With the rise of online dating has also come the rise of new dating terms and experiences. What we know as “
catfishing” today certainly didn’t exist before the internet. And have you heard of it’s little sister “kittenfishing”? What is “soft launching,” and is it similar to “hard launching”? The short answer is yes, but there are subtle differences, and if you’re looking to debut a new partner on social media, you’ll want to be in the know.
If you’ve ever noticed your
ex stalking your Instagram (they view all of your stories and like every post) even though you don’t talk anymore, there’s a word for that. (Psst! It’s called “haunting.”) Did you know that there’s a term for the opposite of “cuffing” — the artist formerly known as “ cuffing season”? Well, now you do.
There are so many new terms that are part of the online dating lexicon that it’s hard to keep up, and the list just keeps getting longer. To help you out, Elite Daily has created an A to Z encyclopedic list of 20 dating terms to know — from “benching” to “zombie-ing.” Soon you will be an expert in online dating lingo and ready to ward off any sus behaviors you come across on the apps. Good luck out there!
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Like when players get benched in basketball, “benching” refers to keeping someone on the sidelines as an option because you’re not ready to commit or don’t feel strongly enough about them to make anything official. It’s really disrespectful towards the person getting benched, so if this is happening to you, you might want to say, “thank you, next.”
“Breadcrumbing is leading someone on. More specifically, it’s being in just enough contact and dropping just enough information to make it seem like there’s interest there when most likely there’s not,” explains sexuality educator and co-founder of
OkaySo Elise Schuster. Someone who is breadcrumbing you might send out flirtatious, non-committal texts with no intention of following through.
“Cuffing,” also known as “cuffing season,” is the idea that you’re being handcuffed or tied down to one partner. It refers to when people settle down into
serious relationships during the colder months of the year (think: the holiday season) when they would normally not be interested in a committed, longer-term relationship.
unclear who first coined this dating term, according to Business Insider, one of the first to use it was men’s lifestyle site AskMen. The authors write, “For those of us lucky enough to have them, freckles and their fickle nature are a familiar subject. Your skin might be clear as day from November through to March, but once you start spending more time in the sun, boom, a star map of little dots constellates across your face, only to fade when fall comes around. The dating analog, of course, is the freckler — someone who dips into your life when the weather’s nice and then vanishes, vamoose, when the chill sets in.” Basically, “freckling” describes a summer fling — the complete opposite of “cuffing.”
Sadly, with the increased prevalence of the term “
gaslighting” in our current lexicon has also come its increased miscorrect usage, so let’s get one thing straight: Gaslighting is a serious form of manipulation that often occurs in abusive relationships, and its real psychological impact on victims should not be devalued.
“It’s a less obvious form of emotional abuse where the person doing the gaslighting creates a situation where the other person starts to doubt their own feelings or memories,” explains Schuster.
The term itself comes from the 1944 film
Gaslight, where the protagonist’s husband gaslights her by turning down the lights in their home so they flicker. When she asks him about it, he denies they’re flickering at all with the intention to make her believe it’s all inside her head. valentinrussanov/E+/Getty Images
“Simply put, ghosting is when someone disappears,” says Schuster. You know how you can’t actually see ghosts? Well, you can’t see the person that ghosted you anymore because they decided to poof out of your life. Essentially, “
ghosting” is when someone stops communicating with you out of the blue without giving you an explanation.
Schuster adds, “We can often find ourselves wondering what it was about us that made them do this, but the most important thing to remember about ghosting is that it actually has nothing to do with you — it’s all about their own inability to face difficult situations and do the right thing. And if someone can’t do that, you don’t want to be with them anyway.” Snaps to that!
“Groundhogging” explains the act of going after or
dating the same type of person over and over again, but expecting different results. It was coined by the dating app Inner Circle (whose singles’ survey found that three in four people have a “type,” but dating their type hasn’t made a major difference in their dating life). Groundhogging is basically an invitation for dating fails. No one’s asking you to lower your expectations, but if you expand your dating preferences a bit you might just meet someone great.
“Haunting” is the act of keeping tabs on your ex via social media. Maybe you no longer interact with each other IRL, but you still view all of their stories, like their posts, and maybe even leave a comment from time to time. “
Social media stalking, basically,” says Schuster. “It’s a total violation of boundaries, and if it makes you feel uncomfortable then it’s OK to block them.” So that’s what Halsey was singing about in “Haunting.”
Ah yes, kittenfishing — the baby version of catfishing, if you will. Coined by the dating app Hinge, “kittenfishing” is the act of misrepresenting yourself online and telling white lies in order to appear more desirable on dating apps. Saying you’re 6’0” when you’re actually 5’11”? Kittenfishing. Using photos from two years ago instead of more recent pics — although your appearance has changed — because you like those photos better? Kittenfishing. Although kittenfishing is pretty common on dating apps, it’s something to watch out for because it could be a sign of a habitual liar.
Love bombing” is another term whose meaning has been largely misconstrued as it’s become more common in our vocabulary. Love bombing describes a manipulation tactic where the abuser or manipulator will shower their partner with over-the-top displays of affection, admiration, and attention in an attempt to “sweep them off their feet” in order to manipulate them later on. Once a love bomber has secured the affection of their partner, they might start to withdraw affection and become abusive, which can be really confusing (not to mention hurtful). It’s a dangerous form of emotional abuse, and something to watch out for.
Coined by writer Anna Iovine in an article for Man Repeller, “orbiting,” similar to “haunting,” describes the phenomenon of an ex or former fling continuing to interact with your social content even though your relationship offline is non-existent. They’re basically keeping you in their “social orbit,” but, again, it’s a total violation of boundaries and not cool.
“Pocketing,” as known as “stashing,” describes a situation where your partner fails to introduce you to friends, family, and other important people in their life even though you’ve been dating for a while. They’re basically keeping you a secret. While not all pocketers have a malicious intent, it’s definitely a conversation worth starting with your SO if you notice it happening to you.
“Roaching,” a term coined by AskMen, is the gross dating trend of a new partner
hiding the fact they’re still sleeping around and dating other people. It’s called roaching because as it goes, “when you see one cockroach, there are many more you don’t see.” Not only is roaching unsafe (hello, sexual health), but it’s also deceitful and not nice.
“It’s not quite a friendship and it’s not quite a relationship; it’s something in between,” says Schuster. As Snoh Aalegra sings in “Situationship,”
“Guess we got a situationship.” A situationship lies in the space between a committed relationship and a friendship — it’s essentially a romantic relationship that’s undefined. In order to avoid finding yourself in one, Schuster says that it’s important to get clear on each other’s expectations early on and communicate, communicate, communicate!
“Slow fading” is when someone you’ve been seeing slowly fades out of the relationship by making themself less available and gradually ending communication. They’ve basically decided to end the relationship, but aren’t bold enough to share their decision with you. On the scale of “how to poorly end a relationship,” the slow fade is head-to-head with ghosting.
“Soft ghosting” is basically a lighter form of ghosting, but that doesn’t make it any less hurtful. Instead of completely cutting off communication out of the blue, a soft ghoster will gradually drop communication by liking your last message, viewing your stories, and liking your comment (basically not continuing the conversation where there’s an opportunity to do so).
“Soft launching” describes the act of vaguely revealing that you’re in a relationship by sharing sneaky, low-key photos of your partner without fully exposing them. Soft launching can look like posting a story of two clasped hands (yours and your SO’s) or sharing a photo of their side profile with zero context. If you thought they would be tagged in these photos, you thought wrong — that seems to be a no-no when soft launching your partner on social media.
What’s the opposite of soft launching, you ask? You guessed it, it’s called “hard launching,” which essentially describes an explicit announcement that you’re in a relationship — for example, changing your relationship status on Facebook to “In a relationship.”
Coined by writer Patia Braithwaite for SELF, “
whelming” is the annoying dating app trend of a match complaining (read: bragging) about how overwhelmed they are by all their other matches and dating in general. “Oh, my life is so hard. Everyone just wants me, you know?” Listen buddy, everyone gets matches (it’s the nature of dating apps) and there’s no need to publicize that you have “too many” to your dates. If they matched with you, clearly they already think you’re a catch — the humblebrag is unnecessary. Whelming is a huge turn-off, so don’t do it.
“Wokefishing is when someone deliberately makes themself seem more progressive than they actually are (or it’s not actually what they believe) so that you will be interested in them,” says Schuster.
Coined by writer Serena Smith for Vice, “
wokefishing,” like “catfishing,” describes masquerading as something that you’re not. A wokefish might call themselves an “anti-racist, sex-positive feminist” who has studied the writings of James Baldwin and Angela Davis religiously when that actually is not the case. It’s deceitful and lame.
“Zombie-ing” is exactly as it sounds: It’s when someone who ghosted you suddenly decides to come back into your life after a long time as if nothing ever happened — they have essentially risen from the dead. An act of zombie-ing might appear as a random text (“hey”), DM, or phone call. And like the actual
Walking Dead, these zombies should be avoided at all costs. Expert: Elise Schuster, MPH, sexuality educator and co-founder of OkaySo Don't miss a thing
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