Elijah O'Donnell

‘Orbiting’ Is Ruining Modern Dating—And You’re Probably Guilty Of It

These days, it feels as though there are so many different ways to be dumped in the modern dating scene.

At one point in time, if a person was interested in someone, they had to say so explicitly. If they didn’t, you accepted they did not want to pursue a romantic connection. However, modern dating has proven that there are plenty of ways to be led on or hopelessly confused. New names for dating behaviors seem to pop up daily, from soft ghosting to bread-crumbing.

However, while some of these methods we swear we would never participate in (I don’t think I’ve ever been able to actually ghost someone in my entire life), others feel a bit sneakier. They feel so small you may not notice it at first, but the results still make more of an impact than we care to admit. 

One of those behaviors? Orbiting. 

Orbiting is the practice of somewhat ghosting a person—except on social media. While the person may no longer text or have any kind of contact with you like they once did, they will still interact with your social media posts. Usually, this happens through liking posts, viewing, or even occasionally “reacting” to a story with a singular, useless emoji, “orbiting” essentially ensures that the person who left you hanging doesn’t ever fully go away. 

In some cases, this can be more than confusing. If they no longer want to be part of your life in a genuine way, why are they still checking in on you? The answers aren’t entirely conclusive. 

For some, the idea of unfollowing a person feels too harsh, so they remain mutuals to keep things friendly. Others don’t necessarily want to put in the effort of being with you, but they want to keep you close by in case they change their mind. Some may even regret letting you go in the first place and hope that their name continuously popping up will solidify their place in your mind—even if they refuse to be in your life. Or maybe, in a reversal, you no longer were interested in the person and ended things, but they still ensure they pop up in your notifications so you can’t forget about them.

The truth is, we’re all guilty of orbiting to some extent. We all occasionally check in on an ex’s socials to see what their life is like without us in it. Even if we don’t want them back, curiosity gets the best of us. 

However, orbiting is ruining modern dating, and there isn’t a way to avoid that truth. Social media gives us the impression that we are entitled to know so much about another person’s life, regardless of whether we are involved in it or not. When so much of our day-to-day activities are posted on public platforms to gain likes, validation, and connection, it’s easy to see why we feel that way.

The continued trends of keeping romantic interests vague, for any reason, are doing far more harm to our potential relationships than good. When a person pops up in your notifications liking the most recent selfie you posted, you wonder what their intentions are. When they are constantly a regular viewer of your Instagram stories, you are confused why they are looking in the first place—they could’ve been the person hanging out with you in real life instead of a screen, so why aren’t they?

The overload of questions, the anxiety, and the uncertainty of it all are enough to take up far more of our minds than we would like. It starts to have you questioning whether they are secretly still interested in you or even having you doubt your intuition regarding what interest looks like from a person you want to date. You start bending your boundaries to accommodate someone who may or may not be into you—and it leaves you wasting your time and energy. 

Additionally, orbiting isn’t just an issue with modern dating—it can apply to your friendships, too. If you have a friend who won’t respond to any of your messages or texts to catch up but they are always viewing your stories and liking your posts, you can start to wonder whether you have a friendship at all. It can feel as though they only want a convenient version of you—one that is quick to engage with, rather than one that requires genuine time, effort, and consideration. Regardless of the situation, it hurts. 

So, what exactly should we do when it comes to an orbiting situation?

If you’re dealing with someone orbiting your social media, there are some steps you can take.

Hide them from access to your stories/mute their posts.

This is a baseline way to inhibit at least part of someone orbiting around you. Instagram, Snapchat, and other social media platforms allow you to set specific privacy standards for your posts. On Facebook, you can even set your posts updates to be shown to all of your friends except one person (yes, I have done it—and it works). Instagram will allow you to hide people from viewing your stories, but keep in mind as long as you’re still following each other, they can still interact with posts on your feed. 

Remove them as a follower.

I know, if you’re like me, this sounds harsh. When someone disappears from your life without warning, you may be feeling hurt, but there was technically no real “fight,” so unfriending them can come across as cold and unfeeling. However, your social media page belongs to you, and you do not owe anyone access to it. Your mental health in this situation should take priority over arbitrary social politeness. Instagram gives you the option to remove a person manually from your feed in the same way you would unfollow them, and they won’t be notified that you did so. While removing them as a follower will not totally keep them from viewing your stories or posts, it will mean they have to go out of their way to search for you to do so. For most people who orbit, that’s just too much effort. 

Place your account(s) on private.

If you remove them as a follower, but they are still viewing your posts for some godforsaken reason, you can opt to make your account private. This will ensure that no one you aren’t friends with will see anything you post, effectively barring them from your social media presence altogether. 

Block them.

However, if your account is one you would prefer to keep public, then you have the alternative of blocking them. While this is often painted as a cruel measure, it isn’t a damaging blow to anything but their ego. Access to anyone’s social media is not something anyone is entitled to—so if a person is causing you anxiety and stress, even unintentionally, by interacting with your posts but never with you, then it makes sense to cut off that contact completely. Blocking means they will not be able to find any trace of your profile online and will not be able to interact or view it. It also means they can’t message you (but it’s not like they were doing that anyway, right?)

If you are guilty of orbiting, then here is the truth: it’s time to stop. Even if it’s hard to disconnect from a person, you have to accept that looking at their profiles and posts won’t change anything because if they wanted to be in your life, they would be. While curiosity is something we all experience, it isn’t helping you or the other person to try and keep yourself involved in their life in the most absolute, bare minimum way.

It’s time to let go. Don’t give a person access to you that hasn’t made any effort to earn it. Save that energy, time, and dedication for the people who don’t leave you second-guessing or wondering about where you stand with them. In the end, if you keep yourself tethered to them, then the only person who will end up hurt is you. 

Instead of allowing them to orbit, hit that block button and give them space—permanently.