Maybe they just forgot to hit send.
Maybe they’ve been asleep for the past 19 hours.
Maybe they ran out of cellular data for the month and also lost their Columbia Wi-Fi privileges because they illegally downloaded music and don’t have any cell phone service whatsoever. Yeah, that’s probably it.
These are the lies we tell ourselves to avoid reality.
Being “left on read” is a phrase thrown about so frequently on this campus that I need not waste my breath defining the cultural phenomenon that we call ghosting. But our discourse around ghosting has become hackneyed, and I’m here to inject it with some intellectual rigor.
Sometimes, ghosting is actually good. Thank you for reading my Spec column.
First of all, nobody uses read receipts anymore. It’s 2018. Webcams are taped over, Facebook sold all of my personal info to daddy Google, and I have to assume Elon Musk has access to my nudes. But a girl can only bear so much invasion of cyber-privacy, and the thought of disclosing whether I’ve opened a message is unbearable. Therefore, being left on Delivered is the new ghost.
This makes the rejection that much more slippery and leaves the ghost-ee approximately 10 times more likely to descend into psychosis. Have they even opened my message yet? Should I call them? I think I’m gonna call them. No! I’ll get my friend to call them. Just to see if they’re on their phone. My mind... it’s so powerful, sometimes!
Sure enough, the ghost engages in some paranormal activity and answers the phone for your friend. After your genius plan proves a little too successful, the haunting reality sinks in: You’ve been ghosted!
Often, in situations much like the one above, ghosting gets characterized as a cowardly act perpetrated by immature fuckbois who lack the emotional intelligence to outright reject. But, why is this our assumption? When did we decide in our cellular culture that all texts have to be responded to? Are we just expected to be on our phones constantly? OK, yes, I am on my phone constantly, that’s true, I’ll give you that. But still, why are we so offended when someone doesn’t respond to our texts?
Sometimes, I romanticize the days not that long ago when we had to pay for each individual text. If texts weren’t a renewable resource, I could more easily justify my ghosting by claiming I didn’t want to waste 50 precious cents painfully explaining to some guy that I’m just not that into it.
Let’s face it: Ghosting is genius.
Love is fickle. Mix that confusion with Columbia’s raging hookup culture and you’ve got yourself one nebulous cloud of situationships, wannabe-situationships, and straight-up awkward situations. Ghosting is the sterile solution to this mess.
If the prospect of responding to your text doesn’t entice me enough, why should I have to respond? Because I’m a nice person? Debatable. Because you’re a nice person? Debatable. Because we slept together? Sis, please.
Haters of the ghost technique will claim that it goes against conversation norms that we abide by in the “real world.” But I would just like to say that these losers have zero imagination.
What if the next time I’m in recitation and haven’t done the reading, the TA asks me for my opinion on the juxtaposition between something and whatever, and—instead of coming up with some lame “piggybacking off of what they said” roundabout answer—I just sit there? Maintaining eye contact. Blinking occasionally. Taking a sip of iced coffee to remind everyone that I am not, in fact, comatose, but very alive, and merely choosing to not engage—similar to the way that ghosts still vote in our Instagram story polls. They’re not dead. Their phone didn’t die. They’re not trapped in an air shaft in EC. They’re just choosing not to respond.
Obviously, this comparison between hookup culture and recitation sections lacks depth. I recognize that, OK? But my point stands: Why do we get so upset over ghosting when the message the ghost is trying to send is far more effective than any lukewarm “im sory im so busy lately haha.”?
Even worse is when you’re given a creative-writing-major-wannabe-type excuse that is so obviously fiction it makes you want to gouge your eyes out with Muji pens. Oh, your suitemate “stepped in some glass that was lying around” so you have to take him to St. Luke’s right now? Five minutes before we were supposed to hang out? And then I ran into you at Morton Williams 10 minutes later?
I hope his fucking foot falls off.
All jokes aside, why do we act like ghosting is such a foreign concept? We already lowkey ghost all the time, but never really acknowledge it.
Mindlessly scrolling on the Urban Outfitters sale page in the middle of a 300-person lecture, while your professor is discussing something that you can learn the night before the midterm? That’s an academic ghost. Avoiding eye contact with the Ferris pasta station worker when they add water to the marinara sauce, diluting it to Chef Boyardee standards? That’s a culinary ghost. Not acknowledging the person pooping next to you in the Butler bathroom, even though you definitely recognize their shoes? That’s a bodily function ghost.
But nobody takes these ghostings personally, because, as a student body, we thrive on being impersonal and detached. It’s the only way we can survive living in the suffocating Columbia bubble, where you can (and will) run into literally every person you’ve ever known at this school when you’re running late to your 10:10, sweating through your clothes, and spilling coffee all over your shirt. It’s like when you bump into someone from your NSOP group when you’re both crying in the Butler third floor women’s bathroom. Let’s just both act like this never happened.
Ghosting isn’t uncertain, cowardly, or immature. Choosing not to respond to a text sends a definitive message. Time and time again, this message is incorrectly interpreted as “you’re dead to me.” But, more accurately, a ghost is a resounding (and valid) “I’m dead to you.” Maybe that’s why they call it ghosting.
So, the next time you get a cringey text that makes you groan audibly in Butler and immediately send a screenshot to your group chat asking, “helpppp wHat should I respond?????”
Don’t. Just leave them on Delivered. It’s that simple.
Anna Lokey is a senior in Columbia College studying philosophy. She can be reached at email@example.com with questions, comments, or concerns. She probably won’t respond. A Girl and Her Juul runs alternate Fridays.
To respond to this column, or to submit an op-ed, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.