First, there was ghosting, the soul-sucking practice wherein the person you thought was the one (or at least the one for right now) disappeared without a trace or a hint of goodbye. Then, there was benching, an even more terrible dating ritual in which one person would kind of ghost the other but then like their Instagrams and maybe text them once in a while to keep their options open (because the spark’s just “weren’t quite there”). The guy who coined the term, called benching “despicable, manipulative, and selfish behavior.” But guess what: Dating in 2017 is about 500 times worse than it was last year. That’s because breadcrumbing is here.
What’s breadcrumbing? Oh, it’s super fun. Take the worst part of ghosting and benching, combine them, and you have a lethal combination that will remind everyone that the hope of love is gone. Here’s how you do it: Make a match on tinder; keep flirting with that match and giving them hope that you will one day meet them in person; continue that for perpetuity while making no actual plans to ever meet that person; laugh as their heart breaks because you keep reeling ’em in and throwing them back while giving them “just enough” to keep hope alive.
Here’s how Mashable’s Rachel Thompson describes her experiences:
Take Justin, for instance. He was smart, witty and dashing. The conversation flowed and he even sent me his grandmother’s recipe for iced tea. If our online chat had taken place during a first date, I’d have been angling for a second, third and forth date. Except the never was a date. Then there was Simon. We talked endlessly about our love of travel and the places we’d visited. At the faintest hint of meeting up IRL, my match fled the scene with no explanation.
Why do people breadcrumb? Good question, but the answer is going to depress you. According to people who do it, it’s a fun way to flirt and gives them an ego boost. It can also make you feel “less lonely,” especially if you, like one of the breadcrumbers Thompson spoke to, live in a big city. One breadcrumber pointed out that the not meeting sometimes has to do with the paranoia that you might not be “as chatty” when you meet up, which sounds a lot like the issues we were dealing with when it came to internet dating in the early aughts: You were so worried that you’d end up going out with a stranger on the internet that you’d talk to them and talk to them and then end up not doing it because one of you would lose interest or you’d be afraid they wouldn’t measure up.
Experts say that the act of breadcrumbing is an exercise in vanity. Charly Lester, a dating expert, told Thompson that breadcrumbers just want to feel like “they’re attractive to other people.” And if you’ve been breadcrumbed (it’s possible it’s already happened), Lester says not to take it too personally. Instead, she says you should talk to “a range of people” and try to hold off being too excited about someone before you actually meet.
If you’re a breadcrumber? Well, it might be time to change your ways. Leading others on might feel good for a while, but you could be missing out on the love of your life! (Or, at least, you know, someone really cool to hang out with.)