BEWARE of These Things: Online Dating Terminology and Practices

Whether you’re new to online dating or an experienced “shopper”, there are a slew of terms used by the online dating community that you may not be aware of. Some are amusing; and others not so much. Here’s a list of the one’s I find worthy of note. I’m starting with the more serious terms because it’s important to know what is prevalent in the dating culture these days—and how these behaviors, etc. may affect, or even hurt you.

LOVE BOMBING (This one has gained a lot of attention and is often used when discussing certain psychological aspects of dating (especially online dating). In another post, I discuss the personality traits called “the Dark Triad”—this term is often mentioned when discussing a narcissist. But it happens all the time regardless of whether someone has undesirable personality traits or not.)

LOVE BOMBING is when a new partner shows extreme amounts of affection early on and expends serious energy in a deliberate attempt to woo you. They may shower you with compliments, flattery, gifts—text you day and night with flirtatious or engaging conversation that is centered around gaining your affection and attempting to hook you. However, this is all laced with ulterior motive—once you’ve committed to a relationship with them, the love bomber will withdraw all that affection and let their true, ugly colors shine through, leaving you stuck in a nightmare relationship. This one’s really not cute: love bombing is manipulative and abusive.

MOSTING: is a little bit like love bombing. But instead of the person doing it to gain control, they simply like the thrill of coming on strong. They text all the time, give loads of compliments, and confess their undying love, only to ghost soon afterwards. They either love the thrill of the chase and get bored easily, or they like messing with people’s emotions. Either way, they’re not worth it.

GHOSTING: In the era of smartphones, texting, and online dating, it’s just as easy to start a conversation as it is to end it. Ghosting occurs when you’ve gone on a couple of dates with someone and they suddenly go radio silent without explanation. This is a pervasive act where one dater ends a relationship by simply disappearing. The ghost does not give an explanation of any sort, leaving the ghosted wondering where he or she went wrong.  This term has also started being used in psychology recently. Ghosting really does have some very negative effects on the ghostee’s psyche.

BREADCRUMBING: is when you send flirty but non-committal messages to a person when you’re not really interested in dating them but don’t have the guts to break things off with them completely. The breadcrumbee is strung along for the sake of sparing the breadcrumber a confrontation. This is kind of the new version of version “stringing them along”, but within the context of contemporary dating.

SLOW FADE: The slow fade is the process of ending a lackluster relationship or fling by gradually reducing contact and response times. Like a smoother version of breadcrumbing, the person doing the fading will taper off contact, like gradually turning down the volume on a song and starting a new one without anyone noticing.

CASPERING: Casper was the friendly ghost, which is essentially what this term means — you ghost someone “nicely” (if there is such a thing). It’s when someone tells you they are going to disappear, so it’s supposed to be slightly more compassionate than just vanishing into thin air without an explanation.

R BOMBING: is when you read someone’s message and don’t respond to it, you’re r-bombing them.

CRICKETING: Cricketing someone is when you leave them on “read” for too long. In some cases, it can take days for the other person to reply and continue the conversation. Instead of getting a response, the sender is met with silence. Cue the crickets. When this happens, chances are they’re really just not into you and you may be being “Benched”, “cushioned”, or the “backburner” (coming up next on the list). Also see “Roaching” later down the list.

BENCHING: Benching is when you’re not into someone enough to commit to officially dating them, but you don’t want them to move on and find someone else either, so you string them along juuuust enough to keep them waiting on the sidelines for you.

CUSHIONING: cushioning is the process of staying in contact with one or more romantic prospects as a backup in case things don’t go smoothly with your main squeeze. The “cushions” are usually kept on the periphery, eg. texting rather than full blown cheating.

BACKBURNER RELATIONSHIP: A backburner is, “a person to whom one is not presently committed, and with whom one maintains some degree of communication, to keep or establish the possibility of future romantic and sexual involvement.” So basically, it’s someone you keep around just in case you feel lonely and need a little attention from someone later.

TUNING: is when someone flirts with an obvious strategy, but they have no interest in committing to anything serious. People being tuned find it flattering if they’re not looking for commitment either, or incredibly frustrating if they are.

CATFISHING: (Everyone knows this one, right?) Catfishing is one of those dating terms that has legitimately made its way into the mainstream, thanks to the TV show and movie of the same name. Messaging with someone who’s pretending to be someone else? You’re being catfished! These setups tend to end badly. But until then, move your conversation with your crush to the phone/IRL/video chat of some sort as soon as you can muster. If they’re resistant, they might be catfishing you.  NOTE: This is an EXTREMELY IMPORTANT piece of advice given to you from my own experience—if you have a gut feeling or suspicious of someone—this is what I do: as soon as I start chatting with someone via text or an app that allows you to send photos, I ask the person in question to send a selfie of themselves holding something random…say, a spatula or pencil, or holding up three fingers. There is NO WAY they can fake this and they will either comply and prove their identity or suddenly stop communicating (also proving their identity in a way).

KITTENFISHING: Catfishing’s younger sibling… A kittenfish is someone who looks more attractive in their filtered profile pictures than they do in real life—so much so that you doubt they’re even the same person. It’s not as bad as a catfish, who just uses someone else’s photo, but it’s still deceptive.

DRAFTING SEASON: This is the period that precedes cuffing season, where single people evaluate their pool of “leads and accounts” and find someone to settle down with for the coming fall and winter months.

LEADS AND ACCOUNTS: If you work in sales or marketing, you probably have a better idea what these next two terms are. To have leads or new accounts means you have new potential dates for the week. Leads are potential dates with people who seem promising, and accounts are people you’ve already scheduled a date with.

CUFFING SEASON: is the period between early fall and late winter when everyone starts to shack up with the nearest half-decent single person to ward off loneliness and cold during the cooler months. Cuffing season typically implied a short term, mutually beneficial arrangement that’s strictly seasonal, and it ends as soon as the leaves start turning green again. The term is African American Vernacular English (AAVE) and has been around at least since the early 2010s.

UN-CUFFING SEASON:Unlike cuffing season, where people get together to ward off the winter chill, un-cuffing season is the time of year when people end their relationships to play the field, typically in the spring and summer months.

CATCH AND RELEASE: This refers to the (ongoing) act of hooking up with people without becoming emotionally attached to them.

STASHING: Stashing is something you’ve probably experienced at least once in your dating life. It refers to the act of dating someone seriously, only to have them hide and “stash” you away from everyone they know.

CURVE: Getting curved is being rejected, shot down, turned aside, said no to, dissed and dismissed. Yes, it sucks. When you get curved you need to take a moment to properly absorb all of the “no” that just hit you. But there’s also something beautiful to a well-done curve; it’s a memento to a failure, big and small, that you can carry around with you and use to prop up or tear down narratives about your dateability.

FIREDOORING: This is the dating version of the one-way fire door — on rare occasions, someone will come out of their shell to contact you but won’t respond if you attempt to get in touch. It’s a setup that only works in deeply unequal situations — if you’re getting firedoored, you’re constantly feeling frustrated and only occasionally satisfied. If this is happening to you, get out and close the door behind you. There are tons of people out there who won’t do this to you!

MICROCHEATING: Microcheating is a form of infidelity that stops short of the full-blown, overt cheating that occurs when a person sleeps with someone else behind their partner’s back, but is low-level, cumulative dishonesty and infidelity that is intolerable in a committed relationship. Think heavy flirting, tones of secrecy, furtive kissy-face emojis and emotional affairs.

ROACHING: Roaching is a new dating trend where people hide the fact that they’re dating around from a new partner and, when confronted, claim to have simply been under the assumption that there was no implication of monogamy to begin with. In today’s more poly-friendly dating culture, this is a slick tactic to shift the blame to the person confronting them, but the truth is it’s both parties’ responsibility to be at least baseline open about seeing other people if that’s the case. Roaching, as a result, is deeply messed up.

SITUATIONSHIP: This is a relationship that’s not quite a romantic relationship but is definitely more than a platonic friendship. You know what I’m talking about, those relationships you can’t quite define and don’t even feel comfortable calling a relationship… but they’re still something. That’s a situationship. 

EMOTIONAL AFFAIR: You’re hardly renting a hotel room together—at least not yet—but when you’re in an emotional affair you’re going out to lunch every weekday and trading intimacies with someone. Or, maybe you haven’t met in person yet, but you chat online for hours at a time. When this person, and not your significant other, is the one you’re always thinking of and it’s their opinion that matters most, watch out because you may be wrapped up in the middle of an emotional affair.

TEXTUAL RELATIONSHIP: Smartphones make it easier to meet new people who would have never crossed your path. But it can also be a roadblock. When you start messaging someone and grow attached to them via texting or sending messages to each other you might be in a Textual Relationship, not a real one. Yes there’s flirting, cute emoticons, and perhaps some fun (and maybe naughty) photos. But you never meet up.

ZOMBIE: Zombies are lifeless people that wander back into your life via a random text or message to hook up. When someone ghosts you, they should be out of your life. But sometimes he or she decide to come back as a zombie.

PIE HUNTING: As you can probably deduce, pie hunting is an unsavory dating phenomenon in which a person (the “hunter”) deliberately dates “pies”, or heartbroken, vulnerable people with messy dating histories, who are perceived to be easier and lower-maintenance.

To be continued…

For a comprehensive list of online abbreviations and acronyms check out

Digital Dating Abbreviations, Acronyms & Slang Terms

Monsters everywhere!

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