Breadcrumbing: Decoding a 21st century phenomenon
Getting in on the slang
Needless to say, the modern dating vocabulary is replete with a variety of puzzling terms. Last year, ghosting – abruptly severing all communication with someone after a period of intense and promising contact – was the word du jour. Akin to Oxford Dictionaries’ bizarre eulogy to emoji meanings, Merriam-Webster hopped on the bandwagon and recently added it to their esteemed lexicon1.
There are also a host of terms that, though not adorned with dictionary status (yet), are still used with a fervent zeal. For example, slow fading - an act similar to ghosting where you ‘slowly fade’ someone out by gradually reducing contact with them - is another pop-phrase2. The dreaded friend zone is also another stellar case in point.
However, two of 2017’s top trending terms are breadcrumbing and cushioning. Confused much? Let’s take a look at each separately before getting to the core of what’s afoot.
Breadcrumbing; emotional tenterhooks
Like most trends, just as one fades into obscurity another is thrust right into the limelight. If you’ve had even the most perfunctory of glances at this year’s dating developments, you’ve probably seen breadcrumbing being discussed passionately across a plethora of respected media outlets. So what’s the story with this contemporary occurrence?
It’s wise to start off by clearing up what breadcrumbing actually means. One of the most commonly referenced definitions is Urban Dictionary’s effort, though we decided to come up with a more inclusive offering. Simply put, breadcrumbing is when a person sporadically sends messages to someone so as to keep them interested, without committing to anything serious.
It goes without saying that today’s technology facilitates a breadcrumber’s non-committal antics. Nowadays it’s so much easier to send a smiley or like someone’s Instagram snaps without engaging in verbal communication. At the same time, it’s interesting to ponder the psychology of social media and how it feeds into the emotional value placed on something as pedestrian as an electronic thumbs-up.
Another prominent aspect of breadcrumbing that goes hand in hand with flakiness is ambiguity. If you’re the breadcrumbee, you may well notice that the culprit is extremely vague when it comes to answering questions. Making plans only for them to be reneged on soon after is another telltale sign - getting on swimmingly in the ether of endless instant messages is no substitute for a real, face-to-face rendezvous.
Cushioning the blow
One of the most current modern dating words to materialise, and one that’s expected to mimic ghosting’s popularity, is cushioning. Though there’s something undeniably comfy sounding about its name, there’s nothing nice about being cushioned. In fact, depending on your moral compass, it’s maybe more dubious than breadcrumbing.
In essence, cushioning is all about offsetting the loss experienced when a budding relationship fizzles out (or an established one breaks up for that matter). A cushioner will have a number of potential partners ‘on ice’, ready to swoop in should catastrophic failure occur in their main relationship; it’s effectively synonymous with not putting all your eggs into one basket and spreading your bets.