Is ‘Ghosting’ Really Worth Arresting People Over?
Have you ever felt the need to just stop responding to someone over text or email? Maybe they were annoying in some way, too insistent or chatty, or said something that made you feel uncomfortable? Heck, it could’ve been inadvertent – maybe the time got away from you or you were distracted by something else entirely. Well, as per one lawmaker in the Philippines as reported on July 26, 2022, you’re committing a crime that isn’t quite illegal yet but should be immediately.
Right off the bat, there may be dozens of questions firing off from that sentiment alone. “What?” “Why?” “Who would consider ‘ghosting’ that bad?” or “What’s the basis for all of this?”
Well, according to the lawmaker in question Representative Arnolfo Teves Jr., ghosting someone is what he considers an emotional offense. The bill in question defines ghosting as
“When someone cuts off all forms of communication, [which] can be mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausting to the ‘ghosted’ person.”
To be clear, this technically is what you can define ghosting as, but it’s not entirely accurate. As was described earlier, ghosting just involves one party ignoring another through any written communication. While almost anyone can relate to the experience, it’s especially prominent in the dating app sphere, which Teves Jr. focuses on in the bill.
It goes on to describe the emotional toll that ghosting can have on a person. Citing a harmful state in which one is “constantly thinking of the welfare or the unexplained reasons of the one who ghosted” and compares it to emotional cruelty, emotional abuse, and trauma.
So, on face value alone there are a few major holes in this bill. For one, even if unintentionally, it comes across as being written by someone who took getting ghosted a bit too personally and decided to act on a vendetta.
Next, its parameters are incredibly strict. The ghosting in question is exclusive to dating apps and between heterosexual couples, which by itself is a red flag. Any beliefs aside, attempting to enforce a bill that would exclusively benefit a group based on their sexual preferences when it affects more than just them is objectively immoral.
Finally, it shows an almost absurd perspective on written communication that society has collectively accepted as the norm. Expecting immediate response and being met with nothing being considered an illegal offense should not be in question. However, there are droves of individuals who agree with the lawmaker in question even outside of his inner circle.
This leads to the most important question in all of this: How did we get here?
What This All Means
For the sake of clarity and fairness, no, ghosting isn’t always acceptable behavior. In fact, nine times out of ten, the ignorer in question is in the wrong. It can be rude and hurtful to the person on the other end, and almost dehumanizing in not reciprocating the effort put in, especially in the dating sphere. It’s only fair to at the very least be honest about your intentions or impressions rather than cutting communication entirely. Some may argue that no one is “entitled” to a response, but it’s a matter of decency, especially to those who haven’t done anything wrong.
However, with that being said, this is all representative of a larger issue: addiction. Specifically, phone addiction. The problems stem almost exclusively from phone usage and the strong link between someone’s phone and their emotional wellbeing. According to a study, an approximated 47% of parents believe their children have cell phone addictions. 46% of adults reported they felt addicted to their phones, and that isn’t helped by cell phone integration into their work culture. Text message updates and phone calls, and emails are readily available on your smartphone – it can all lead to an obsessive mindset and genuine frustration when that attention isn’t leading to immediate productivity. Metro reported that 99.2% of cellphone users felt fear and anxiety when they didn’t have their phone on them, which was referred to as Nomophobia (the fear of not having readily available access to your phone).
This isn’t good but has been normalized by our society and especially in our youth who are being raised into a culture that cultivates this behavior. Younger generations are also the most likely to believe that that Philippines lawmaker was in the right. When asked if ghosting should be illegal, an astounding number said it definitely should. One reportedly said
“Ghosting in long-term relationships completely changes a person for the worst. In many cases, men have asked women to relocate and change jobs for marriage only to ghost those women immediately after they comply. It is ridiculous and considering the amount of money that it costs for the victims who have moved, the amount of emotional damage, etc., this practice should be illegal.
Imagine if you were a teen and one day, you walked into your house but it was empty and there was a note stating “I am not your mother” from your mother and you had been completely blocked from communication. That would hurt and take years of therapy and financial assistance to recover.”
Whether we agree with this mindset or not, it’s undeniable that phones have become a vital part of modern daily life and have a significant impact on the emotional wellbeing of so many people. Phone addiction has become normalized, and while this isn’t a PSA to drop your phone into a ravine and never touch it again, boundaries need to be set.
Limit your phone use daily and try to communicate more than just through text! Try to stay away from dating apps and similar websites to avoid the emotional toll that comes with each passing message. Those services are meant to be addictive and play on one’s shallow interests above all else. Finally, and most importantly, try not to take ‘ghosting’ as a reflection of yourself. Often it’s something going on with the person on the other side of the screen. Self-worth shouldn’t be defined by whether someone has chosen to respond to your message.
However, if this seems incredibly difficult and you need some help, there are plenty of resources out there. Sober On Demand is a great example, with 12 weeks of coaching with a certified coach and family coaching to build a stable safety net around you if needed. Their programs target specific chemical issues in one’s brain that deal with reward pathways and can reduce addiction, anxiety, and depression while increasing self-worth and self-esteem. It’s also run by Cali Estes, The Addictions Coach, who has a wealth of knowledge in all things addiction and knows what she’s doing, so you can be assured in knowing that you’re in good hands.