Louise Stanger is a speaker, educator, licensed clinician, social worker, certified daring way facilitator and interventionist who uses an invitational intervention approach to work with complicated mental health, substance abuse, chronic pain and process addiction clients.
Stop for a moment, put your cell phone down and imagine this hypothetical situation. You are out on a date, you’re anxious and eager, you have had that first glass of wine. Are you or your partner guilty of phone “phubbing” or snubbing? Digressing, the etymology of the word phubbing comes from combining the word “phone” with snubbing. It is what your date does when the Georgia/Alabama game is on and you are trying to make conversation. Or it may be the intermittent reinforcement of the rings of triple diamonds on a Vegas slot machine beckoning you not to talk to the person across from you. It whispers “just play more... check that Instagram feed…”
Do you not look up when someone is talking to you? Do you put your phone in clear site at all times? Do you have the ringer turned up so your phone dings loudly every time an email, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn message ushers in? In other words, how available are you? Do you easily end up feeling unheard or uncared for and in a relationship condrumum? The average American spends 6.6 hours a day on social media and Millennials most likely spend more than that per day.
Previously, I wrote about the relational effects of phubbing and the landmark study at Baylor University on the topic, which included a quiz that helps you determine if you are a smart phone junkie. Today, I will add to this conversation - for as quick as new apps are developed - so too are new terms. Here is a look at the latest in the perils of dating and relationships in an increasingly digital world:
- Ghosting – Have you ever had someone disappear off of your social media site without a trace? MIA after you have gone out on a date and then they block or delete you without a trace. That leaves the receiver wondering what did I do wrong, and may lead inadvertently to shame feelings of unworthiness, guilt and depression and even the use of mind- altering substances to numb the sadness. This may be as common as a tweet or a text, but you don’t have to reciprocate the negative action. So if you went out on a date don’t be a narcissist, let the other person know that you enjoyed meeting them and that this is not going to work. You spend an average of 5 hours a day or more on social media, why not use some of that time to practice common courtesy?
- Benching – According to Urban Dictionary, benching is a variation of ghosting. “Benching is when you start dating someone who you think is nice, but you end up putting him or her on the sideline while you go about checking other people out. In doing so you bench them and leave them wondering what went wrong.” They’re like the second string player - they are waiting for their break that may never come and may fall prey to confabulating in their mind why it didn’t work out. Again, honesty up front is the best way to treat your fellow woman (or man).
- Haunting - According to Cosmo Magazine, this is when someone is lurks on your social media profiles after you’ve stopped seeing or talking to them. The strategy is using low-level social media interaction such as liking pictures or clicking on things to send a notification to their phone, which forces them to see your name. The issue is that there isn’t any authentic interaction - it’s hiding behind likes and clicks.
- Zombie-ing - A new version of haunting, according to Today, is when the person you’ve been seeing suddenly disappears (ghosting), and then reemerges weeks, months, even years later and resumes haunting you. You imagine all sorts of things when they’re gone - did they go on an African Safari? Did they go to rehab? And when they suddenly reappear, it’s as if they are back from the dead, a zombie who never really left.
- Breadcrumbing - Today also writes about breadcrumbing, which means that the person is not interested in someone but continues to lead them on. “This is the person who can’t live without you, and cannot commit to anyone, so to keep their options open” they drop little bread crumbs along the way to keep the person interested, on a never ending trail of empty promises and commitments. A similar situation happens to Saoirse Ronan’s character in the Golden Globe winning movie Lady Bird, in which a young woman loses her virginity to a fellow student only to be nonchalantly discarded and told she is not the first. The boy tells her “in fact, I can’t remember how many girls I have had sex with.” The boy dishonestly left bread crumbs, little signs that Lady Bird was his first, and so he led her on to get what he wanted.
- Spinning- With all the reach outs that one gets and all the miscommunication it’s easy to see how the person on the receiver side of all this intermittent reinforcement slot machine of digital media may invent or spin a story that makes excuses for the lack of contact the person really has with this person, writes Urban Dictionary. Like the addict and their family who lives in a sea of denial and confabulations, spinning allows one to become transfixed on a relatively insignificant thought or event attaching more meaning and emotion to it than need be. They may be imagining future relationships, meetups and events that just are not going to happen. And spinning adds to confusion, a weakened ego and the distortion of truth.
As an addiction expert, I encourage you to make your voice be heard. Remember that you are worthy and deserving of a healthy relationship - not a caller, a texter, a narcissist who takes you down the pathway of shame and sorrow. You are worthy of protecting yourself and promoting a healthy lifestyle. Dating and relationships are important, but shouldn’t be an emotional and psychological weight around your shoulders. Pause and give yourself the courtesy you deserve. Take stock and take a digital break from time to time to maintain a healthy relationship with technology.
Don’t take your smart phone with you all the time. Don’t take it to the movie theater or grocery store. Try turning it off twice a day and at meal times. Exercise more, text less and above all if you are feeling overwhelmed with ghosting, haunting, zombieing, spinning, benching or breadcrumbing at the hands of a narcissist, help is just a phone call away. Reach out to Dr. Louise, a licensed clinician and private, solution-focused recovery coach who is available to work with individuals and families.