Like every generation before us, there are Millennial dating problems that plague singles — from ghosting to breadcrumbing to the latest dating trend: haunting. Sounds spooky, but how do you know if someone is "haunting" you? Haunting refers to the ~lingering presence~ of an ex or former fling on your social media accounts — like that one person who always seems to view your Snap Story but never *actually* makes a peep.
"Haunting is a passive behavior in which your ex creeps on your social media accounts and engages just enough for you to know he or she is there, so it’s not quite lurking, which is total stealth mode," Samantha Burns, couples counselor and dating coach at Love Successfully, tells Bustle. "It’s natural human behavior to think about, reminisce and wonder what your ex is up to, whether it’s because you’re sad, jealous, curious if [they've] moved on, miss [them], or are just plain bored."
Is it normal to feel the urge to occasionally check up on an ex via social media? Of course! But it's also worth knowing why haunting might not be the healthiest behavior for your love life. Either way, it helps to know what to look out for: here are six signs an ex or former fling — or even a total stranger — is haunting you on social media.
1They Pop Up In Your "Likes"
Listen — even if you're a guy I texted for two weeks in 2013, I'm not going to turn down a free Like. But you must know I'm going to over-analyze your choice to double-tap... right? No matter your intention, Burns says that an ex throwing you a casual Like or even a comment is a sign they're haunting you. "It can be as subtle as [them] watching your Instagram stories or a like on the photo of you and your family, or it can be as brazen as a comment on your brunch photo," Burns says.
2They View Your Stories
Whether it's Instagram or Snapchat or even Facebook, a haunter will almost always be on your viewers list for your Story. It's *the* most passive thing someone can do, because they'll be lumped in with dozens of others who looked at your Story — aka the most curated part of your social media presence. It's an easy way to see what an ex is up to, but it can also be extremely impersonal.
3They Avoid Your DMs
Being unable to make real contact is a trait that both literal and figurative paranormal beings have in common. If someone is haunting you, they'll avoid your DMs at all costs, because that's a more direct way of showing interest. "Haunting does not dabble in DMs or texts, which crosses the line into direct communication," Burns says. "Haunting occurs at a distance when you’re not actively friends or rarely if ever have talked since the breakup."
4They Engage With Super Old Posts
This may not always be the case, but if you've got a particularly bold haunter, they'll make their digital presence known by liking or commenting on things from ages ago — or, even less subtly, from the time you two were together. Though there's nothing wrong with a little reminiscing from time to time, if someone makes a habit of scrolling all the way back through your timeline, that probably means they've been haunting you.
5They Know Things You Haven't Explicitly Told Them
If you're the kind of person who prefers to delete an ex on social media when you call it quits, that doesn't necessarily mean they can't still haunt you. "Be aware that if your account is set to public, or you haven’t blocked your ex, then he or she can haunt you freely," Burns advises.
There's a chance your profile might not be totally private, in which case an ex might still be able to check up occasionally and see whether you're still single... which might explain things if you've ever had a digitally-deleted ex text you something like "I see you've found someone else."
6They *Actually* Reach Out
Though not every haunter wants to get back in contact, there's a chance that someone you used to date is lurking on your social media with a purpose. It's less of a sign and more of a duh, but if an ex or former fling messages you out of the blue, it probably means they've been keeping an eye on you to decide whether or not they should reach out.
"Before social media, you had to put in more effort to haunt someone, whether that was going to your old stomping grounds in the hopes of bumping into them, asking all your mutual friends about what they've been up to, or more blatant forms of stalking, like driving past [their] house or calling and hanging up," Burns says. "But nowadays with social media it's so much easier to keep an eye on your ex's behavior. The real question is, is haunting helping or hurting you in moving forward and gaining closure?"
Even though there might be worse dating behaviors, it's worth it to pause and give things a second thought the next time you start to type your ex's name in the search box. Haunting someone on social media might be common behavior, but real, genuine connections are worth way more than a few feeble Likes.