Another day, another sour dating phenomenon to send singletons back into a cavernous cave of celibacy. Ghosting, whereby the person you’re dating simply cuts off all communication and disappears into the abyss, is so very 2017.

This year it’s all about “orbiting” – and no, it has absolutely nothing to do with the moon or any kind of supergalactic exploration into said abyss.

Orbiting is the term we can now attribute to a vexatious form of behaviour you are probably already familiar with: you’ve been ghosted, but the person who ghosted you still engages with you on social media.


First coined by US fashion website Man Repeller, a flagrant orbiter might ignore your text messages but still watch all of your Instagram stories. They may screen your phone calls, but retweet your latest cat meme. What’s to stop them from blocking you on WhatsApp only to poke you on Facebook days later?

There are endless reasons why this kind of behaviour might make you want to stamp your feet like an angry toddler and throw your phone into the abyss in a fit of rage in the hope that, when it arrives, it may hit your orbiter in the face.

Aside from sending absurdly mixed signals to the point where you find yourself questioning whether or not this is a “sign” that you should get back in touch with them (tip: don’t), it’s incredibly irritating and passive aggressive in tone.

Plus, it seems a little masochistic from the orbiter themselves, why would they want to engage with someone they unceremoniously chose to oust from their lives?

So, why do people do it? Are they trying to keep their options open in case they themselves get ghosted by their next conquest? Or are they simply nosy?

“This trend of ‘orbiting’ is a fine way to make sure you drive yourself and your ex partner crazy,” explains dating coach Jo Barnett.   “Surely only someone who is self destructive and addicted to pain would choose to engage with an ex on Instagram again and again,” she says.

According to dating psychologist Madeleine Mason, orbiters are more likely to have a penchant for melodrama:

“I think people who do this like to create drama,” she told The Independent, describing it as an “ego trip”.

It’s also worth pointing out that, considering almost everyone you know and their uncle is on social media, orbiting is not limited to a romantic context.

You might go days without hearing back from that friend who you’d kindly invited to join you at the cinema that weekend, but they’ll leave a heart emoji under your latest selfie on Instagram to let you know they’re still alive, kicking and pseudo-socially engaged.

“These people have a warped idea that friendship can be based on likes alone without actually having to engage in real relationships,” Mason continues, describing it as “a lazy form of interaction.”

“In my opinion, your best bet is to delete and block these people,” she adds, “as they add little if any value to your life.”

While the internet is currently having a field day with “orbiting,” from what we can tell it’s simply 2018’s answer to “ghosting,” a breakup tactic that involves the person you’re talking to totally falling off the face of the earth, ignoring your messages and calls, and generally acting as though you don’t exist.



Writer Ann Iovine gives an example of a recent dating experience to illustrate the new trend she experienced firsthand.

“I started dating a man — let’s call him Tyler — a few months ago. We met on Tinder, naturally, and after our first date, we added each other on Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram.

“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.

“A couple of weeks later, after still no correspondence, I decided to unfollow/unfriend Tyler from all three social platforms. On Facebook and Snapchat, that meant we could no longer see each other’s content, but on Instagram, no such luck.

“It’s now been over two months since we’ve spoken, and Tyler not only still follows me on Instagram, he looks at every single one of my stories. This is not ghosting. This is orbiting.”

Iovine describes the move as “close enough to see each other; far enough to never talk.” She concludes that “orbiting” is either a power play, a sign of regret or an act of straight-up stupidity. But what does it all mean if they no longer want to date you, but want to continue to keep tabs on you via social media?

Ladies, don’t bother sticking around to find out. “Unfollow” and “block.”

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