You may have heard of ghosting someone. This is when, with zero warning, a friend avoids phone calls, social media, and avoids you in public. They do not provide any justification and subsequently ignoring any attempts you make to reach out or communicate.
It’s definitely an odd behavior as individuals try to carve out a space between online and offline relationships with others in order to break up that connection. Rejection doesn’t have to be brutal, but sometimes people don’t know how to say goodbye.
There is an even more odd way that people are leveraging social media that intersects with our voyeuristic and social tendencies.
Orbiting is a phenomenon that describes someone who leaves your life but continues to be involved in your social media. Orbiting is a strategic way to prevent the door from shutting completely on a former relationship. Orbiting and ghosting primarily are used to refer to connections with romantic partners, but increasingly I’m seeing this as a way to describe connections with others in digital, and offline spaces.
Anna Lovine used the term orbiting to describe when a person leaves your life but still appears in your social media world. They’re still in your orbit as they watching your Instagram stories and Snapchats and like your Facebook posts. As she describes it, you’re “close enough to see each other; far enough to never talk.”
Why do people orbit each other?
Human beings are naturally social beings and are wired to connect and learn more about others. It may be a practice that is harmful to your mental health. Research published in the Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking Journal found that stalking your ex on social media increases longing for them, sexual desire, and mental distress.
Breaking off a connection with another person should relieve these tensions, otherwise, you’re keeping yourself stuck in the past. It’s healthier to be upfront about your intentions so you can deal with your feelings head-on and move on if the other person doesn’t share the sentiment.
There are many reasons why people may decide to orbit. Ultimately it may be a power move. Taylor Lorenz suggests that it is a subtle reminder that the person is still there, and has not gone away. You’re keeping someone somewhat connected, while not totally writing them off.
Orbiting might also be a response for someone that is suffering from FOMO, or fear of missing out. You’re a great person, and if they completely eliminate contact with you, then they might miss the opportunity to reconnect with you later on. It offers the opportunity to maintain a commitment-free connection with you. If circumstances change, the orbiting behavior also offers a relatively easy entry to return back into your life.
Lastly, you also have to consider that the orbiting behavior is an indication that the person has no idea what they’re doing. Many individuals are ignorant to the changing features of social media, and are not that calculated as they think about the nuances of social networks, tools, and spaces.
How orbiting affects our mental health?
According to this post, orbiting is a dangerous way of keeping up with what someone is doing without their knowledge, but if they find out it could be disastrous. We’re so used to seeing likes and notifications pop up that it’s almost like white noise.
It’s important to be aware of how orbiting can be affecting us emotionally even if we aren’t conscious of it.
- The mixed messages are confusing
- It can encourage confirmation bias
- We may be complacent in setting boundaries
- It can make healing harder
What to do when you’re being orbited
If you’re the one being orbited, you’re the only one that can determine whether or not this behavior is hindering your ability to move on. There are some steps you can take to work towards healing and closure and establishing healthier boundaries online.
- Don’t read into it too much. The person may not know what they’re doing.
- Establish stronger boundaries on social media. Consider blocking or unfollowing.
- Examine your own behaviors. Ask yourself…Am I guilty too?
- Examine how social media, in general, makes you feel. Take a break and reflect.