Is it ever OK to ghost while dating?

A couple enjoying a night out at cocktail bar. (PHOTO: Getty Images)
A couple enjoying a night out at cocktail bar. (PHOTO: Getty Images)

Welcome to A Millennial's Dating Diary series, where we explore real-life interactions and the hurdles of dating in Southeast Asia. The series will feature the dating stories and misadventures of Arika – a 26-year-old, straight female marketing manager with a penchant for over drinking — and fellow millennials.

If there is one thing I’m incredibly proud of, it’s the fact that I’ve rarely ghosted while dating.

See, the thing is, I believe in karma. I believe in the universe giving you the desert if you’ve done something terrible, and playing with the emotions of others is, well, pretty bad.

While I’ve been ghosted several times (you can read about it here), I’ve sought never to ghost anyone because I truly believe in respecting someone enough not to waste their time.

Before you start telling me that ghosting is commonplace in the world of online dating, I’ll be the first to tell you that most of the time, I was ghosted by people I met through friends or at a bar.

I will say, though, that the advent of dating apps have made ghosting that much easier, though. When you’re meeting someone online with very few mutual connections, it’s easy to cut them off when you have nothing tying you two together.

Still, I’ll admit that I’ve actually done it before. Hear me out, though; he was acting like an absolute tool.

After matching and talking to each other on Tinder, *Ian asked if we could speak on WhatsApp instead. After a few days, he told me he needed time after something drastic happened and would reach out again when he felt he was ready to.

Reading Bad News on Mobile Phone. Young teenage woman checking her messages and social media post on her mobile phone. Looking worried and questioning reading the bad news and messages on her smart phone. Urban Young Generation Social Media Lifestyle Portrait.
A woman reads messages on her smartphone. (PHOTO: Getty Images)

A month later, *Ian reached out. In the midst of moving houses, I took a bit longer to respond. Several hours after reaching out, he sent a text threatening me, and calling me derogatory names before deleting the text entirely.

But, it was too late. I had already seen the message in the notification centre of my iPhone, and I immediately confronted him about it.

“I’m sorry, I just thought you were going to ghost me the way other girls have,” *Ian said.

While I definitely felt bad for him, he handled the situation the wrong way, and after telling him how I felt about it, I ghosted him once he replied. In my mind, he deserved it.

To be fair, we had never met in person, and if this was how he was choosing to handle himself even before we met, I didn’t want to know what he’d be like if we had actually met.

My friends and I recently debated whether it was acceptable to ghost.

“If we’re casually dating, I usually ghost a girl if she’s getting too clingy or attached. But, if we’ve already agreed to be casual, it really annoys me whenever they start calling me ‘baby’ or expect me to make time for them every week,” says my friend *Dougie, 27.

“I never like to ghost,” says my friend *Liana, 28. “If I don’t like someone enough, I either tell them that things just aren’t working out, or I’ll wait for them to tire of me,” she laughed.

“But what happens if they never actually tire of you or if they just don’t get the hint?” I asked.

Two friends sitting by the window in their favorite cafe, chatting and catching up over a cup of coffee.
Two friends sitting by the window in their favourite cafe. (PHOTO: Getty Images)

“Then you tell them straight that you just don’t have feelings for them or don’t see things going anywhere. It’s so much more ethical to tell them, so they don’t actually overthink, and you have one less person to avoid in the future.”

“Or, come up with an excuse,” says Dougie. “If you want to let them down easy, tell them you’re just super busy at work and don’t have the capacity to date at the moment. Then, if they’re smart enough, they’ll get the hint! And if they don’t... then this will probably show them.”

The thing is, though, if you’re willing to do all this work to get rid of someone and come up with excuses, why not just tell them how you actually feel? Isn’t coming clean and being honest way easier? Rejecting someone doesn’t and shouldn’t have to be a long, drawn-out process.

“In hindsight, though, I’ll admit that I might not always have the guts just to tell a girl she’s overly clingy. I don’t want to develop any sort of bad blood with someone, and confronting someone about their behaviour just isn’t my style. I’m just someone they see casually, not their therapist,” admits Dougie.