Student Story: Ghosting Isn’t Just On Halloween

Commentary By: Laurel Rose Barrett, Gateway Regional High School, Woodbury Heights

It’s everyone for themselves, even on the road. It has become unfortunately evident that it is nearly impossible to completely trust anyone these days. Now that my friends and I are on the road, we have shared many stories of near-misses due to inattentive drivers and have commiserated over the fact that people can be so unruly while operating a nearly a one-and-a-half-ton vehicle.

It has been recently observed that Generation Z, especially, is just as untrustworthy as impatient drivers. Whether it be breaking a promise or not responding to a question in the first place, “ghosters” have left many in the lurch.

Many employers, teachers, and leaders have sat clueless, wondering why this phenomenon exists. Is it forgetfulness? Selfishness? Do people just not care? There isn’t one right answer. An explanation that we have been hearing for the past few years is: Oh, it is just another effect of the pandemic.

The Pandemic can only be an out for so long. Basic communication, respect, and common decency are not qualities that most young people possess. If you think about it, the Pandemic was a time when communication was even more important. There was little face-to-face, so emails and text messages were at the forefront of information sharing. If the Pandemic had any effect, it would be that it fostered stronger digital communication skills, but did it?

It isn’t to say that people can’t make mistakes in life. An error or an overlook here and there is understandable, but when someone repeatedly ignores or slights another after numerous reminders and specific directions, there is no excuse.

Students and young adults in general often give the excuse that they were busy with other commitments or  “just forgot,” but that doesn’t fix the position they left the recipient in. A part of being a responsible human is knowing when you have reached your limit. If someone is offered an opportunity and can’t take it on, it is generally understood if they politely decline and explain why, but if they just ignore it, that leaves them with a sour reputation from others having to pick up their slack.

Kids don’t seem to care about their reputation in the formal sense of the word; instead, they seem to value their reputation based on things they post online to others, like who they last kissed, what they just purchased, or even worse–their “body counts.” Students think posting a video of a fight will increase their reputation over being a trusted person of their word. The truth is this generation would find more credibility and respectability by advertising their “book counts” instead.

Little do some students know that a clean and honest reputation is key in not only school, but also in their futures. Teachers will outwardly state that they are more inclined to give special opportunities to students whom they can trust based on their past track record. A student who consistently turns in their work on time, stays true to their convictions, and is baseline respectful will get much more praise and reward than a student who doesn’t care and is just going through the motions. It takes effort to be disrespectful and rude. Some would be amazed at just how far they would get with common decency.

Middle school is practice for high school. High school is practice for college. College is practice for the workforce. As such, we are not going to successfully move along that chain and become successful if we lack efficacy and efficiency by not meeting deadlines, not communicating, and not prioritizing the good of the group over self-interest.

Besides the classroom, skills like basic communication and personal responsibility are vital in the workforce. It is extremely difficult to get a job, let alone keep one, if deadlines and communication aren’t top priorities. There may be second chances in high school and in college, but there will be far fewer as life progresses.

It is expected that as people age and learn from their mistakes that they will start to realize what is really important, not just to themselves, but to others too. If someone accepts responsibility, it is important to fulfill it even if it doesn’t instill instant gratification or benefit them directly.

As President of the United States, Barak Obama was someone significant in society who was required to be a man of his word the most, coming off the heels of the Iraq war in a time when political apathy, uncertainty, and even distrust was at an all-time high, but he was also a leader. In order to do his important job during a trying time, he relied on those under him to also be people of their word. If they didn’t deliver, he would be the one to receive all of the scrutiny.

Gen Z can take a lesson here. You may not be as important as a president, but if you ghost someone, it isn’t you who just pays the price–it is the organization, the company, the team, your club, your class collaborative group, etc. that is failing due to your lack of commitment and communication.

So, keep your eyes on the road.

Remember that it isn’t just you navigating the streets; others depend on your judgment, focus, and reliability. Communication doesn’t have to equal confrontation. So, speak up, show up, and realize that it is more than just about you.

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