Dating has never been as complicated or easy to access as it is today. You can find a partner with the swipe of your finger and get a glimpse of their life by downloading an app. It becomes an even more difficult situation if you break up with them but stay connected to their social media. Orbiting is a new phenomenon that describes someone who leaves your life but continues to be involved in your social media. This allows your ex to comment and view what you’re doing. It sends mixed messages, and although it may be comforting to not cut the cord completely, it can prevent one from moving on or fully committing to another.
Orbiting happens most frequently in dating, but it can happen with close friends, colleagues, and family members. Sometimes they comment, sometimes they just look but, either way, it’s a constant reminder that they are still interested and watching you. It can also be frustrating to know they are watching, but they aren’t available in your life. So why can’t people let go of the social media aspect of the relationship and move on?
Psychologists offer insight into why people “orbit.” Here are some of the possible explanations:
It’s human nature to wonder what your ex is doing after a break-up. After a break-up, you may have assumptions about what happened that were never resolved. You create a story by what you see posted on their social media. This often helps you validate the break-up or grieve the void they left.
Orbiting may be a power play, showing your ex that you’re still there watching. When relationships end and there are unresolved issues, an ex may orbit to show the other that they still have interest. To prevent their ex from forgetting them or getting over them, they keep their name popping up on their social media.
Orbiters may be trying to establish hope for a future connection. It’s common for an old flame to come out of nowhere and begin communicating with someone they hadn’t seen since high school. Orbiting allows exes to stay connected for a second chance in the future.
Orbiting allows you to sit on the fence and not commit. If your ex left you because you couldn’t communicate well or commit to them, orbiting their social media life gives you the illusion of being close and together but not having the demands of a one on one relationship.
If you feel as though you’re orbiting and unable to create closure or healing, here are suggestions that will help.
Establish stronger boundaries on social media and block or unfollow your ex. You control who you see and interact with. Check in with yourself. If blocking them is too extreme, take a social media break until you’re feeling in a better position to make that call.
Examine your own behavior. Are you guilty of orbiting? If you’re still checking in with exes and keeping it a secret, it’s probably not good for you. Anything kept secret is usually a sign that it’s something we’re ashamed about or that we recognize is bad for us. If you don’t like the idea of someone sneaking around looking at your social media posts then don’t do it to them.
Consider if fear of missing out (FOMO) is fueling your orbiting behavior. Social media helps us feel connected and orbiting past relationships may calm anxiety about being alone or left out. However, it usually escalates loneliness and insecurity. Taking a social media break can encourage you to interact face-to-face with others, which promotes emotional healing.
The best cure for dealing with orbiting behavior is to take time away to detox from social media and get clear about your interests and goals in life. When you return to social media, you’ll be in healthier state of mind to know how to respond to an ex vying for your attention.