Ghosting. Breadcrumbing. And Now Window Shopping?

04/14/2017 12:34 pm ET
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“They send you a message, and then when they see that you were online to receive it but didn't respond, they keep sending more messages. With no intent of ever meeting up.” says Mary, 41, PA.

“You’re not even worth the effort of breaking-up with.” adds David, 39, IL.

More and more our digital dating world keeps coming up with new terms for bad behavior. Thought it was just happening to millennials? Think again. It is creating the paradox effect in dating: the illusion of having more social engagement, social capital, and popularity; but masking one’s true persona and intent.

Since some are interfacing digitally more than physically it is much easier to emotionally manipulate others because they are reliant on what I call “Vanity Validation". Their digital persona is constantly seeking more validation through electronic likes/swipes, not life experiences. “It happens more easily and frequently online than IRL, because it’s so easy to just leave an arena, never come back, and find someone new with just a swipe.” explains Brad , 43, UK.

Susan Winter, bestselling author and relationship expert explains “Window shopping is the term I use for the individual who gains your attention by flirting and chatting you up online or IRL, yet has no intention of involvement. On your end, you think they’re interested. On their end, they’re wasting your time for their amusement.”

“For them, part of the allure is to see if they can actually engage you. Do they have the skills required to capture your interest and attraction? If so, it’s fodder for their ego. Another tempting motivator is boredom (especially when meeting online). It’s a game to distract themselves from their own lives and win an ego boost in the process.” explains Winter.

They are living a double consciousness: the one they portray on their profiles and their true self are diametrically opposed. What’s in it for you? “A window shopper’s effect upon you, as the naïve ‘product,’ is to believe you’re valued. You think, ‘Why would they bother paying attention to me if they weren't interested or attracted?’ Your logic is rational. A window shopper’s is not.” says Winter.

How does this level of deception impact our relationships and dating? Should your ego, sense of self, or self-respect take a hit? , “You feel guilty, anxious, worthless and confused. You want answers but you’ll never get any. You want to talk but you can’t. You doubt yourself.” explains David.

“Someone trying to keep you online for some reason. I don't even care to know the reason.” says Tracy from Switzerland. Is their online dating game weak? “It’s a “pretend” form of courting to lead you to think there might be something going on, only to fade away on a whim.” explains Winter.

“I originally used ‘window shopping’ as a term for men who asked my age. They were younger. I saw that those who needed to know my age weren’t in the buyers market. They were simply window shoppers. They reminded me of those annoying people who molest the sales clerk’s time by having them take everything out from behind the counter, question the value, ask the price… only to leave muttering they’re not sure and they’ll have to think about it. So the sales clerk has to put everything back on the shelf and start all over again.” explains Winter.

Are we creating a false reality? What is it doing to our sense of self? “They were never intending to buy. They were looking.” says Winter. You're a backup plan, but they text or reach out often enough to confuse you just in case their plan doesn't work out. Are we becoming more narcissistic? Are we becoming more insecure? Has this behavior become normative? Is technology driving dating, sex and emotion?

“This is the way it happens online. I meet a guy I like and he starts texting. We go back and forth. Everything is really good. Then, poof! They’re gone.” says Jennifer, 50, CA. “Sadly, it hurt because it provided me with no closure.” explains Cindy, 44, NY.

“If they ask my age, I know they’re window shopping. A guy who likes what he sees and is interested doesn’t question age parameters.” explains Winter. Nor will they string you along, date and dismiss you abruptly, or never meet IRL.

How can you tell genuine interest from a window shopper’s game? Initially you can't. “Dating and relationships require walking into the experience rather than judging from afar. One telltale sign is that there’s no forward movement beyond the initial flurry of online texting or casual banter. When they’re done, it’s game over.” explains Winter.

Is window shopping yet another assault to your self esteem? It can be when you don't recognize the pattern. There is another way to think about it, though. “When you meet a window shopper, understand the perspective. It’s not an insult. Actually, it’s a compliment. You’re a luxury item; tantalizing and greatly desired but way outside their budget. “ says Winter.

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