Now that social media and dating apps have infiltrated our love lives, relationships can get confusing in entirely new ways. It’s easier than ever to meet new romantic prospects, as well as disappear from their lives, pop back in again, and/or generally confuse the hell out of them. Why did they send you that cat video with no comment? Now that they’ve Instagrammed a photo with you, are you two “official”? They haven’t texted since the fourth date — does that mean they’ve moved on? (And are you tired yet?)
As new dating behaviors arise, so too do new viral terms to describe them. In fact, there are so many weird-sounding dating terms circulating these days that it’s hard to keep track. Just when you start to get used to using the word “ghosting” in your everyday conversations, other words like “phubbing,” “benching,” and “breadcrumbing” enter the mix. But these words exist because shitty dating behaviors are depressingly common, and they’re worth calling out. To help you identify and avoid them (or simply understand what your friends are talking about), here are nine of the most popular viral dating terms defined. Hopefully, this guide will help you spot a “kittenfisher” before they reel you in.
Let’s start with this OG of modern dating lingo. Ghosting occurs when a person suddenly halts all forms of communication with the person they’ve been dating, ostensibly hoping the ghosted person will get the hint without the ghoster having to break up with them.
In some ways, being ghosted can hurt even more than being outright rejected because it opens the door to unanswered questions, depriving you of closure. According to psychologist Jennice Vilhauer writing for Psychology Today, mental health professionals compare ghosting to giving someone the “silent treatment,” which is considered a form of emotional cruelty. No wonder being left on read stings so damn much.
Haunting is when a person continues to interact with you on social media after you’ve stopped seeing each other. Haunting behaviors are often on the passive side (for example, liking your photo instead of commenting on it) so that you end up thinking about the person but still haven’t been invited to respond in any way.
This pattern can seriously mess with your mind. Imagine finally feeling like you’re over your ex…then seeing that they’ve liked an Instagram photo of you and the new person you’re dating. This can be as exciting as it is infuriating: Does it mean your ex still misses you? Are they jealous? Why won’t they leave you alone?! It’s a combination of thoughts virtually guaranteed to throw you off.
When you picture someone breadcrumbing, you might think of the classic Brothers Grimm fairy tale Hansel and Gretel, in which two siblings drop morsels of bread as they walk in order to find their way home. The dating version is a little different (and I’d take a bloodthirsty witch over a douchey ex any day). Similar to haunting, breadcrumbing is when someone continues to leave little clues that they might be into you…only they aren’t into you at all.
As Bela Gandhi, founder of date coaching company Smart Dating Academy, explained to Today, breadcrumbing is “leading somebody on with no intention of following through,” often to get attention. This behavior can manifest in a variety of ways: a random text just to “check in” here, a flirty 2 a.m. Snapchat there. But the breadcrumbs don’t lead to actual plans, making this a really frustrating — and potentially heartbreaking — dating behavior.
Benching is another term for leading someone on, but there is a bit more intention involved in it than in breadcrumbing. Benching is when someone keeps a potential partner on the romantic back burner. They don’t make serious moves to deepen the connection, but they don’t extinguish the hope of a future relationship, either. It’s like when an athlete is benched during a game: They’re not actually playing but they might get put in later if the coach needs them.
If you’re being stashed, it could take a while for you to realize it. On the surface, your relationship might seem perfect: You go out all the time, they text you consistently, and you spending almost every weekend at their apartment. There’s just one problem: You haven’t met a single one of their friends or family members, and, come to think of it, they haven’t posted any photos of the two of you on social media. Congratulations, they just might be stashing you — in other words, they’re keeping you separate from the rest of their life, possibly in order to date other people at the same time. Definitely a low blow.
Submarining is sometimes the sequel to ghosting. Picture this: After an amazing handful of dates with someone, all of a sudden, they disappear. Boom, you’ve been ghosted. You pick your ego up off the floor only for them to text you weeks later, asking to hang out again as if nothing happened. This is submarining, or peacing out and then popping back up like a submarine resurfacing from underwater. If it seems like a submariner genuinely wants a relationship with you when they reappear, it’s worth asking them what happened, because this is shady behavior.
Have you ever gotten the feeling that your partner is more committed to their phone than they are to you? Welcome to phubbing, a combination of the words “phone” and “snubbing.” If your date would rather check their Twitter mentions than listen to what you have to say at dinner, you know exactly what this is. Given that many of us are glued to our phones on a daily basis — the average American spends a whopping five hours on mobile devices a day, according to analytics firm Flurry — it’s no surprise that this obnoxious dating trend is on the rise. A word of advice? Keep your phone in your pocket (or purse) during date night.
Like submarining, zombieing is when someone who previously ghosted on you reappears in your life. The difference? If you’re being zombied, it’s usually more of a throwback — like your high school S.O. sliding into your DMs a few days before your ten-year reunion. This person from your past was out of your life, and now they want back in. (They’re coming back from the dead, get it?)
But hey, sometimes reviving a long-lost relationship works out. As Nancy Kalish, professor emeritus of psychology at California State University, Sacramento, told Quartz, rekindled romances have the potential for great intensity and intimacy. The person reaching out to their ex may feel like they finally “get to ‘right the wrong'” and like “this is the person they were meant to be with,” Kalish explains. Just make sure you and your zombie are on the same page.
Thanks in part to the MTV series of the same name, you probably know about catfishing, or creating a fake online persona to trick someone into a relationship. Now, there’s kittenfishing, too. Although it sounds a lot cuter than catfishing, there’s nothing attractive about this behavior: It’s when someone exaggerates their qualities on dating site with tactics like using old photos or embellishing their talents or successes. While it’s not exactly lying, it’s still deceptive, and it might leave you feeling duped after a date. Honestly, I’m annoyed just thinking about it. Maybe we should all just stop dating and invest our emotional energy in actual kittens instead. At least they’d never ghost us.
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