While we are all familiar with the trashy concept of “ghosting” on someone, there’s a new trend called “breadcrumbing” that makes ghosting seem like a merciful act of politeness.
Urban Dictionary defines the term of “breadcrumbing” as “the act of sending out flirtatious, but non-committal text messages (ie “breadcrumbs”) in order to lure a sexual partner without expending much effort.”
Basically, it’s what happens someone won’t actually commit to dating you or solidifying your relationship in any way, but still manages to perpetually remind you of their existence — be it a random, non-sequitur text message, an errant Instagram like, or a passive retweet. They will continually drop these tiny bread crumbs of encouragement, perpetually leading you on, while never actually committing to meeting up with you in person.
The long and short of it is that this trend is a digital form of emotional manipulation. They dangle their attention in front of you, like a lure, before jerking it away again. “It really is a cousin of the ‘friend zone,’” said Rachel Simmons, an author and leadership coach at Smith College, told the New York Times. “It’s about relegating a person to a particular dead end, but one that still keeps them hanging on in some way.”
If putting things in pop-culture terms is more helpful: “breadcrumbing” is basically what Mr. Big did to Carrie on Sex and the City. Every time it seemed like she was moving on with a new relationship, he would poke his head up, just to pique her interest and ensure that he wasn’t totally forgotten. (Yes, I know they ended up together in the end, but if you think that their relationship dynamic was healthy, then you can get out of my house right now.)
To be clear, this trend is not new. People have been doing this in romantic and platonic relationships for years. However, the term itself is starting to catch on, which means that this infuriatingly noncommittal practice is at the forefront of the collective public’s mind.
So, what’s the whole point?
Well, it would be simple to say that people “breadcrumb” because they’re horrible, mean and flawed. But, while that assertion is not totally untrue, most of the time people partake in this ill-mannered trend as kind of ego-boost. For all the non-celebrities out there, “breadcrumbing” is a perverse way of making themselves feel important and powerful in comparison to the people around them. They may not have millions of people fawning over their every Instagram pic, but they can convince themselves that they have the ability to attract and maintain the attentions of others. Though the “breadcrumbs” themselves can be triggered by boredom, horniness, indecisiveness or insecurity, the behavior really boils down to the desire to expand one’s personal stable of admirers. The goal is to secure as many potential suitors as possible, never allowing any of them to fully extricate themselves from the relationship.
It’s not evil, per se — but it is petty.
We live in a world where choices are a given, and, as a result, many people are hesitant about eliminating a possible choice by cutting off communications with someone. It’s a fear of commitment, either way: fear of staying in regular contact with someone, and a simultaneous fear of eliminating them from your life.
While it’s tempting to check in on an ex or like one of their Instagram posts from three weeks ago, try to resist the urge. Because “breadcrumbing” is ultimately selfish, and refuses to take the other person’s feelings into account. It’s a dick move.
Don’t be a dick. Don’t string somebody along, and don’t try to play mind games with them over social media. Perhaps try putting all of that energy into something more productive, instead — like literally anything else.