Forget Ghosting: ‘Orbiting’ Is The Latest Dating Trend To Look Out For
What is it?
Orbiting is a term coined by Man Repeller’s Anna Iovine and, like ghosting, refers to someone who lets you know they don’t want to go out with you by ignoring all your texts, calls and emails. But here’s the key difference: orbiters might not reply to your messages, but they’re more than happy to continue watching everything you post on all social media platforms. Iovene describes this phenomenon as “a former suitor 'keeping you in their orbit' — close enough to see each other; far enough to never talk.”
It’s a phenomenon most young singletons can relate to – going out with someone who doesn’t contact you after the second date, but continues to like your tweets, comment on your Facebook updates, and watch all your Instagram Stories. But when you DM them? Nothing. It was, in fact, something that came to Iovine’s attention after it happened to her with a guy she met on Tinder: “After our second date, he stopped answering my texts. I soon gathered it was over, but in the ensuing days, I noticed he was watching every single one of my Instagram and Snapchat Stories — and was often one of the first people to do so.”
As she points out, there’s no proof that Instagram users who show up at the top of your Story views are those who watch your videos the most, but some Reddit users theorise that this could be the case. Either way, your former crush’s name constantly showing up on your ‘viewed’ list feels like they’re always watching you; keeping tabs on you, but they never actually want to have a conversation. In a way, it’s much more frustrating that being ghosted.
Why would someone do that?!
Well, Iovine and her team of orbiting victims have a number of theories. First is that it’s a move of diplomacy, adopted by orbiters who don’t want to actively date that person right now, but also don’t want to write someone off completely for the future. It’s also a way to eliminate that awkward feeling you get when you ghost someone and then bump into them at a bar – it’s a subtle, albeit slightly strange, way of letting that person know that you’re still on friendly terms if you happen to be stood next to them when you’re ordering a drink. “It’s kind of like how you stay friends with your cousin on Facebook for the sake of Christmas and Easter gatherings,” says British writer Philip Ellis.
Theory number two is that orbiters actually have no idea what they’re doing. Do orbiters know that you can see them watching your Insta Story about your cat? If it’s not a power move, is it simply that they don’t realise how social media works yet? “I was dating this guy – we had been dating for maybe two or three months – when Valentine’s Day came around, and he started ignoring my texts while he was watching my Snapchat Stories,” another victim said. “I got so mad that I texted him that he better stop watching my Stories if he planned to keep ignoring my messages, and he goes, ‘Wait, you can see that?’”
Third is a feeling we all know and understand – FOMO. The fear of missing out. “The person might not necessarily be ready to commit to a relationship; however, there’s a concern that if they were to completely eliminate contact with you, then they might miss the opportunity to reconnect with you later on.” said clinical counsellor Dr Rachel O’Neill. “Orbiting also offers the opportunity for the orbiter to maintain a commitment-free connection with you. If circumstances change (for example, the orbiter decides they want to pursue a relationship), the orbiting behaviour also offers a relatively easy entry to return back into your life (i.e., commenting on a post, DMing).”
What can you do about it?
Not much, really. But let’s admit it, none of us can resist socially stalking people from our past – a Google search for ‘Can someone see I’ve watched their Instagram story?’ yields millions of results. But with orbiters, the person they’re creeping on is someone who has reached out to them privately already, be it through a DM or a text, which is what makes them so infuriating. As Iovene says, not texting someone back but continuing to view their social media content feels like a betrayal. And while there seems to be no formal way to handle dating in the social media age, all we can say is, thank god for the ‘block’ button.
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