It seems like everyone on the internet is talking about orbiting. Not astronomy orbiting, but the dating kind. A newly-discovered (or at least named) relative of ghosting. Last year, I wrote about ghosting, so I felt like it only made sense to weigh in on this not-so-shocking development in internet-age dating.
First, a recap: ghosting is when you’re seeing someone and they disappear out of nowhere, stop all contact with you, and essentially *piff* disappear from your life. It can be great for mutual one night flings, but gets to be a little bit troublesome when one person gets ghosted from what they thought was more than a casual hookup. People who aren’t great communicators often opt for ghosting people instead of having a mature and adult conversation about how they’re not interested in continuing seeing you, or go through the months-long saga of letting the budding romance peter out naturally by sending one word “haha” replies to your texts. Ghosters sometimes just want to rip the bandaid off quickly, for everyone’s sake.
Now orbiting, allegedly, is when someone ghosts you, yet still interacts with you on social media, liking your posts, or watching your stories. They won’t reply to your texts, but they’re still ORBITING in the periphery of your life. (I capitalized it there because it’s like when they say the name of the movie in the movie you’re watching.)
I have some issues with orbiting, as a phenomenon. Essentially, an Orbiter is a ghost you can still see. Some people would kill for the ability to be able to see ghosts. Just because someone did a shitty job at ghosting you doesn’t mean they need to get classified into a whole new category. I don’t think it’s as intentional and malicious as it’s being described. I think orbiting is just reading too far into the residual social media connections of a relationship after it’s fizzled out. Just because you can see the Ghost of Hookup’s Past in the corner of your eye doesn’t mean they’re mocking you on purpose. It means they are bad at ghosting. If you get the impression that they aren’t considering your feelings enough to have the decency to ghost you completely, maybe the problem is you.
It takes a certain amount of ego to take orbiting as a personal attack. There is a balance between someone being inconsiderate and someone being oversensitive. It’s no one’s obligation to reply to your texts. It sucks when they don’t, but maybe they have some shit going on and don’t feel like talking to you. Maybe they’re not into you but you posted a cute selfie they double-tapped or watched a story of your dog in the park. Their replying to you is their privilege, but so is their privilege to be able to see what you’re up to, and you can revoke that whenever you want.
Yes, that’s right, there isn’t a complex religious ceremony like an exorcism to rid yourself of lingering ghosts that you feel are haunting you. If being able to see them seeing you is so terrible, just block them. ESPECIALLY if you think they’re actively staying on your radar to fuck with your head. Why would you want to be dating someone who’s being that manipulative anyway? If you’re worried that blocking them will somehow give them the upper hand, or show they’ve won, who cares? Thinking that way just reifies your participation in the petty game you’ve been tricked into playing. But you don’t have to be playing it at all. I love blocking people. If I am in the right mood and someone posts the wrong thing, boom—the perfect storm. There is no shame in prioritizing your mental health, and it’s honestly destructive to be ignorant of how much social media bullshit can affect your mental state. It’s stupid, but it’s reality.
If you’ve already been overthinking your entire situation with this person to the point of speculating that they’re mischievously snickering in a dark room watching your Instagram story, maybe it’s time to hit that block button. Really, it’s the only way out of the rabbit hole you’ve crawled down. If you had preferred they would have just ghosted you entirely, the ball is in your court. Block them and set them free. Free to float around with all the other invisible ghosts you forgot about a week after they ghosted you.
Dating is pretty stupid, and social media is really stupid. Nothing good can come from their combination. Except maybe a storybook romance. But mostly it just means obsessing over things that ultimately don’t matter. Sure, maybe they’ll notice you blocked them and figure out they fucked up. Maybe they’ll even reach out to apologize and clear the air. But most likely they won’t even notice. And you know what, that’s OK. It’s not your problem anymore.
This article originally appeared on VICE CA.