What does Orbiting mean?

Keeping tabs on someone’s social media profiles without interacting with them

Imagine someone keeping an eye on you through social media, but never directly interacting with you. This action is called ‘Orbiting’. Just like a satellite orbits a planet, the person circles around your digital life, watching from a distance. The term was first used by culture writer Jane Smith in a 2018 article for Fashionforward.

Orbiting is a modern spin on the term ‘Haunting’, which evolved from the popular slang ‘Ghosting’. These terms have gained traction mainly due to the rise of social media in the 2010s. Before this era, to keep tabs on someone’s life without them knowing would’ve been considered stalking, which is both creepy and against the law.

Here’s how orbiting works before a relationship: someone starts following you on social media, throws likes on your posts, and watches your Instagram stories. All of this happens without direct interaction, but it’s hard not to notice the person’s interest in your life. If you feel the same way, you can either follow them back, like their posts, or even initiate a conversation through a direct message (DM), email, or text. If not, you could simply ignore or block them.

Post-relationship orbiting is pretty similar. An ex might continue to follow you, like your posts, and watch your Instagram stories even after the relationship ends, usually after they’ve ghosted you. Seeing this interest can be confusing, as they seem to still want to be involved in your life, but from a distance. If this behavior bothers you, you can choose to ignore or block them, or you can confront them about it.

So, that’s orbiting. It’s a peculiar behavior made possible by the digital age we’re living in, where people often share their lives openly on social media.

Example for using ‘Orbiting’ in a conversation

Hey! Did you see that James is still liking all of my Instagram posts?

Yeah, he’s definitely orbiting you. It’s kind of weird.

Right? Like, we broke up months ago. Why is he still watching my stories?

Maybe he’s not ready to let go completely. Some people just like to keep tabs from afar.