Trying to navigate the world of modern dating is a struggle that anyone who's single is all too familiar with. Dating apps might be a convenient AF way to meet new people, but in other ways, they've made trying to find love a lot more complicated. First we were all complaining about being ghosted, but now everyone is talking about breadcrumbing, the dating tactic where someone strings you along instead of either fully committing to ~talking~ or else cutting the cord entirely.
Let's get one thing straight: being upfront and honest about your intentions with someone is by far the best policy when it comes to dating. I understand that breadcrumbing someone can be fun (even if just for the ego boost), but it's not fair to treat people like they're disposable and ignore their feelings. It's definitely not easy to tell someone that you simply aren't interested, but it'll be much better for the both of you in the long run if you cut the BS and tell the truth.
"Breadcrumbing is a practice that shows people can string someone along," Stef Safran, owner of Chicago-based matchmaking service Stef and the City, tells Bustle. "But sometimes with people dating multiple people for longer periods of time, there is one scenario that breadcrumbing doesn't leave you looking terrible. If you are both dating (non-committed) and clear of your intentions and you aren't sure it's going to go anywhere with the people you are casually dating, it's OK to say "hi" now and then as perhaps you just want to keep things warm in case you both are in a different place."
Of course, it's still a good idea to keep the people you're "talking to" in the loop about how much — or little — you're into them. Nonetheless, here are five scenarios in which it's OK (though perhaps not preferable) to give someone the breadcrumbing treatment.
1You're Genuinely Busy
Not everyone has time to 100 percent committed to dating — but that doesn't mean you shouldn't be allowed to put some feelers out for potential partners. It's a fine line to walk, but if you go about it the right way (read: you're not purposely a d*ck), it's OK to toss out breadcrumbs to people you're casually interested in just in case sparks fly and you find yourself willing to commit more time to your love life. Just be careful not to let it go too far: if it's clear someone's really invested in getting to know you, and you know you aren't ready for that, definitely don't lead them on.
2You're On The Same Page Emotionally
Sometimes, you meet someone who, like you, isn't really feeling the commitment vibes. In that case, you might both mutually play the breadcrumbing game, only reaching out occasionally to flirt or shoot the breeze. There's nothing wrong with that, but again, the key here is being upfront. If you actually communicate to each other that you're not looking for something serious, there's no reason you can't enjoy the "fun" parts of talking to someone new.
3You're Just Keeping In Touch
Sometimes, breadcrumbing isn't totally malicious — it might just be a non-committal way of keeping in touch with an old flame. "A former lover may still want to let you know they are thinking of you [by] send[ing] you a text or email that is flirty," Davida Rappaport, intuitive psychic and relationship expert, tells Bustle. "Assuming you know it is just a flirt and/or they thought of you, it’s OK to throw a crumb back. As long as you know this person has no intention of re-kindling the relationship, feel free to throw crumbs back and forth periodically."
4You've Never Actually Met
One of the weirdest things about dating apps? At any given time, you might be communicating with dozens of strangers who you may never actually meet IRL. In the past, I definitely did some version of breadcrumbing to guys that I'd sort-of-but-not-really talked to online. Basically, the interest was kinda there, but I was also not entirely sure if there was a connection. Yes, everyone online is a stranger until you give them a chance, but the fact still remains that you never owe anyone anything, and if you occasionally accidentally breadcrumb someone you have yet to meet, don't beat yourself up over it. (But duh, it's always best to be kind and considerate of others' feelings, regardless of if you know them IRL.)
5You're Young And Inexperienced
Don't get me wrong: being young is *not* an excuse to treat people cruelly or disrespectfully. But I've been there, done that, and I know that when you're just figuring out how to navigate the world of online dating, it's hard to know what good and bad dating behaviors look like.
"Resorting to breadcrumbing can be considered thoughtless, cruel and inconsiderate," Rappaport says. "One can expect this from teenagers and college-aged people as they begin the dating process; they can be waiting for the bigger, better deal or just having fun... [but] it is still not a nice thing to do. At that age, young adults are very trusting and a lot of damage to self-esteem can occur as a result."
At the end of the day, the reason everyone thinks breadcrumbing is so sh*tty is because it's about someone making a one-sided decision about the relationship. You're allowed to pilot your dating life however you see fit, but if you're really looking for a real connection, the best thing you can do is learn to communicate openly. No matter what you're looking for romantically, be upfront with those you meet on dating apps — in the long run, everyone will wind up happier.