What is Breadcrumbing?

Rebecca Thair
By Rebecca Thair,
updated on Mar 20, 2017

What is Breadcrumbing?

The latest social media dating trend that’s a recipe for disaster

In the world of modern-day dating, where people are more likely to meet over an app than a drink, it’s easier than ever to play mind games - especially when not all of us know the rules.

First there was ‘catfishing’ (where your Tom Hardy look-a-like Facebook friend turns out to be Jeanette, 45, married with three kids). Then came ‘ghosting’ (where your potential mate vanishes without a word). Now, the latest digital dagger to the heart is ‘breadcrumbing’ - and it’s not just Hansel and Gretel who can’t see the wood for the trees.

Breadcrumbing is the art of feeding morsels of hope to another person that a relationship might be on the cards, with no intention of giving them the actual baguette. If you’re on the receiving end of this digital tease, it can really mess with your head.

As with the fairy tale, these breadcrumbs aren’t lasting and you’ll just end up wondering if you’re out of the woods yet. The sooner you recognise the signs of breadcrumbing, the sooner you’ll save yourself a lot of wasted time hanging on to something that’s just not going to happen. Breadcrumbers are those people who make contact, but not an actual conversation. They’ll like that photo of you from two birthdays ago, send you a link to the monkey riding on a pig video without attaching a message, or tag you in a random meme about eating your bodyweight in pizza, but completely ignore your comments back.

Connections are always on their terms, and you’ll feel at a loss for what you can do to pique their interest. It’s that random notification that pops up when you’ve almost forgotten them, like they have a sixth sense for the ties being cut.

Breadcrumbing is the art of feeding morsels of hope to another person that a relationship might be on the cards, with no intention of giving them the actual baguette

Being breadcrumbed is not only frustrating, but can lead to a lack of self-confidence, questioning why this person doesn’t want to commit, to meet up, or have that date. You might start thinking it’s your own fault, and spiral into that self-doubting misery everyone faces at some point, whether single or coupled-up.

So, now this person is not only messing you around, but screwing with future relationships you might have. In some cases, this type of tease-and-release could lead to serious issues like loneliness or depression, with the person receiving breadcrumbs unintentionally sabotaging other potential relationships whenever the crumber rears their illusive head.

Offline, the dark art of breadcrumbing is nothing new. Remember Kate Winslet’s character in The Holiday? She was pretty much force-fed breadcrumbs by her ex, who despite being engaged and knowing full well her feelings for him, refused to give her space to get over him. And how about Sherlock leading on loved-up pathologist Molly Hooper just to get her help with a case? You don’t need to be Dr Watson to see the trap that people fall into, but it’s often harder to spot and snap out of the cycle in our own lives.

There are two ways to look at someone who feels the need to breadcrumb: they could be self-centred, enjoying the ego boost of your attention and knowing that they have you as a back-up option; or they could have self-esteem issues of their own and need to feel wanted by others. It’s possible you’ve even scattered a few crumbs yourself without realising it - but keeping someone on the hook to make yourself feel better is pretty selfish, whatever the motive. Breadcrumbing isn’t necessarily a romantic trend. You could be breadcrumbing your friends or family with comments on their status update, or vowing to meet up soon but with no intention of following through.

If a few late-night ‘likes’ are starting to haunt you, the best thing you can do is to become the previously dreaded ‘ghost’. It’s much kinder to stop breaking bread in one swift motion than linger in someone’s life. And, if you are brave enough, you could also acknowledge leading someone on and apologise. It may be awkward, but you’ll both be better off for it.

If you’re unfortunate enough to have a breadcrumber lurking in your life, make a stand, take back control, and don’t let them invade your head any more. After all, where’s the fun in dating a breadcrumber? You deserve someone who can’t wait to see you, who in the old days would have used all their minutes to phone you until the early morning. The good news is that for every breadcrumber out there, there are a thousand people who are fun, can be trusted, and are interested in a genuine relationship - just spot the warning signs of a crumber, and you'll be on a roll.

As much as technology is allowing these things to occur, it also provides you with the tools to stop a breadcrumber in their tracks. There are oodles of privacy restrictions you can amend, from changing your profile settings, unfollowing someone, or just turning off notifications. The ultimate tool of course, is the beautiful ‘block’ button. Don’t be afraid to use it. You don’t need a time-waster in your life. Stick with people you can rely on for real conversations, relationships and actual fun. Who wants stale breadcrumbs anyway? Go get yourself some freshly baked buns instead.

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