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Millennial dating trends 2019: All you need to know, from ghosting to bird boxing

We’ve come a long way since ghosting

Olivia Petter,Sarah Young
Thursday 07 February 2019 12:21 GMT

It feels like a long time ago that ghosting first became “a thing”.

Back then, it caused quite the stir, as singletons everywhere realised that this tricksy form of behaviour – whereby someone you’re dating ceases all communication without warning or justification – was common enough to have a name.

Some were shocked, but others rejoiced in this newfound sense of vindication, one that has been flourishing ever since, as different versions continue to emerge.

In 2018, the millennial dating glossary has become chockablock with words that validate and infuriate in equal measure. From orbiting and curving to benching and breadcrumbing, dating has become more of a rhetorical challenge than a romantic one – but it's worth getting to grips with, given this is the world we live in.

So, we’ve rounded up all of the new dating terms you need to know about. If you’re single, this might help you prepare for your next liaison. If you aren’t, and are currently basking in the glory of coupled-up bliss, you can take comfort by browsing our list, rolling over to your partner and saying, “Tell me I’ll never have to be out there again”.

Bird boxing

Netflix’s post-apocalyptic thriller Bird Box has a lot to answer for, from inspiring a dangerous blindfolding craze on social media to the latest dating trend.

Much like the film, which sees Sandra Bullock struggle to survive wearing a blindfold at all times, the concept of bird boxing refers to “when someone is blind to how rubbish the person they’re dating is”.

What starts out as harmless and even endearing behaviour, like being overly attentive or good with money, quickly descends into more aggravating conduct such as being overbearing and Scrooge-like with their spends.


First things first, let’s preface this by establishing that orbiting has absolutely nothing to do with the moon or the planets. Rather than staying true to the cosmic connotations its name carries, orbiting is actually rather base. It’s when someone ghosts you but still engages with you on social media.

To give you an example, a flagrant orbiter might ignore your phone calls, but watch your Instragram stories. They will block you on WhatsApp but retweet your latest cat meme. They are, in essence, playing mind games. Do not let them win.


Another new addition to the ever-expanding dating dictionary, curving came onto the scene in November as “the new way to reject someone” – yes, really.

Described as “rejection with a smile”, curving is a way of letting someone down without explicitly telling them you’re no longer interested.

More often than not, it’s rooted in communication, or a lack thereof. But rather than ignoring your text asking to “hang out” – note: this is ghosting – a curver will reply, only it will be several days later.

They will say "sorry", they’ll tell you they’d “love to see you” but work has “been crazy” and they’re “just so bad with they’re phone”. So you’ll think “ah, great. They do like me. Yahoo!” Naively, you’ll text back and set a date for your “hang out”, only to be ignored and receive a similar message three weeks later.

The truth is that it doesn’t matter whether they’ve been "really busy" buying dog food or boiling the kettle, this is 2018 – no one is that bad on their phone. Don’t put up with it.


So common that it’s now infiltrating our friendship groups, breadcrumbing is essentially a fancy name for stringing someone along.

It’s sending a benign “Hey, how’s it going?” text with no intention of continuing the conversation. It’s suggesting a date without making a plan. It’s telling someone they looked “super hot” in their latest Insta but screening their phone calls. But rather than sheer negligence, a breadcrumber is tactical: they want to leave little nuggets for you so you think they're still interested. FYI, they're not interested, but keeping you around and seeing you squirm boosts their ego.

Again, not nice, abort.


Coined by dating app Hinge, this is essentially a diet version of catfishing: when someone pretends to be a completely different person online.

Unlike a catfish – who might’ve constructed a whole new identity – a kittenfish’s tactics could be as simple as using a profile photo on a dating app that is a few years old, or heavily edited.

In most cases, it’s a fairly harmless way of trying to promote the best version of yourself to potential dates.

But if your lies become more than just the little white variety, it could seriously backfire. Imagine the embarrassment when your date starts asking about your "passion for baking" and you find yourself getting your crème pâtissière mixed up with your crème anglaise. Or, worse still, they might start probing you on the time you "ran the marathon" and you have to come up with an elaborate lie so as to avoid telling them you've only just joined the gym.

Be especially wary of people who describe themselves as a “cat person” in their bio – they might not have read the viral New Yorker short story – in which the male protagonist, a self-proclaimed cat-owner, doesn’t actually seem to have any cats – but it’s just a bit too meta. Steer clear.


Not to be confused with ghosting – you’ll notice this crops up a lot – R-bombing is when someone reads your message but doesn’t reply.

That’s not to say you won’t ever hear from them again, but they will ignore the texts they don't deem interesting enough, whatever that means.

Needless to say, someone who does this is not only rude, they’re also deeply arrogant, putting their time above yours by thinking your message doesn’t warrant a response. When called out, these people will inevitably also resort to the “I’m so terrible on my phone” adage. Do not listen to them, this is the most bogus excuse in the book.


So, you’ve been ghosted.

The love, or lust, of your life has suddenly vanished and stopped responding to your messages on WhatsApp. But just as you’re analysing the difference between blue and grey ticks, trying to figure out if they’ve ignored you or actually blocked you, your phone lights up.

“Hi, sorry for the lack of comms. Want to do something this week?”

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Buckle up, my friends, because this is no ghost: this is a zombie.

In case the metaphor went over your head, zombieing is when one person ghosts another, only to return “from the dead” a bit later and get in touch, like, you guessed it, a zombie. It’s as morbid as it sounds.


As the name would suggest, this about tailoring your Instagram feed with another person in mind in the hope that your posts might capture their attention.

Maybe you’ve posted a photo of you in their favourite bar, or perhaps you’ve taken a selfie wearing an item of clothing they once complimented you on.

It might sound niche, but, according to a recent survey by dating site Plenty of Fish, more than half of singletons are Instagrandstanding.

In fact, more than two thirds (69 per cent) of 22 to 25-year-olds have done it recently.

You probably have too, only you didn’t realise it till now, which is an apt way to sum up all of the above. Welcome to the modern world of dating.

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