Vail Daily column: The ghastliness of ghosting
October 9, 2016
As a 35-year-old father lucky enough to have my parents around and in good health, I find myself sometimes serving as a bridge between generations. This role is exacerbated by my tendency to interact with people of all ages, from my daughter's friends, to our high school-age babysitters, to well-seasoned Rotarians and the spectrum in between. To the extent that any of the older generation find my technological or social insights fascinating, that thrill is undercut by the fact that I am hopelessly clueless and uncool to teenagers and early-twenties folks. The concept of ghosting perfectly illustrates this generational divide. In this rapidly-moving world, this idea is not particularly new, as our younger readers may attest. But, being a social media/new communication idea, it may be very unfamiliar to people who may have just recently discovered Facebook, or even computers. Regardless of whether ghosting is passe or cutting-edge from your perspective, I hope that we can all agree that it has no place in civilized society.
Ghosting refers to the practice of cold-turkey ceasing communications with no warning and without providing any reason. Most commonly found in the dating arena, for some people it has replaced breaking up as the de facto way to terminate a nascent relationship. Instead of having a direct conversation about the ways that the coupling is failing, one person just disappears … like a ghost. They do not return the other person's text messages, ignore their phone calls, block the person on social media. When I found out that this was a common thing, I was flabbergasted. I may have also let out some words that are not fit for this family publication.
In the wake of this disappearance, the ghostee is left to wonder whether the person with whom they have had dinner and/or sex three or four times is dead, out of the country, stricken with malaria or just plain rude. Understandably, this is not great for the ghostee's self-esteem, as there are likely many questions left unanswered that even a brief phone conversation could flesh out. Were they bad in bed? Did their breath smell? Was fifteen too many times to mention one's mother on a first date? The pain of asymmetrical information can be acute. Also, there is much to learn from a failed relationship that can be useful to the next relationship, lessons that can help one improve oneself in the future. We can't all marry the first person that we date, but we can take cues from those dating years to refine both how we interact with others and the things that we are looking for in a mate, or even just a friend. This logic applies to every type and depth of human relationship. But we cannot learn unless we know what our mistakes were in the first place. This requires honest and open dialogue.
Communication is Key
Communication is a necessary part of the human experience. It is not always the most pleasant endeavor, particularly when there are issues that need to be addressed or conflicts that need to be resolved. But to ghost because the necessary conversation is too difficult or too awkward is simply unconscionable. It is spineless and the apotheosis of passive-aggressive. Membership in the homo sapiens club should require bare minimums of courtesy. Ghosting is a prime signal that the ghoster is only biologically human.
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We cannot blame this problem on technology. There are plenty of people who use new communications tools to great effect. Regardless if they use smoke signals, the telegraph or Snapchat, they understand that communication is a process that is to benefit both parties, not just one.
Just Be Nice
Ghosting is an old phenomenon in a new guise. Most disputes that come across my door are the result of one party pretending that the problem does not exist. Their flawed reasoning is that if they flout the other side's entreaties, the conflict will resolve itself. You can imagine how well that strategy works. Solving problems requires discussion, idea-sharing and cooperation. The only surefire way to avoid that process is to engage in litigation, where the consequences will ensure that neither side can ignore each other. It is much cheaper and easier to just be a nice person.
Worthy of Respect
People are not amusements to be discarded at will. Every human being is worthy of respect. We don't all have to love each other (although we should), but we at least need to treat each other the way we ourselves would want to be treated. Imagine how horrible it would feel to constantly check your phone, wondering why that sweet guy or girl isn't calling. Do not put others in that position, otherwise you may find yourself on the wrong phase of that karmic circle.
T.J. Voboril is a partner at Reynolds, Kalamaya & Voboril LLC, a local law firm, and the owner and mediator at Voice Of Reason Dispute Resolution. For more information, contact Voboril at 970-306-6456, email@example.com or visit http://www.rkvlaw.com.
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