is a ridiculous notion to most people – even if it’s true.

Dating is not fun. It’s alright to let yourself off the hook, and give others room to do the same. Ghosting is an almost elegant way of leaving a boring situation. It’s the same as exiting a dull party after being there for 15 odd minutes – by quietly walking out the door and driving off. Nobody ever really remembers the next day. Or the next week.

Fawzia Khan, 23, is a social media marketer for restaurants and photographs cities for fun. She tweets at @kawziafhan, and her Instagram is @fawziakhan.