How to Ghost Without Being a Total Douche

illustrated gif of a man ghosting a woman on a date
Jason Hoffman/Thrillist
Jason Hoffman/Thrillist

Never has doing absolutely nothing been as problematic as it is in the act of ghosting.

And yet, this maligned behavior (or lack thereof) -- defined as the cutting off of all contact with someone you are seeing -- has nevertheless become common practice. Much like other obnoxious dating-platform habits like group profile pictures, or listing oxygen or coffee as the one thing you can't live without, ghosting is yet another thing single folks have to learn to deal with.

And let’s face it: sometimes, ghosting is the least dramatic option. But how do you ghost without being a douchebag? Read on to find out.

person sending a text on their phone close up

Ghost the person, not the date

A common misconception is that all ghosting is equal. Not true! Ignoring someone's texts IS NOT the same as not showing up to an agreed-upon date. If you’ve made concrete plans with someone, you have a responsibility to show up. Or, at the very least, to cancel (at least a couple of hours in advance, so they can hate you from the pantsless comfort of their own living room). It is a lot better to text into the void without getting a reply than to sit at the bar, stomach filled with butterflies, an eye on the door. Don't be a monster. 

Be consistent

A few weeks after ghosting, you may reconsider your decision. After all, this person was genuinely interested in you and you were originally attracted to them. Reigniting that flame during a long commute might be tempting -- especially if you've just struck out and need some positive reinforcement. Well, tough shit. Actively toying with someone’s emotions for the sake of your own ego is still the unquestionable line between an average dater and raging sociopath.

close up of person marking a date on a calendar

Be realistically short-term

The worst part of ghosting is the whiplash that can be occur when the person you've decided to ghost is also someone you've made future plans with. So until you're sure about someone, NO down-the-line concerts. NO upcoming national holidays. NO preemptive plans to binge a series that won’t be released for another two months. Ghosting is seldom an impulsive act -- so if it is something you foresee yourself doing or have a history of, behave accordingly, and keep things short-term. Nothing beyond next weekend... maybe.

Know your six degrees of relationship separation

Do any of your acquaintances know an acquaintance of the person you're about to ghost? This behavior is definitely going to make you look bad -- so make sure your mutual people don’t include their roommate, your best friend, or your favorite coworker. If that is the case, you ought to in the time to do things the “right way.” It’s a small world out there and things get awkward at a party fast.

Erase the social media carbon footprint

Ghosting is an active process, not passive. So the least you can do is be thorough about it. No semi-translucent, can-still-pick-up-a-cup shenanigans. This goes beyond ignoring their texts! It's time to unfriend them on Facebook, and unfollow them on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. You are denying someone’s existence entirely and there’s really no need to be coy about it. Failure to do so confuses things and leaves room for subtext to be read into your silence. Assuming the other party will stop texting you but still like your funny tweets and selfies leaves fertile ground for what all ghosters dread: the surprise follow-up.

Accept that, yes, you are still kind of an asshole

Please understand that it is not up to the person you are ghosting to make you feel better about your sudden silence. You're definitely the bad guy in this scenario. So, should your paths cross again, own up to it with a polite nod and the most casual bit of chit chat before going on your merry way. Don't embarrass either of you with a self-pitying rant about how you're "the worst," or profuse apologies meant to alleviate your guilt. You both know what you did.

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Ben Philippe is a freelance writer based in New York City. He didn’t get your text; he fell asleep, lol; his phone died; he doesn’t have good service; he forgot to hit send. Catch up with him on Twitter instead: @GoHomeBen.