What it feels like to be ghosted
Breaking up with her boyfriend was one of the most painful moments that Maureen Wanjiru went through.
Her boyfriend of five years left her, stating boredom as his major reason. And with that came the pain of trying to erase every memory of her boyfriend and anything that could remind her of him.
Few months later, she discovered that her ex had been stalking her on social media.
“I was surprised to find out that he was using a different account and was still following my life on social media, liking my statuses and watching my stories on Instagram,” says Maureen.
Like every other social media-based trend these days, there’s actually a word for this type of behaviour: orbiting.
The term was coined by writer Anna Iovine in her article, Man Repeller where she used the term “orbiting” to describe when a person leaves your life, but still appears in your social media world — by watching your Instagram stories and Snapchats and even liking your Facebook posts – thus they still remain in your orbit.
As she described it, you’re “close enough to see each other; far enough to never talk.”
While with ghosting, someone will completely leave your life with no explanation, with orbiting you can still feel their presence hovering around you on social media.
You may have unfriended and even unfollowed them on every platform, but you’ll still find them poking their nose on your business.
While it can be tempting to check on your ex and snoop around to know what they are up to, orbiting sends a clear message that you are not over your ex.
“When you find yourself checking out your exes stuff, you are staying attached to them,” says Allan Lawrence, a relationship expert.
There are exceptions to this: if you and your ex have a cordial relationship, or if you broke up a long time ago, there’s nothing wrong with a friendly like every once in a while.
But if the breakup is relatively recent and emotions are still running high, orbiting can have confusing and frustrating implications.
“Unless there is a mutual agreement that you will still remain friends, then stalking someone else is bad for you,” he explains.
Allan adds that the person on the other end might interpret your behaviour differently.
“There are always so many unanswered questions that the other person may have. They might think that you are still interested in them.
It might be seen as an expression of interest. You need to move on with your life.
When we post on social media, we post the best of us and every time you see the other person move on, you reinjure yourself making it harder to get over your ex,” he continues.
The same applies if you are the person who initiated the break-up, especially if you are trying to keep the person as a back-up plan.
While it is human nature to be curious of what other people are doing, orbiting can be a power move, especially when someone does it being fully aware that you will notice their name on top of the list.
“For some, particularly narcissists, it’s a way of letting the former flame know that you are still interested and allows you to keep one foot in the door so that it doesn’t close,” explains Allan.
Subconsciously, Allan says orbiting can affect one emotionally even if you aren’t aware of it. It prevents a person from seeing a potential significant partner as they are blinded by the past love.
If in another relationship, it will be hard for them to cope since they will be comparing their partner with the previous one and this will make them bitter.
It can trigger deeply wired psychological concept dubbed confirmation bias where someone can begin to question and doubt the reasons for break-up.
For Maureen, orbiting made her feel as if her ex cared for her and was sorry for the break-up.
“It revived old memories and made me feel pathetic. The more he did it, the more I felt convinced that I was right about him feeling sorry,” she narrates.
Experts say the trend of orbiting seems to highlight a bigger, more fundamental problem people face after a falling out: setting boundaries.
Allan advises that in this age of social media where everything is made public, one has to make a conscious effort of having better boundaries for the sake of one’s mental health.
“Lack of setting clear boundaries makes healing difficult or near to impossible. Out of sight, out of mind really helps someone to move on,” Allan says.
To heal, Allan advises that one shouldn’t read much into orbiting. Consider blocking or even unfollowing.
“You have to decide who you see and interact with. Take break-up period, especially if you didn’t take the transition well.
If blocking feels extreme, then consider muting the person’s activities until you heal. It’s less drastic, but will assist you to move on.”
Also forgive yourself for what didn’t work out and treat each situation as a lesson and move on.
For those with the habit of orbiting, they should ask themselves how they feel after they do that, otherwise it can become an addiction that would hold them to their past.
“If you notice you become depressed and lonely, always feeling bad because your partner has moved on after orbiting, consider quitting the habit,” he advises.
Allan recommends journaling as a habit that will enable one to heal from a break-up.
“Love the person in the mirror more and focus on your life. Remind yourself that what happened to you in the past doesn’t define you and kill that thought of always wanting to check on your ex.
In most cases, orbiting makes you want to prove a point while in real sense you haven’t moved on,” he says in conclusion.