Beyond Ghosting: Worst New Digital Dating Trends

As if dating behavior can’t get any worse, single daters out there are playing new digital dating games. (And so are daters pretending to be single!) We rounded up a few dating trends that most people, including us, didn’t even know were trends.

First there was “ghosting,” where you meet someone you get excited about, then they disappear. Then there was “haunting,” where someone breaks up with you but creeps your Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts, then likes your posts and semi-stalks you. Now it’s all about “cushioning,” “benching,” “breadcrumbing” and “stealthing.” The new dating tactics range from the innocent (cushioning) to the creepy (stealthing).


In the beginning stages of dating where you are non-exclusive, it actually makes sense to keep your dating options open. “Cushioning” is a dating technique that may prevent you from getting hurt. But of course when someone does it to you, they seem like a douchebag. Online cushioning, which may explain the ghosting phenomenon, occurs when someone you have been flirting and talking with on a dating site such as OKCupid (which needs to be renamed OKStupid) chickens out right before meeting you in person. Or they just disappear after texting, emailing or talking on the phone.

People cushion for various reasons. First, they could be at work and are just bored. (No wonder nobody gets any work done at work.) Second, they have no intention of ever meeting you to form a potential relationship with you because they are already “in a relationship.” Third (and I am guilty of this), you have texted, emailed and finally talked with someone, but they have raised some red flags during the convo—like the guy who told me he hates his mother. “Never date anyone who hates his mother.” Says my mother.

According to, the “top definition” for cushioning is “a dating technique where along with your main piece you also have several ‘cushions,’ other people you’ll chat and flirt with to cushion the potential blow of your main break-up and not leave you alone.” According to the Urban, it goes like this: “Yeah, I don’t think it’s going that well with Dave. Luckily I’ve been cushioning him with Pablo and Gary.”


“Benching” is a cousin to cushioning. According to, “Benching” is “when you start dating someone you think is nice and has potential, but you’re not crazy about them. You don’t know whether to keep dating them, or dump them and move on to the next one. This is where benching happens; instead of going for either of the above polarized options, you put your date in your mental ‘maybe folder’ and ‘bench them’ so you date around to see what else is out there.”

Sarah: “How’s your dating life going, Jill? Weren’t you seeing that guy Jack?”

Jill: “Yeah I am, sort of. He’s just OK, so I’ve been benching him and dating around more.”

John:” Hey, Jack, how are things going with that girl Jill you’re dating?”

Jack: “IDK man, I know she’s seeing other guys, and I think I’ve been benched.”

No great relationship ever came from being “benched.” A waste of your precious dating time. When the spark is there, you can’t wait to see the person again. And you’ll know it’s working when all you both want to do is sit on a bench together. Or do oral on a bench. If you think you’re being benched, get off the bench.


A newer dating trend is “breadcrumbing.” This is where someone sends out flirty text messages that are fun but noncommittal (the “breadcrumbs”). The idea is to send them out to as many people as possible without putting in much effort. The lazy man’s dating technique, the idea is to give someone just enough attention to keep their hope up for a potential relationship alive. Girls who are 18 to 25 years old tell me it’s the “dating style of pussies who really don’t know how to talk to girls.”

It’s basically stringing someone along with a “digital tease” to see if they are interested in you or not, without dealing with the rejection if not. Also known as “Hansel and Gretelling,” where the fairy tale characters used a trail of breadcrumbs in the forest with the hope that someone would find and rescue them, the modern-day dating breadcrumber texts but never sets up a time to get together.

“Why don’t men just properly ask me out or try to court me?” my 23-year-old cousin recently asked me.

“Because,” I told her, “the breadcrumber doesn’t have time to date all the people on Tinder he is breadcrumbing.”

Breadcrumbing is sending you an occasional Twitter DM, an Instagram like or an email, just to keep you interested in them. Breadcrumbing can also happen after someone broke up with you, but still wants to stay in touch with you and tell you how fabulous you are, after it‘s too late. Or breadcrumbing can occur when someone sends you quickie flirtations—breadcrumbs—but has no real intentions of ever dating you. It is also used in online dating when you are put “on the rotation” while the other person swipes and breadcrumbs a bunch of other people on dating sites and then gets back to you.

There has to be a better way. But to someone who reads The New York Times wedding announcement section, it seems that almost half of the people met on Tinder, JDate, Match, OKCupid, Bumble, JSwipe, Coffee Meets Bagel, etc., so online dating is obviously working its magic. The downside is that Tinder and other dating apps make everyone disposable. Too many perceived choices = breadcrumbing.

So what is the solution to this? If you can’t take the junior high dating behavior, get off the dating apps, get out more, and meet people in the flesh. You might have better luck going out and meeting people in person—and getting your loaf stroked, or your bagel licked.


The creepiest new dating trend is called “stealthing.” The practice came into the spotlight recently after Yale law student Alexandra Brodsky wrote a paper called “Responses to Nonconsensual Condom Removal” for the Columbia Journal of Gender and Law. Stealthing is when a guy pulls off a condom in the middle of having sex—with someone who thinks they are having sex with someone wearing a condom. Three days after the article was published, the word “stealthing” was added to Wikipedia, which now redirects to those wanting to define the rapey practice of “non-consensual condom removal.”

“Nonconsensual condom removal during sexual intercourse exposes victims to physical risks and is a grave violation of dignity and autonomy,” Miss Brodsky wrote. This article considers possible criminal tort, contract and civil rights remedies currently available to victims.

Ultimately, a new tort for “stealthing” is necessary to provide a more viable cause of action. The future UrbanDictionary definition will read, “Dude, your stealthing is so creepy they had to create a new law.”

Anka Radakovich is a legendary sex columnist who wrote a groundbreaking column for Details magazine. Currently she writes for British GQ and She is the author of three books, including her newest, The Wild Girls Club, Part 2. She has appeared multiple times on TV talk shows, including eight appearances with Conan O’Brien. She is also a certified sexologist. We are thrilled to have her as a contributor. Follow Anka Radakovich on Twitter: @ankarad.