Why People 'Haunt' Their Exes On Social Media

by Laken Howard

Another day, another new dating trend with a name so fitting it's almost ~spooky~. This time, the term you need to familiarize yourself with is 'haunting', aka the practice of lurking an ex's social media accounts long after you've stopped seeing each other. It's actually pretty surprising that this term just now got an official name — after all, who isn't guilty of checking up on an old partner or fling via social media every once in a while (or like, every day)?

"I describe 'haunting' as today’s term [for] stalking an ex on social media, but seemingly more common and less creepy-sounding," Julie Spira, Online Dating Expert, Digital Matchmaker and Founder of Cyber-Dating Expert, tells Bustle. "When you’re still connected on social media, or following someone’s public posts, it becomes common to take a peek daily (or even several times a day) just to find out what’s happening [with the other person]."

Obviously, if your haunting borders on obsessive, you might be using it as a coping mechanism, and should consider weaning yourself off checking your ex's online activity. But in small doses, there's nothing wrong with being a little curious about how an ex is doing. Though there's no way to know exactly how often someone creeps your social media accounts, little indicators like viewing your Snapchat Story or casually liking your brunch photo op can clue you in to the fact that an ex-lover is haunting you (not to be confused with ghosting you, of course).

But the real question is: why? Why do we keep cyber tabs on our past partners and flings? Here are six reasons why someone might be motivated to keep up with an ex's social media activity from beyond the (metaphorical) grave.


They're Just Plain Bored

First and foremost, it's important to recognize that sometimes there really isn't a deeper meaning behind an ex taking 10 seconds to check your Instagram Story. I'll be the first to admit that the small, narcissistic part of me imagines that all my old flames are purposely looking at my social media activity and pining for me, The One That Got Away. Then I reverse the roles in my head and balk at the idea that any of my exes think that's what I'm doing. The point being — sometimes it really just means nothing at all, and that's OK.


They Want To Keep Their Options Open

Haunting is actually pretty similar to another aptly named dating practice: breadcrumbing. Though haunting is a lot more passive than breadcrumbing (where you actively chat or flirt with someone to keep them on the backburner), the general idea is the same: you want to give subtle hints that you're interested in order to keep your options open.

"Instead of them silently watching your activity, you can tell that they viewed your story, or they’ll take it a step further and 'like' your posts without commenting," Spira says. "This is a [way] of saying 'I’d like part of you by being connected, but not all of you.' For the recipient, it feels like accepting crumbs from the haunter."


They're Seeking Closure

We all knew that 'ghosting' and 'haunting' had to somehow be connected, right? If you had an ex (or even just a casual fling) that you ghosted, it's pretty understandable that they might check up on your social media activity as a way of finding some form of closure, even months after the fact.

"If someone got ghosted and didn’t get the closure they needed, they get curious and want to know if the [one] who ghosted them really dumped them for someone hotter, or for anyone for that matter," Spira says.


They're Seeing If You're Single

I'd be lying if I said I've never visited an ex's Facebook for the sole purpose of making sure they're not listed as "in a relationship" with someone new. If someone's haunting you, there's a chance that they want to reconnect, and they're checking to make sure you're not off the market.

"I know many couples who have reunited after taking a long break apart with a long-lost love, once they noticed the digital coast was clear and their ex changed their relationship status to 'single,'" Spira says. "If you really want to reconnect with an ex, take a peek, but don’t haunt daily."


They're Comparing Their Life To Yours

If you've been through a rough breakup, it can be tempting to try to discern which of you wound up 'better off'. But beware of getting too worked up by what you see going on with your ex on social media, because it's only a small, carefully curated portion of their actual life.

"When you ‘haunt’ someone, you'll only get the best version of what that person wants the world (and you) to see," Spira says. "It’s a digital staging game and it’s going on big time."


They Want *You* To Reach Out

The most irritating thing about being haunted? How damn passive it is! If someone is haunting you, it could be their way of ineffectively communicating that they want you to be the one to formally reach out. And if that person is the one who dumped you in the first place, that's when things get really annoying.

"If you’ve dumped someone, don’t keep liking their posts and viewing their activity," Spira says. "It will only create anger and resentment to the person you’re haunting, especially when [they’re] not ready to be friends just yet."

There's no point in denying that social media is king, and using it to keep tabs on an ex or fling is to be expected. There's no harm in casually checking in to see how someone you once dated is doing, but it's important not to get too wrapped up in their social media activity. Instead of living in your romantic past, work on the future — once you find a hot new partner, you won't even give a hoot which of your exes is viewing your Snapchat story.