The dating world comes with many things: heartbreak, awkward online profiles, one-night stands, cheap 2-for-1 deals at restaurants… the works. And even if you are happily in a relationship (guilty) or taking a break from the dating scene (understandable), you’ve heard of ghosting. As one Metro designer related to me, “It honestly sucks, and it’s so baffling! Sometimes you really think things are going so well and everything is clicking, but then all of a sudden no answer.” Sound familiar? Now there’s a word for when you’re ghosted but that ghoster still relentlessly creeps on your social feeds: Orbiting.
What is orbiting?
As Elite Daily noted, the term was created by Man Repeller writer Anna Iovine. She picked this word because, well, it describes the situation perfectly: they’re “keeping you in their orbit.” This means you’re “close enough to see each other; far enough to never talk.”
Why does orbiting happen?
The same Metro coworker came to the conclusion that, like so many others, she’s unknowingly been a victim of orbiting: “This guy ghosted me and then never unfollowed me, still liked my pics, and then all of a sudden, out of the blue, contacted me again explaining why he ghosted.”
But she wasn’t sure why it happened. “Was [it] that he still found me attractive but didn’t want the pressure of dating [or] starting a relationship? Sheer laziness of making plans?”
Iovine theorizes three reasons for orbiting.
Motive #1: Orbiting to exert power
Orbiters want you to know they’re looking because keeping friendly ties with you gives them some sort of power. Or — and this may just be my cynicism talking — the power move is in place to manipulate you, to push you to contact them.
Motive #2: Orbiting by accident
Orbiters could be doing all this unintentionally, perhaps because they aren’t aware that you can see them looking at your social media (i.e. Snapchat and Instagram stories).
Motive #3: Orbiting because of FOMO
Orbiters might also keep tabs on you in case they want to pursue you in the future.
“Part of this orbiting behavior is really related to the underlying FOMO [fear of missing out],” licensed professional clinical counselor Dr. Rachel O’Neill told Man Repeller. “…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.”
Orbiting and social media
Social media, with its connectivity and constant flow of information, makes it easy to orbit others. Without thinking twice, you can check up on that girl you shared wings with at Applebees, then lose yourself in the clamor and excitement of your news feed.
As O’Neill said, “If circumstances change (for example, the orbiter decides they want to pursue a relationship), the orbiting behavior also offers a relatively easy entry to return back into your life (i.e., commenting on a post, DMing).”
You can also orbit people with the comfort of knowing you’re nowhere near them (try keeping tabs on someone by foot without getting taken away in handcuffs).
So, now that you have a definitive word to describe what you’ve probably experienced before, you can commence liftoff into the galaxy of dating and be mindful of orbiting as it continues to happen. My colleague said it best: “People will do it regardless, they can’t help themselves whether it has a name or not.”