Ghosting isn’t the only way to digitally reject someone. Now, psychologists and dating experts are talking about a different phenomenon: breadcrumbing.
“Breadcrumbing basically means not being super interested in someone, but continuing to lead someone on,” said Bela Gandhi, founder the of Smart Dating Academy and a dating and relationship expert. “It’s leading somebody on with no intent of following through.”
That could look like a few different scenarios: it might be an ex who continues to “check in” with you, but never goes so far as to suggest meeting up. It may be a guy that you’ve been flirting with back and forth, who will disappear for weeks, and then send an ambiguous “Hey, how’s it going?” text.
Or, it may be someone you went on a few dates with, who isn’t asking you out again, but will occasionally like one of your photos on Facebook or Instagram, or send you a message that has no significance, other than to pop back into your mind.
So what's going on?
“A lot of it is just ego,” Gandhi explained. The guy could just be narcissistic, seeking constant validation and attention even if he has no desire to commit to anyone. Or, the guy may just want to keep all of his options open, Gandhi added.
However, dating coach Evan Marc Katz, author of "Why He Disappeared," also challenged daters to put themselves in the other person’s shoes — it’s likely, he told TODAY, that daters have themselves unintentionally led someone on in a similar manner.
"Men are not mysterious creatures,” Katz said. The man could be talking to multiple women, or secretly in love with an ex, or had a hard week at work. The man’s actions, he said, are more selfish than calculating — he’s not considering the consequences of his confusing actions, just as women might not consider the consequences of reaching out to catch up with an ex.
But that doesn’t mean that you need to play along with these sorts of digital games. Here are a few tips on how to spot — and respond to — breadcrumbing.
1. Watch out for laziness.
One way to spot a guy who is breadcrumbing? Look at his texts. He may, for instance, leave out letters or avoid writing out complete words — "How r u," for instance.
“It’s the ultimate in lazy,” Gandhi said. “It just shows a lack of effort.”
The same goes for a guy who only likes your posts on social media, or only sends the occasional “Hey.” Someone that really likes you, Gandhi said, is going to make an effort to see and spend time with you — not just text you every now and then.
2. Pay attention to the pace of your relationship.
A healthy relationship will be paced right, according to Gandhi. Over the first couple of weeks, you may go out on one date per week. That could increase to two dates a week, and then more — the important thing to note is whether you are naturally building momentum.
If, you’ve only gone out on one date over a handful of weeks, and he hasn’t set up a new date, then “he’s evidently not that interested in getting serious about you right now, for any number of reasons,” Katz said.
The solution? Look out for consistent pacing over time to know when a guy is pursuing you with intention.
3. Don’t make excuses.
It’s easy for women to feel that a guy may need encouragement, or that he’s a little bit different than other guys. But, Gandhi warned, don’t make excuses for someone.
“Nobody is too busy to call you or to see you, no matter what they say,” Gandhi said. She’s even known clients who have flown to a city where a woman was on a layover, just to spend time with her.
And don’t worry about being too picky — you have to be picky when it comes to things like consistency, reliability and kindness, Gandhi said. If someone doesn’t live up to your standards, cut them loose.
4. Stop responding.
Ultimately, you may just have to stop engaging with this person. “If you feel like somebody is just throwing you crumbs, stop picking up the crumbs,” Gandhi said. If a man really wants to be with you, he’s going to amp up his efforts in response.
And don't forget that you are the CEO of your own love life, Katz added, and men are interns applying for a job. “Focus your energies on the men who do follow up,” he advised.
5. Or, call out the behavior.
"Call them on it," advised Ian Kerner, Ph.D, and licensed psychotherapist. "Give them a small window to respond, and then block their number if you don't like what they're telling you."
Kerner noted that in his experience, women have been the ones breadcrumbing guys.
"For some women breadcrumbing is a way of flirting and keeping options open... Regardless of gender, it's a way of flirting, passing time, maintaining options and feeling validated," he explained.