Haunting: the dating trend that happens all the time and actually sucks

What is 'Haunting?' Ghosts of our dating past…

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(Image credit: Getty Images / Volanthevist)

The spooky season might be over, but the grim realities of dating are very much still here. It seems like there’s a new dating trend every day, from cookie jarring to situationships, and now there’s a new one to add to the list. Here's everything to know about ‘Haunting’.

Now, we’re probably all a bit guilty of occasionally haunting an ex—especially if you’re not over the relationship, or wanting to remain in their lives. We’ve all liked an ex’s pic or watched their stories—even looked at the accounts of their new partners. We probably all think it’s normal and harmless, but is it?

 What is Haunting? 

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(Image credit: Getty Images / Stephanie Reid)

Haunting is essentially when an ex or former flame is still very much present on your socials (or vice versa.) You no longer interact or share meaningful exchanges, but they still view all of your stories, like all of your posts, and even sometimes comment.

Haunting refers to the most sinister feeling of always being watched, like even when you move on and are dating someone new, your ex is still viewing all your social media activity and knows exactly what’s going on in your life—despite no longer being a part of it.

Speaking to Michelle Elman Life coach, boundaries expert, and author of The Joy of Being Selfish, she explained that this trend has actually been around for a while.

She said: “Previously it was known as 'breadcrumbing', 'benching' or 'slow ghosting' when someone for all intents and purposes has disappeared but they linger around on your social media. It was called 'benching' because it is a sporting term of keeping you on the bench as a backup.”

Why do people Haunt?

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(Image credit: Getty Images / Isabella Dias)

Michelle explains that it can be a way of keeping your options open, she says: “they think by keeping you on social media, you remain an option to them so that if they ever get sad or lonely, they have someone else to turn to. Humans are also curious and keeping you on social media means being able to keep tabs on you.”

It also creates what Michelle calls the ‘Spotlight effect’ where we think we are more important to them than we actually are—like when you see they always view every Insta story you put up when actually they’ve probably just tapped through—like we all do when we’re bored.

OkCupid's Chief Marketing Officer, Melissa Hobley also shared some expertise on why people might 'haunt' you on social media.

She said: "It could be that they do still have feelings, it could be that they like your friend, it could be that they're really active on social media and they like everyone's post and it's nothing more than that. The important thing is not to try to figure it out."

Melissa also explained that it's okay to stay friends but if you think they're 'haunting' you to mentally confuse, remain relevant, or are sending you mixed signals, it can become toxic.

How to avoid Haunting?

It’s all about that block button, hun! If they no longer make you feel good or give you the attention you deserve, do not be afraid to cut them off—especially if it helps you move on.

As Michelle says, blocking them means: “They don't get to have their curiosity satisfied without putting in the effort.”

Haunting can make getting over a breakup harder, and stop us from getting the closure we need because we’re still seeing our ex on our socials. We put importance on their likes and views and think they’re doing it because they are still into us—when usually they’re just liking to keep us as an option, or just thoughtlessly. We can start to obsess over things like ‘why did they like this picture but not this one.’

Michelle comments: “It's important that you stop all revolving doors in your life. If someone isn't putting in the effort you deserve, do not settle for less as it will affect your self-esteem”

Alternatively, you can also hide your stories from them if you still want to remain friends and mute them on your socials if you think you might be guilty of haunting them.

Naomi Jamieson
Lifestyle News Writer

Naomi is a Lifestyle News Writer with the Women's Lifestyle team, where she covers everything from entertainment to fashion and beauty, as well as TikTok trends for Woman&Home, after previously writing for My Imperfect Life and GoodTo. Interestingly though, Naomi actually has a background in design, having studied illustration at Plymouth University but lept into the media world in 2020, after always having a passion for writing and earned her Gold Standard diploma in Journalism with the NCTJ.

Before working for Future Publishing’s Lifestyle News team, she worked in the Ad production team. Here she wrote and designed adverts on all sorts of things, which then went into print magazines across all genres. Now, when she isn’t writing articles on celebs, fashion trends, or the newest shows on Netflix, you can find her drinking copious cups of coffee, drawing and probably online shopping.