Dating in the 21st century comes with its own set of vocabulary. Netflix and chill, ghosting, zombieing, and gatsbying are just a few of the latest dating trends that those who log in online are contending with. If you’re getting out of your comfort zone this year and trying online dating, orbiting is yet another dangerous trend you should keep an eye out for.
What is orbiting?
To understand what orbiting is, we first have to have a conversation about another unfortunate dating trend that usually proceeds it: ghosting. If you’re out of the loop on all the new dating trend phrases, ghosting is when someone you believe cares for you disappears from all forms of communication without an explanation.
Maybe you went on a few dates and thought there was a connection. But all of the sudden, he or she won’t respond to your phone calls or texts. They vanish without a trace. Or did they?
That’s when orbiting comes onto the scene. Instead of completely disappearing, this could-be ghost floats around and haunts your social media accounts. Maybe you get notifications that they’re still watching your Instagram stories, or they still like your Facebook updates, despite the fact that they can’t return a single message.
Does their presence on your online profiles mean that this person is still interested in a potential relationship? Maybe. But they’re going about it the wrong way.
A silent (and lonely) space battle
Not only is digitally observing a prospective lover or an ex online incredibly confusing, it’s also passive aggressive and downright rude. Orbiting is also a unique struggle to those dating in a digital world.
“Unlike ghosting, which is a fancy word for disappearing from a lover’s life without notice, orbiting could not have existed before the dawn of social media,” writes Rainesford Stauffer. “It is a behavior bound to the medium, and to an age in which people can be hyper-connected without ever speaking. Distant methods of digital observation — likes, views, etc. — are what binds the orbiter and the orbited.”
Social media allows users to get a peek into your life without ever spending any time with you. They could feel as if they know you intimately, even if they aren’t investing into a friendship or relationship with you.
When someone observes your life through your Instagram updates or Snapchat stories, they rob you of the ability to share the true story of your life that’s written on your heart.
How to fight orbiting
Are you tired of seeing an ex or semi-ghost showing up in your social media notification feeds?
You don’t have to observe their activity from afar, or condone their behavior. If someone’s orbiting habits are making you uncomfortable, here are three things to keep in mind.
1. Have an honest conversation
Just because someone is being indirect in their communication doesn’t mean you have to be vague and confusing as well. If you suspect someone from your past is orbiting you, or you’re uncomfortable with their behavior, call them out on it.
A quick phone call or text can open up the communication lines between the two of you. “I noticed that you haven’t responded to any of my messages but are still commenting on my social media posts. I’m confused by your actions.” Maybe you’d rather just not keep in touch at all, and that’s okay to communicate, too.
2. Don’t be afraid to hit ‘block’
It may seem harsh, but if someone’s orbiting behavior bothers you, hit the ‘block’ and hide your updates and stories from them. Every form of social media from Facebook to Instagram offers users the ability to block others from viewing updates, pictures, and stories.
It could be that this person from your past isn’t intentionally haunting your social media stories. They may have forgotten to unfollow you after things went south. But if not seeing their name regularly pop up in your notifications will help you move on, go ahead and block them.
After all, there is absolutely nothing wrong with prioritizing your own mental health when it comes to social media.
3. Strive for intentionality
You may feel a thrill after noticing that someone is still keeping up with your life. But don’t give into the temptation to condone orbiting. It’s nice to be noticed, especially by someone you want to get closer to. But orbiting requires little investment and minimal effort.
Eventually, online dating needs to move to dating off the screen. If all this person is doing is keeping tabs on your online activity, they’re not intentionally pursuing a relationship. You deserve a relationship where your dignity as a human being and child of God is recognized, not just observed from a distance. You’re more than a profile picture on Facebook or a ten second story on Instagram. You’re a unique individual with a personality, quirks, joys, sufferings, and life goals.
It’s usually easy to see the harm in orbiting if you’re the one being orbited. But make sure that you’re being intentional in your interactions with others as well. Maybe you went out on a date with someone and things didn’t work out. Don’t give into the temptation to stalk them and see how life is going for them.
Relationships with those you love are complicated enough. We don’t do ourselves (or others!) any favors when we muddy the water with unintentional interactions, especially on social media.