So Long Ghosting. Breadcrumbing Is The Latest Brutal Dating Trend

Photographed by Natalia Mantini.
Modern-day dating is already a minefield – and every month there seems to be a new, trendy way to get rejected. There was ghosting – when the person you're seeing disappears off the face of the earth; mooning – silencing a texting conversation by triggering the Do Not Disturb mode; and even benching – being relegated to the reserves list while they look for someone better.

Now, there's a new way to get royally screwed over by slippery commitment-phobes.

Breadcrumbing is the latest dating trend that single people everywhere should watch out for. The deceptively cuddly term describes the act of leading someone on by contacting them intermittently – be that by phone or social media – to keep them interested.

A breadcrumber will lead you up the metaphorical garden path with an absent-minded message to find out 'what's up', or by liking your year-old Instagram posts without actually getting in touch. The brief flirtation then ends when the breadcrumber goes AWOL. Again.

These ambiguous digital crumbs are enough to remind you that the person is alive, and may even hint at a future meet-up, but never get to the nitty gritty of whether they actually want a relationship.

All of which makes it particularly annoying, even soul-destroying, to be subjected to – you never know where you stand. Being ghosted, mooned or benched is obviously hurtful, but at least they make it pretty clear the other person isn't interested (at least, not really), allowing you to move on.

But when you're breadcrumbed, how can you get closure?

“The worst type of breadcrumber is the one who resurfaces every six months, and like the Loch Ness monster, you almost can’t believe this creature has come back into your life. But there he is, saying, ‘Hey, I was just thinking about you’,” Alicia Winokur, a Mount Holyoke College graduate, told the New York Times.

“It’s like a meerkat poking its head up,” she added. “But not nearly as cute.”

Stephanie, 31, a retail assistant from London, was left feeling "like an idiot" after a recent experience with a guy she met on Tinder. "He seemed keen and we went on three really great dates. The third time he came over to mine, we had dinner, he stayed over. I walked him to the station the next morning and he said he'd see me the following weekend," she told Refinery29.

Friday night rolled around and he texted to say he "wasn't feeling great" but he was still keen to meet up in the next few days. "This continued for several weeks – we'd arrange to meet and at the last minute he'd come up with an excuse – he had to babysit, work had been really tiring, whatever. But he'd keep on messaging me in between, really flirty texts. Explicit, even."

Then, just before Christmas, he sent a rambling message apologising for not being around, and said he really wanted to meet up soon. "I haven't heard from him since," Stephanie said.

Emotionally manipulating someone in this way is clearly unacceptable, but the reason why breadcrumbers lead us on might not be as simple as their shitty personalities. Research suggests the way we date these days may be at least partly to blame, as it makes breadcrumbing easy to do and even seem like normal, acceptable behaviour.

Modern daters often have a handful of people lined up at any one time, which makes it difficult for people to whittle their options down and make up their minds. According to a study by e-harmony Australia, it's standard practice to have six potential partners on the go at once, meaning less thought and respect inevitably goes into each individual relationship.

Georgina, 33, an editor from Hackney, said she's done it in the past without intending to cause harm. "Every now and then I'll message guys I've met through Bumble in the past," she told Refinery29. "Generally, I do it when I'm bored and just wanting some attention. I doubt they think I'm after a relationship – it's just flirty pictures and banter and cheers me up when I'm feeling rubbish."

The best advice to protect yourself against breadcrumbing is to be clear about the kind of relationship you're looking for from the get-go. That way, you can decide whether you want to persevere with the relationship or find someone else who treats you properly.

If you're having to expend precious mental energy figuring out whether or not someone likes you, it probably means they don't. And our main piece of advice? Don't take any shit.
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