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Terms of social engagement


The digital realm has turned dating on its head. From sending nude images to the ability to find sex in another country before you arrive, the online space is redefining how we find each other — and how we leave each other.

Long gone are the days when you got dumped by letter or even by SMS. Now, when someone leaves you, they can do it in a whole host of techy ways. Ways that can cause social chaos. You need to understand the lexicon to know what’s happening to you, so here are some useful terms. Putting a name to them allows you to see that this is a real thing and that you are not imagining it.


This is the act of being a magician and simply disappearing. And it is nothing new, but it is seemingly easier to implement when it is on WhatsApp, Signal and Twitter DMs. One minute there is rampant communication, the next nothing. Radio silence. With so many platforms allowing you to see when a message is received and read, you can no longer convince yourself that the message was lost in the mail. You know it got there.


Now this is high-key creepy because this person is the one who is no longer in your sexual sphere but is silently hovering on the outskirts of your social media.

They do this for a number of reasons. Sometimes they want to start having sex again, or start up a romance again or maybe they are just wanting to sit in the sadness.

So how do you know they are there? Most apps, such as Instagram, can let you see who has viewed your content. Now you know who is peeping into your life. If it makes you uncomfortable, simply block or unfollow.


This one is especially cruel because it mixes ghosting and haunting.

It too consists of likes, views, double taps and so forth. They are out of your life but they are there, checking up on your social media. You know they exist and are online but just not online with … you. As Anne Iovine, the person who coined the term, says: “Close enough to see each other; far enough to never talk.”


They’re dropping you little digital breadcrumbs to lead you back to them — but not all the way.

Social media allows us to live our best lives and show those who have done us wrong that we have moved on. Previously we would have had to rely on a friend of a friend of a friend to relay the information that we are doing better; now we can do it with a simple hashtag such as #BestLife, #LivingLifeLikeItsGolden, or #NewLifeWhoDis.

The desired effect is that those who have been ‘Hansel and Greteled’ come out of the woodwork. They see that you are living your life and they are on your radar and start contacting you.

One relationship expert describes it as “someone that throws you dating breadcrumbs; texts, the occasional call or likes on Facebook posts”, just so you know they are there. It’s someone who is not ready to commit, but not ready to let you go, so they use the digital space to keep you on the warmer.

Slow fading

A slow burn in terms of taking a step back. They are always just out of reach. Always a little too busy for lunch, hanging out, sex, a prolonged convo. They are just on the edge of being reachable but not quite. They always have something else to do — maybe work, maybe an event, maybe they are washing their hair. They have so much to do. Technology allows them to constantly get in touch, but when it comes to meeting or doing something … nah.

Deep like

You know when you are scrolling through someone’s Instagram feed and double tap a photo from 2016? This, on the feed of someone who posts every day? That is a deep like.

You show someone that you are invested in their social media presence, by using your data to scroll back into their archives.

When someone does this to you, it makes you think twice about how invested they are in you. It is the social media equivalent of reading someone’s old diary entries.

Sometimes you do this by mistake. But when it is intentional it can be a great mating call that says: “I see all of you. Even that trash post from three years ago.”

Kagure Mugo is co-founder and curator of HOLAAfrica!

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Kagure Mugo
Kagure Mugo

Kagure Mugo is the intoxicatingly scary gatekeeper of HOLAAfrica, an online pan-African queer womanist community dealing with sexuality and all things woman. She is also a writer and freelance journalist who tackles sex, politics and other less interesting topics. During weekends she is a wine bar philosopher and polymath for no pay.

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