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Why 'Orbiting' is the new dating trend we all need to avoid

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Megan Murray
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There’s more dating terms out there than you can shake a stick at, but ‘orbiting’ really resonates in a world where our social media interactions have almost become a second language.

Ever had an old flame slide into your social media, pique your intrigue with a series of non-committal likes or Instagram story-views, only to never actually talk to you? Then you’ve been orbited.

The term comes off the back of ghosting, dreamed up by Man Repeller writer, Anna Iovine. 

For those who somehow aren’t familiar with ghosting, it refers to the immediate cutting off of contact with someone you’re dating without an explanation or warning. 

For example, you might go on a few dates with someone and presume things have gone pretty well, only for them to suddenly stop replying to your messages and never speak to you again without telling you that they’re no longer interested. 

But sometimes, even when you think someone has been laid to rest in the graveyard of old flames-past, their presence is suddenly resurrected in the form of tenuous, social-media prodding. Aka ‘orbiting’.  

If you’re not interested, get out of my galaxy. 

Explaining the term, Iovine recalls how a man she was dating (whom she has referred to as Tyler) stopped answering her texts after their second date. However, for the next two months he continued to be one of the first people to watch her Snapchat and Instagram stories.

Of course, with so many different platforms offering an insight into a person’s life and ways to subtly remind them of your presence, this behaviour has become prevalent in the digital dating landscape.

She coined the term after a friend of hers “poetically described this phenomenon as a former suitor ‘keeping you in their orbit’ — close enough to see each other; far enough to never talk.”

And Meredith Jones, an account manager from Nottingham, is all too familiar with this form of emotional whiplash. Speaking to stylist.co.uk, Jones explains that she’s extremely au fait with old flames coming back from the dating dead in this way, saying: “It’s hard to actually think of just one specific example of orbiting because to be dating, even sleeping with someone, and to see them slide out of your inbox but linger in your Instagram likes, seems to have become an integral apart of the modern dating game.

“I had been dating one guy for a month and I was blissfully unaware that he was not feeling it the same as I. That was until he left me on unread on Whatsapp. Had his phone broke? Had he lost the use of his hands? Was he a spy that had been called up on an important mission? Well no, he soon thoughtfully let me know he was alive by liking my Instagram pictures and watching my stories. I’m still on unread to this day.”

We know that confused feeling all too well. 

So, what does this behaviour mean? Is it about retaining a feeling of power, an eegocentric tactic to stop you forgetting they exist or simply that they’re curious about your life?

We spoke to We-Vibe’s Relationship Expert, Dr Becky Spelman, to get her expert opinoin on why someone might exhibit this sort of confusing behaviour. 

Surmising on some of the possible thought processes behind orbiting, Spelman says: “There may be various factors at play. They may feel that they are letting the other person down more gently if they maintain a degree of contact in this way and think that they are being kinder than if they simply cut them off completely. 

“They may feel that they are keeping their options option by showing this sliver of interest, and that if the dating scene gets lean at some point in the future they might be able to pick the relationship back up again. They might be going through photographs in the hope of having their ego boosted when they see signs of distress or upset on the part of the other person, or simply take a voyeuristic pleasure in peering into these windows on their life.

“Thankfully, there is actually no need to question or explore this behaviour in detail, because we can respond to the discourtesy of ghosting by decisively removing the person in question from our online community of friends and blocking future invitations from them!”

We can’t know for sure the reasons behind your orbiter, but one thing’s for sure, we’re not here for it. If anyone has the disrespect (and idiocy) to ghost you, that automatically removes any stalking rights or access to your fabulousness.

Our advice? We’re with Spelman on this one, it’s time to block ‘em.

Images: Getty / Azat Satlykov

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Megan Murray

Megan Murray is a digital journalist for stylist.co.uk, who enjoys writing about London happenings, beautiful places, delicious morsels and generally spreading sparkle wherever she can.

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