Just when you thought dating as a millennial couldn't get any worse, we now have a fun new trend to contend with: "breadcrumbing." So exactly what is breadcrumbing? Essentially, it's when someone responds just enough to make you think they're still interested, and gives you enough attention that you think not all hope is lost. It's yet another shady dating evasion tactic à la ghosting, although I'd venture to say that it's *gasp* even worse — which is saying something, as ghosting is pretty much world-renowned as awful these days.
"Breadcrumbing is worse than ghosting because it is more sadistic," Carole Lieberman, M.D., a Beverly Hills-based psychiatrist and relationship expert, tells Bustle. "Ghosting is merely a coward’s way out of a relationship. Breadcrumbing is a slow and painful death of a relationship, whereas ghosting makes it clear — eventually — that the person is gone."
So where did this new dating trend come from? Breadcrumbing has been popping up all over social media lately (there was even a Twitter moment about it), so clearly it's something that lots of people are dealing with in their love lives. I totally get why it's frustrating. There's nothing worse than holding out hope for something, even if your gut is telling you to move the eff on. In an ideal world, if someone wasn't into you, they'd be able to communicate that clearly and in a non-painful way, but alas, that's not always how it goes down. Open, honest communication is easier said than done for a lot of people, particularly if it's a situation in which you're not really together and the lines are blurrier.
No matter your relationship status, I think we can all agree: Breadcrumbing has got to go. Here are seven reasons you should avoid breadcrumbing someone. Instead, try some of these nice ways to break up with someone.
1 It's Confusing AF
Are we? Aren't we? When someone texts you back, like, 20 percent of the time, of course you'll wonder whether they're disinterested — but maybe, you tell yourself, they're just busy. Getting nuggets of attention here and there from someone might seem like a good sign, but more than anything, it will probably just make you hungry for more, and then you'll be disappointed when things ultimately don't work out.
2 It's Disrespectful
Dating takes a lot of time and effort, and when you combine that with all the other sh*t you have going on — work, friends, family, hobbies — it can be seriously infuriating to know someone isn't respecting your time. Instead of stringing someone along just for the sake of boosting your own ego, find productive hobbies that will fill your free time, and focus on finding someone who's really right for you instead of keeping the "maybes" around when you know you're not really feeling it.
3 It Holds Others Back
As someone who's been on the hunt for love for a long time, I know how frustrating it is to be led on. If you're looking for a relationship, it's more than a little irritating to be interested in someone, think it's mutual, and then waste weeks (or months!) on them before finally realizing they were just toying with you. If you're breadcrumbing someone, it makes it harder for them to move on and find someone who's on the same page — which isn't fair to either of you.
4 It's Impersonal
There's almost nothing worse than that awful feeling when you realize you're just one of many people someone is "talking to." It makes you feel replaceable, which not even Beyoncé is down with.
"Dating already has become impersonal, now to feel that you are just one of many, it makes you question the whole process," Stef Safran, owner of Chicago-based matchmaking service Stef and the City, tells Bustle. "At least before, someone's 'Little Black Book' was smaller and more clear-cut. With texting, dating apps and email, it [makes] someone's Little Black Book... a BIG Black Book, with no idea of how many people one person can juggle."
5 It's Just Another "Game"
Even though ghosting is never any fun, at least it's a (relatively) clear signal that things are over. But stringing someone along when you have no real romantic interest? That's the definition of playing emotional games with someone. "We hate players. We hate games. Breadcrumbing allows for the games to play out a lot longer than ever before," Safran says.
6 It Makes Dating As A Whole Harder To Navigate
The more we all continue to play games with each other, the more the whole process becomes inundated with confusion and heartache. Plus, it makes everyone's "role" in the dating world a lot murkier. "Can you be 'coy' or 'flirtatious' if it's only by text every 10 days or so?" Safran says. "It takes the fun out of it, but now we have no idea who is supposed to flirt, who is supposed to ask someone out, who is supposed to do what."
7 It Perpetuates Bad Communication
Communication is key. Breadcrumbing is yet another example of poor communication habits in dating, and let me tell you, I've about had enough. "I am surprised... how difficult it has gotten for people to make a simple phone call to someone they are interested in," Safran says. "Especially with our cell phones being glued to us even at the gym... it makes me wonder how people can be too busy to call someone even for just a hookup! By giving just the bare minimum amount of communication, it puts dating at an all new low."
Even though it might seem fun to have someone hanging on by a thread (or a crumb), challenge yourself to keep your potential partners in the loop about your feelings. It might not be easy at first, but it will be a hell of a lot better for everyone in the long run.