ArticlePDF Available

Abstract and Figures

The present study is part of a large study analyzing the prevalence of ghosting and breadcrumbing in sample of Spanish adults aged between 18 and 40 years. The study was split into different papers to better organize and understand the data obtained. The present paper investigated the prevalence of ghosting and breadcrumbing and associations between ghosting and breadcrumbing behavior and online dating practices. The results showed that half the participants were unfamiliar with the terms ghosting and breadcrumbing. However, approximately two in every 10 participants reported having experienced and initiated ghosting, and slightly more than three in every 10 participants had experienced or initiated breadcrumbing in the last 12 months. Regression analyses showed that the use of online dating sites/apps, more short-term relationships, and practicing online surveillance increase the likelihood of experiencing, as well as initiating, ghosting and breadcrumbing.
Content may be subject to copyright.
Escritos de Psicología
Psychological Writings
The present study is part of a large study analyzing the
prevalence of ghosting and breadcrumbing in sample of
Spanish adults aged between 18 and 40 years. The study
was split into different papers to better organize and unders-
tand the data obtained. The present paper investigated the
prevalence of ghosting and breadcrumbing and associations
between ghosting and breadcrumbing behavior and online
dating practices. The results showed that half the participants
were unfamiliar with the terms ghosting and breadcrumbing.
However, approximately two in every 10 participants repor-
ted having experienced and initiated ghosting, and slightly
more than three in every 10 participants had experienced or
initiated breadcrumbing in the last 12 months. Regression
analyses showed that the use of online dating sites/apps,
more short-term relationships, and practicing online survei-
llance increase the likelihood of experiencing, as well as
initiating, ghosting and breadcrumbing.
Keywords: ghosting, breadcrumbing, young adults, online
dating, mobile apps
Corresponding author: Raúl Navarro. Universidad de Castilla-La Mancha. Departamento de Psicología. C/ Almansa, 14. 02006
Vol. 13, nº 2, pp. 46-59
Julio-Diciembre 2020
ISSN 1989-3809
Ghosting and breadcrumbing: prevalence and association with
online dating behavior among young adults
Ghosting y breadcrumbing: prevalencia y relaciones con los
comportamientos vinculadas a las citas online entre jóvenes
Raúl Navarro, Elisa Larrañaga, Santiago Yubero, Beatriz Villora
Universidad de Castilla-La Mancha, España
Escritos de Psicología
Psychological Writings
El presente estudio es parte de un gran estudio que ana-
liza la prevalencia del ghosting y el breadcrumbing en una
muestra de adultos españoles con edades entre 18 y 40
años. El estudio se ha dividido en diferentes manuscritos
para permitir una mejor organización y comprensión de los
datos obtenidos. En el presente manuscrito, se examina la
prevalencia del ghosting y el breadcrumbing y se exploran
las relaciones de estas conductas con la búsqueda de citas
a través de apps o sitios web. Los resultados mostraron que
la mitad de los participantes no estaban familiarizados con
los términos ghosting y breadcrumbing, aunque aproxima-
damente dos de cada 10 participantes informaron haber
sufrido e iniciado ghosting, y algo más de tres de cada 10
participantes habían sufrido o iniciado breadcrumbing en los
últimos 12 meses. Los análisis de regresión revelaron que
el uso de sitios/aplicaciones de citas, un mayor número de
relaciones a corto plazo y el hecho de vigilar la conducta
online de la pareja aumentan la probabilidad de sufrir, pero
también de ejercer, ghosting y breadcrumbing.
Palabras clave: ghosting, breadcrumbing, adultos jóvenes,
citas online, aplicaciones móviles.
Please cite this article as: Navarro, R., Larrañaga, E., Yubero, S. & Villora, B. (2020). Ghosting and breadcrumbing: prevalence
and relations with online dating behaviors among young adults. Escritos de Psicología, 13, 46-59.
Escritos de Psicología, 13, 46-5946
© 2020 Escritos de Psicología
Mobile applications (apps) have developed and become the most widespread method to nd dates and
meet romantic partners (Hobbs, Owen & Gerber, 2017). Ten years ago, heterosexual and gay people
met dating partners in bars and clubs or through friends, workmates and family. However, since 2009,
the use of more traditional methods of meeting dating partners has drastically declined, whereas mee-
ting partners online has continued to grow (Prestage et al., 2015; Rosenfeld, Thomas & Hausen, 2019).
In Spain, four in every ten Internet users employed dating platforms in 2018, seven in every ten users
accessed them through mobile apps, and 62% of users were men versus only 38% of women. In age
terms, those visiting these pages were 41 years on average, which is slightly younger than that of the
average Internet user (43.6 years). Gay dating users were those who spent more time on these services
on average. On the days they accessed, they spent about 30 minutes on average, which is 3-fold longer
than heterosexual users, who invested only 10 minutes (Growth from knowledge, 2019).
During their lifetimes, both men and women have embraced online dating platforms to search
for a new companion, a hookup, or even a long-term relationship (Abramova, Baumann, Krasnova &
Buxmann, 2016; Menking, Robles, Wiley, Gonzaga, 2015). New media technologies offer access to
more potential dates, permit encounters with people who we would not normally meet in our day-to-day
lives, allow the use of computer-mediated communication to learn a wide range of facts about partners
before meeting them in person, increase the ease with which affection or sexual preferences can be
expressed, and offer diverse tools for negotiating stages of their love/sex relationships (Finkel, Eastwick,
Karney, Reis & Sprecher, 2012; Meenagh, 2015). However, new media technologies also have downsi-
des, such as the gradual feeling of discontent and pessimism about nding a mate (Pronk & Denissen,
2019), gamication of relationships, lack of romance and empathy on dating apps, and a growing use of
behaviors like “ghosting”, “slow fading”, “benching”, “breadcrumbing” or “haunting” (Cook, 2020). These
behaviors illustrate how people are using technologies to irt, initiate, maintain or end relationships. An
analysis of all these practices seems crucial for us to be able to understand and learn the way that dating
is done in the present-day (Stoicescu, 2019). However, very few published studies have examined these
phenomena. Therefore, the primary aim of the present study was to examine the prevalence of two of
these digital tactics (ghosting and breadcrumbing) among young adults and its relation with using online
dating and online dating practices.
Ghosting and Breadcrumbing
Ghosting is conceptualized as a strategy to end a dating or romantic relationship that emerges in the
digital age as a method to avoid direct confrontation and to discuss the relationship status with the
partner (LeFebvre, 2017). Specically, ghosting refers to “instances where the disengager (the partner
who initiates a breakup) unilaterally dissolves a romantic relationship by avoiding online and ofine
contact with the recipient (the partner who is broken up with)” (Koessler, Kohut & Campbell, 2019, p.1).
Ghosting occurs through one technological means or many; e.g., not responding to phone calls or text
messages, no longer following partners or blocking partners on social networks platforms. Ghosting
differs from other relationship dissolution strategies insofar as an explicit explanation or announcement
of termination to the breakup receiver is lacking (Koessler, Kohut & Campbell, 2019). In other words,
ghosting takes place without the ghosted mate immediately knowing what has happened, and being left
to manage and understand what the partner’s lack of communication means (Freedman, Powell, Le &
Williams, 2019) without being able to obtain closure (LeFebvre et al., 2019).
The term ghosting was originally posted in the 2006 Urban dictionary, has gained increasing
attention in recent times, and was chosen as one of the top words in 2015 by the Collins English Dic-
tionary (The Telegraph, 2015). Then in 2016, a new relationships trend in the dating scene emerged:
“breadcrumbing” (The New York Times, 2016). The term “breadcrumbing” originates from the noun
“breadcrumbs”, which means “very small pieces of dried bread, especially used in cooking” (Cambridge
Dictionary, 2019). Breadcrumbing, also known as Hansel and Grettelling, has been dened by Urban
Dictionary as “the act of sending out irtatious, but non-committal text messages (.i.e “breadcrumbs”), in
order to lure a sexual partner without expending much effort” or “when the “crush” has no intentions of
taking things further, but they like the attention. So they irt here or there, send DMs/texts just to keep
the person interested, knowing damn well they’re staying single” (Urban dictionary, 2019). Breadcrum-
bers do not denitely stop calling, but sporadically send DM or text messages, give an occasional wink
or a like in a social network, such as Instagram, and just frequently enough so that the receiver does not
lose interest, but not too much so that relationships do not progress. Breadcrumbing is not such a clear
dissolution strategy as ghosting is because, although breadcrumbing can happen when there has been
a break up, but the initiator does not want to let the partner go, it is also a way to keep a date on “hold”
Escritos de Psicología, 13, 46-5947
© 2020 Escritos de Psicología Escritos de Psicología, 13, 46-5948
and is a type of social dynamics where breadcrumbers are not really attracted to the other person, but
are interested in staying relevant/attractive to others (The New York Times, 2016). In any case bread-
crumbing, like ghosting, is a strategy used by people to negotiate their romantic/sexual relationships.
Research gaps: Lack of Empirical Studies on Ghosting, Breadcrumbing and Online Dating Use.
Although irting, ignoring someone or dissolving a relationship are no recent phenomena, the prolife-
ration of dating apps, such as Tinder, Grindr, eHarmony or Bumble, inuences traditional processes of
relationship dissolution or maintenance (Koessler et al., 2019). There is still very little empirical evidence
for new irting, ignoring, rejection or breakup strategies. However, more studies about adult ghosting
experiences have appeared in recent years, at least in the United States. As for the prevalence of ghos-
ting, the survey conducted with US adults by YouGov and the Hufngton Post found that around 13% of
the 1000 participants were ghosted by a partner and 11% informed ghosting a partner (Moore, 2014). In
a series of studies, Freedman et al. (2019) found in a rst sample of 554 US adults that 25.3% reported
they had been ghosted and 21.3% had ghosted a dating partner. In a second sample of 747 partici-
pants, 23% informed that they had been ghosted and 18.9% reported having ghosted a dating partner.
Likewise, with a sample of 99 US university students, LeFebvre et al (2019) observed how 29.3% were
ghosters (initiators) and 25.3% were ghostees (non-initiators). More recently, Koessler et al. (2019)
conducted a study with 333 US adults to nd that 72% of the participants informed that they had been
ghosted by a partner, whereas 64.5% of participants reported ghosting a partner.
Even though research on ghosting prevalence is increasing, breadcrumbing prevalence has not
yet been empirically examined. Considering the available data on how often ghosting occurs, we can
assume that at a time where many relationships begin by means of mobile apps, breadcrumbing is a
phenomenon that more and more people will face. So empirical examinations are necessary to unders-
tand these digital behaviors, their incidence and the variables related to them. Therefore, it is necessary
to estimate breadcrumbing prevalence among young adults and to compare it to ghosting prevalence.
Given that ghosting and breadcrumbing can negatively impact those who experience or enact
them (Authors, 2019; Koessler et al., 2019), research is necessary the factors that increase or lower the
likelihood of adults becoming initiators or recipients of these types of online behaviors. Of the empirical
studies on ghosting, some have served to conceptualize the phenomenon and explain it as a strategy
to escape unwanted relationships without ever having to breakup (LeFebvre et al., 2019). Other stu-
dies have begun to analyze when ghosting is used and the type of tactics that it includes. For example,
Freedman et al. (2019) examined how implicit theories of relationships were associated with ghosting.
They found that participants with stronger destiny beliefs (i.e. steady and invariable relationships), com-
pared to those with weaker destiny beliefs, reported more acceptability of ghosting behaviors, informed
more ghosting intentions, and had previously used ghosting. On the contrary, the participants with stron-
ger growth beliefs (i.e. relationships are changing and can develop over time), compared to those with
weaker growth beliefs, reported less acceptability of ghosting behaviors and fewer intentions of using
ghosting. Koessler et al. (2019) analyzed differences in communication breakup tactics according to the
adopted breakup strategy (ghosting or direct conversation). They found that ghosting breakups were
characterized by a more widespread use of avoidance/withdrawal and distant/mediated communica-
tion tactics, and by fewer open confrontation and positive tone tactics. Manning, Denker and Johnson
[Manning, Denker & Johnson, 2019] conducted a qualitative study with U.S adults to understand how
people describe uncertainties and concerns related to ghosting and what motives or rationales are used
to justify ghosting. Participants described ghosting as wrong, immature, and sometimes hurtful when
someone have done it to them. However, when they have initiated ghosting they often justify it as a way
of protecting themselves after being disrespected, experiencing aggressiveness or even harassment.
To date however, no study has explicitly analyzed the use of online dating and online dating
practices among young adults who have been initiators or recipients of ghosting and breadcrumbing.
Understanding the characteristics and behaviors of adults’ use and misuse of online dating sites/apps,
and how such characteristics and behaviors differ across initiators or recipients of ghosting and brea-
dcrumbing, are important for comprehending how and when people adopt digital strategies to cut or
maintain relationships. Although no research has examined the use of online dating sites and online
dating practices, we turn our attention to research that examines the associations between Internet use
and different forms of victimization and perpetration. Previous studies that have investigated Internet
use report a signicant association between more Internet use (i.e. more time spent online and using
diverse online activities more) and an increased probability of encountering risky situations online, such
as peer aggression (Martínez-Ferrer, Moreno & Musitu, 2018), cyberbullying (Gini, Marino, Xie, Pfetsch
& Pozzoli, 2019), doxing (Chen, Cheung & Chan, 2019), cyber dating abuse (Víllora, Navarro, Yubero,
© 2020 Escritos de Psicología Escritos de Psicología, 13, 46-5949
2019) or grooming (Gómez, Rial, Braña, Golpe & Varela, 2017). It is, therefore, reasonable to suggest
that the use of online dating sites/apps, and the time spent on them, may increase the likelihood of being
exposed or enacting ghosting and breadcrumbing.
The number and type of relationships initiated through online dating sites may also play an impor-
tant role in ghosting and breadcrumbing. For example, Koessler et al (2019) found that the relationships
terminated through ghosting were shorter and characterized by less commitment than those terminated
by direct conversation. It is, therefore, feasible that ghosting and breadcrumbing behaviors, and being
ghosted or breadcrumbed, will be more likely among those adults who start more short-term/casual
Online dating includes several decisions and behaviors that should be taken into account when
analyzing digital dissolution or maintenance strategies. The speed chosen to meet an online dating
partner face-to-face (shifting ofine) is one of the decisions that online daters must make (Blackhart,
Fitzpatrik, Williamson, 2014). While online daters differ in terms of their relationships goals, the shift from
computer-mediated communication to face-to-face meetings is the riskiest step in the process because
when online partners meet for the rst time, they might feel disappointed because the online alter ego
may be not identical to the people who created it (Lawson & Leck, 2006). The researchresults about
modality shifting indicate that online daters may benet from meeting their partner in person after a brief
online communication period, whereas continuing online interaction for longer time periods may have
negative outcomes, such as worse perceptions of intimacy and composure (Ramirez, Sumner, Fleuriet
& Cole, 2014).
Although no research has examined how the length of time before meeting an online dating part-
ner in person may be related to ghosting and breadcrumbing behaviors, we believe that the people who
communicate online for longer periods of time before face-to-face meetings may initiate or be recipients
of ghosting and breadcrumbing to a greater extent than those communicating online for shorter periods
of time. Those who switch early are able to cut the relationship during the rst or subsequent encounters
via direct conversation, whereas those who spend more time interacting online may create more ties
between online daters, which might make breaking up the relationship difcult, and they might opt for
ghosting or breadcrumbing strategies when expectations about one’s online partner are not met.
Among online dating behaviors, online surveillance through social networking serves to gain awa-
reness of a date’s ofine and/or online behaviors, and may occur during the escalation, maintenance or
breaking up of relationships (Tokunaga, 2011). Online surveillance is a tool that can inform about fee-
lings for, or decisions about, a relationship (Fox, Orbon & Warber, 2014). Indeed research has found that
online surveillance offers people a way to reduce or manage uncertainty by collecting information about
romantic partners (Tong, 2013). However, people who get involved in online surveillance are more incli-
ned to question their relationship and experience a better chance of ending relationships compared to
people who less often engage in surveillance (Brody, LeFebvre & Blackburn, 2016). Online surveillance
is also a source of tension and conict between partners, which can lead the relationship to end (Fox &
Warber, 2014). As a result, we predict that engaging in online surveillance may increase the likelihood
of also engaging in ghosting and breadcrumbing as initiators and receivers.
The Present Study.
This study is part of a larger project analyzing ghosting and breadcrumbing experiences. In this paper,
the aim was to analyze ghosting and breadcrumbing prevalence in initiator and recipient roles, and to
examine differences in the frequency of this type of digital behaviors according to several socio-demo-
graphic variables: gender, sexual orientation, level of education, relationship status. We also conducted
an analysis of the relationships of ghosting and breadcrumbing behaviors with: use of online dating
sites/apps; time spent on online dating sites/apps; number and type of relationships initiated through
online dating sites/apps; length of time before meeting an online dating partner in person; online survei-
llance. Our main research objectives were as follows:
Objective 1: to examine the prevalence and frequency of ghosting and breadcrumbing in both the initia-
tor and recipient roles.
Objective 2: to examine whether an association exists between ghosting and breadcrumbing and the
use of online dating sites/apps. We hypothesized that ghosting and breadcrumbing would be more likely
to be experienced and initiated among those young adults who use online dating sites/apps (H1).
Objective 3: to examine whether ghosting and breadcrumbing is related to the time spent using online
dating sites/apps. We hypothesized that ghosting and breadcrumbing would be more likely to be expe-
rienced and initiated among those young adults who spent more time employing online dating sites/
apps (H2).
© 2020 Escritos de Psicología Escritos de Psicología, 13, 46-5950
Objective 4: to analyze whether ghosting and breadcrumbing are associated with the number and type
of relationships initiated online. We hypothesized that more short-term relationships would increase the
likelihood of experiencing or initiating ghosting and breadcrumbing, whereas long-term relationships
would lower the likelihood of ghosting and breadcrumbing (H3).
Objective 5: to examine whether ghosting and breadcrumbing are related to the length of time left before
meeting an online dating partner in person. We hypothesized that ghosting and breadcrumbing would
be more likely to occur among those adults who interact online for longer periods of time before meeting
someone in person (H4).
Objective 6: to analyze whether ghosting and breadcrumbing are associated with online surveillance.
We hypothesized that ghosting would be more likely to be experienced and initiated by those adults who
engage in online surveillance of their partner (H5).
Study Design and Participants
Convenience and snowball sampling was used to recruit the participants of the present study. The URL
to an anonymous online survey was rst sent among doctoral students of a medium-sized university in
central Spain. Students were asked to send the link to the survey to family members and acquaintances
who they knew had a mobile phone and Internet access and had one or more short-term or long-term
relationships regardless of their current sentimental status. The nal sample included 626 participants
(male = 29.64 years; SD = 8.84). An equivalent number of male (n=303) and female (n=323) adults
completed the survey, of whom 79.4% had a higher level of education. In addition, 82.9% of the sample
indicated being heterosexual and 17.1 being lesbian, gay or bisexual (LGB). On average, the partici-
pants had experienced two relationships (M = 2.23, SD = 0.74) in their dating history, which ranged from
one to six relationships, and 390 (62.3%) indicated being in relationships at the time they answered the
online survey.
After obtaining their informed consent, we asked the adults who clicked the link to an online survey to
ll out a self-administered questionnaire. We informed the participants that they could assess the ques-
tionnaire once, and we ensured the respondents’ anonymity. The Clinical Research Ethics Committee of
Virgen de La Luz Hospital in Cuenca approved the study protocol (PI0519).
Demographics. The participants reported their age, gender, sexual orientation, level of education,
current relationship status and number of relationships in their dating history. Gender was a dichoto-
mous variables where 1= female and 2= male. Age was transformed in a dichotomous variables where
1= emerging adults (18-25 years old) and 2= young adults (26-40 years old). Sexual orientation was a
dichotomous variables where 1= heterosexual participants and 2: lesbian, gay and bisexual participants.
Level of educations had three levels: 1= Primary Education, 2= Secondary education, and 3= Higher
Education. Current sentimental situation was a dichotomous variable where 1= single and 2= have a
Ghosting experiences. Participants were rst asked if they were familiar with the term “ghosting”. After
informing about familiarity with the term, a denition was provided in order to avoid unfamiliarity and
previous to self-report this type of experiences. Following LeFebvre et al. (2019) “ghosting” was dened
as follows: unilaterally ceasing all communication (temporarily or permanently) with someone with whom
some kind of romantic relationship is maintained. It is a way to end the relationship (sudden or gradual)
in which all contact with that person is cut off or their attempts to communicate with the one who initiated
it are ignored. “Ghosting” commonly occurs through one technological mean or many, for example, not
responding to phone calls or WhatsApp messages, ceasing to follow or block it on social network sites).
After the denition, we asked the participants to indicate whether someone who they considered their
dating partner had ghosted them and if they had ghosted someone in the last year. Items scored on a
5-point scale: 0 (never); 1 (not in the last year, but before); 1 (once or twice); 3 (3 to 5 times); 4 (more
than 5 times).
Breadcrumbing experiences. Participants were rst asked if they were familiar with the term “brea-
dcrumbing”. After informing about familiarity with the term, a denition was provided in order to avoid
unfamiliarity and previous to self-report this type of experience. The denition used was: “breadcrum-
bing” literally refers to leaving bread crumbs so that someone can follow the trail. Breadcrumbers do not
stop talking on WhatsApp, send random DMs or text messages, or give an occasional like on a social
© 2020 Escritos de Psicología Escritos de Psicología, 13, 46-5951
network site to not ignore the other person at all, but the relationship does not progress. Breadcrumbing
can happen when there has been a break up, but the initiator does not want to let the partner go. It is
also a way to maintain a date on “hold” and is a type of social dynamics where breadcrumbers are not
really attracted to the other person, but are interested in staying relevant/attractive for others. After the
denition, we asked participants to indicate whether someone who they considered their dating partner
had breadcrumbed them and if they had breadcrumbed someone in the last year. Items scored on a
5-point scale: 0 (never); 1 (not in the last year, but before); 2 (once or twice); 3 (3 to 5 times); 4 (more
than 5 times).
Online dating use and practices related to online dating. We used some of the questions included
in the Online Dating Inventory developed by Blackhart, Fitzpatrick and Williamson (2014). Specically,
the participants answered questions about whether they have ever used online dating sites/apps (yes
or no), the time they spent per day using online dating sites/apps (1= less than 30 minutes per day, 5=
more than 3 hours per day), the number of short-term and long-term relationships developed through
online dating sites/apps (0 to more than 3), the length of time before meeting an online dating partner in
person (0-1 weeks to 2-3 months), and whether they had monitored partners and met online via social
networking sites (0=never, 7= several times). Variables with more than two categorical options were
transformed into dichotomous variables. Time spent using online dating sites/apps was dichotomized
into 1= 1 hour or less per day and 2= more than 1 hour per day. Short-term and long-term relationships
were dichotomized into 1= between 0 and 3 and 2= more than 3. Amount of time before meeting ofine
was dichotomized into 1= between 0 and 4 weeks and 2= more than 4 weeks. Online surveillance was
introduced as a continuous variable.
Statistical analysis
First, we analyzed the general descriptive about all the study variables. Second, we calculated the mean
frequency and the percentages of ghosting and breadcrumbing for both those who started them and the
recipients of these practices. Third, we analyzed any differences in frequency according to the herein
included socio-demographic variables. To do so, we used the Student’s t-test for the variables with only
two categories, and the Welch F test for the variables with more than two categories. We employed
Games-Howell post hoc test to nd any differences among groups. Finally, considering of measure
of ghosting and breadcrumbing as an ordinal approximation of a continuous variable, we ran a linear
regression analysis to check the relation linking ghosting and breadcrumbing, use of online dating sites/
apps and online dating practices. In all cases, Levene’s test for the equality of variances conrmed the
equality of variances which, in turn, conrmed the homoscedasticity assumption. We used the SPSS
24.0 statistical package for all the analyses.
Analysis of Ghosting and Breadcrumbing Prevalence among initiators and recipients.
Table 1 provides the participants’ characteristics and the descriptives of online dating use. We asked the
participants if they knew the terms ghosting and breadcrumbing. Of the 626 participants, 398 (63.6%)
stated that they were unfamiliar with the term ghosting, and 539 (86.1%) were unfamiliar with the term
breadcrumbing. Nonetheless after reading the denition of both these terms, 19.3% (121) stated having
suffered ghosting and 23.2% (145) indicated they had initiated ghosting at least once in the last year.
Of these participants, 2.9% (18) acknowledged that they had suffered ghosting more than 5 times in the
past year and 2.9% (18) had initiated it more than 5 times in the last 12 months. For breadcrumbing,
35.6% (223) pointed out having suffered it, while 36.7% (230) had initiated it, and both at least once in
the last year. Of these, 5.1% (32) had been a victim of breadcrumbing more than 5 times and 6.9% (43)
had initiated it more than 5 times in the past year.
© 2020 Escritos de Psicología Escritos de Psicología, 13, 46-5952
Table 1
Socio-demographic characteristics of the sample and online dating use descriptives (n=626)
Socio-demographic variables n % Mean SD
Age 28.81 7.21
Male 303 48.4
Female 323 51.3
Sexual orientation
Heterosexual 519 82.9
Lesbian, gay or bisexual 107 17.1
Level of education
Primary Education 19 3.0
Secondary Education 110 17.6
Higher Education 497 79.4
Current sentimental status
Single 236 37.7
Have a partner 390 62.3
Online dating
Use of online dating sites/apps
No 274 43.8
Yes 352 56.2
Time spent using online dating sites/apps
1 hour or less per day 565 90.3
More than 1 hour per day 61 9.7
Short-term relationships from online dating
Between 0 and 3 576 92.0
More than 3 50 8.0
Long-term relationships from online dating
Between 0 and 3 613 97.0
More than 3 13 2.1
Amount of time before meeting ofine (ATM)
Between 0 and 4 weeks 565 90.3
More than 4 weeks 61 9.7
Online surveillance 3.07 2.14
Table 2 offers the disaggregated prevalence data according to the response options and the
mean score for both ghosting and breadcrumbing, distributed into initiators and receivers. Breadcrum-
bing frequency was greater than that for ghosting for both the initiator and receiver roles.
Table 2
Prevalence and type of experience (N=626)
Ghosting and Breadcrumbing experiences Ghosting
Never 369 (58.9%) 383 (61.2%) 274 (43.8%) 276 (44.1%)
Not in the last year, but before 136 (21.7%) 98 (15.7 %) 129 (20.6%) 120 (9.2%)
Once or twice 76 (12.1%) 90 (14.4%) 120 (19.2%) 116 (18.5%)
3 to 5 times 27 (4.3%) 37 (5.9%) 71 (11.3%) 71 (11.3%)
More than 5 times 18 (2.9%) 18 (2.9%) 32 (5.1%) 43 (6.9%)
M (SD) 1.72 (1.07) 1.75 (1.13) 2.15 (1.28) 2.20 (1.35)
Differences in the Frequency of Ghosting and Breadcrumbing according to the socio-demographic
We analyzed the frequency of ghosting and breadcrumbing in both the initiator and receiver roles accor-
ding to the examined socio-demographic variables (see Tables 3 and 4). The ghosting results only
revealed signicant differences in two of the analyzed variables. The LGB participants informed having
experienced more ghosting frequency in the past year than the heterosexual participants. The single
participants indicated having suffered and initiated more ghosting in the last 12 months than the parti-
cipants who had a partner when they completed the questionnaire. We found no signicant differences
for gender, age or level of education.
© 2020 Escritos de Psicología Escritos de Psicología, 13, 46-5953
Table 3
Frequency differences in ghosting according to socio-demographic variables (N=626)
Ghosting receivers Ghosting initiators
Socio-demographic variables Frequency
M (SD) t/F Frequency
M (SD) t/F
18-25 years (Emerging adults) 1.81 (1.16) 1.68 1.79 (1.19) 0.73
26-40 years (Young adults) 1.66 (1.01) 1.72 (1.08)
Female 1.69 (1.03) -0.74 1.77 (1.15) 0.51
Male 1.75 (1.12) 1.72 (1.10)
Sexual orientation
Heterosexual 1.67 (1.02) -2.47*
d= -0.23
1.71 (1.09) -1.67
Lesbian, gay, bisexual 1.94 (1.28) 1.92 (1.30)
Level of education
Primary Education 1.79 (0.91)
1.89 (1.32)
0.52Secondary Education 1.79 (1.11) 1.83 (1.29)
Higher Education 1.70 (1.07) 1.73 (1.08)
Current sentimental situation
Single 1.92 (1.21) 3.70***
d= 0.30
1.66 (1.06) -3.37***
d= -0.29
Have a partner 1.59 (0.96) 2.01 (1.29)
Note: t (Student’s t-test), F (Welch F test), d (Cohen’s d) *p<.05; **p<.01; ***p<.001
The breadcrumbing results revealed signicant differences in three of the studied variables. Spe-
cically, the younger age group (emerging adults) had experienced and initiated breadcrumbing more
frequently in the last year than the older age group (young adults). The LGB participants had expe-
rienced and performed breadcrumbing more frequently in the past 12 months than the heterosexual
participants. Single people had more frequently suffered and performed breadcrumbing in the past 12
months than the people with a partner when they conducted the questionnaire. No signicant differen-
ces appeared for gender and level of education.
Table 4
Frequency differences in breadcrumbing according to socio-demographic variables (N=626)
Breadcrumbing receivers Breadcrumbing initiators
Socio-demographic variables Frequency
M (SD) t/F Frequency
M (SD) t/F
18-25 years (Emerging adults) 2.27 (1.32) 1.93*
d= 0.15
2.33 (1.34) 2.00*
d= 0.16
26-40 years (Young adults) 2.07 (1.24) 2.11 (1.35)
Female 2.10 (1.26) -0.92 2.15 (1.33) - 0.87
Male 2.19 (1.29) 2.24 (1.35)
Sexual orientation
Heterosexual 2.06 (1.22) -4.08***
d= -0.41
2.13 (1.31) -2.88**
d= -0.29
Lesbian, gay, bisexual 2.61 (1.44) 2.54 (1.47)
Level of education
Primary Education 1.79 (1.08)
1.89 (1.28)
0.52Secondary Education 2.10 (1.27) 2.24 (1.46)
Higher Education 2.18 (1.29) 2.21 (1.33)
Current sentimental situation
Single 2.50 (1.41) 5.33***
d= 0.43
2.54 (1.49) 4.93***
d= 0.39
Have a partner 1.94 (1.15) 2.00 (1.21)
Note: t (Student’s t-test), F (Welch F test), d (Cohen’s d), *p<.05; **p<.01; ***p<.001
Association among ghosting, breadcrumbing, and using online dating sties/apps and practices related
to online dating
To examine the associations among use of online dating sites/apps, practices related to online dating
and initiating/receiving ghosting/breadcrumbing, we performed linear regression analyses after intro-
ducing the socio-demographic variables as the control variables. The obtained results are provided in
Table 5, which indicate that use of online dating sites/apps, more short-term relationships and practicing
online surveillance implied being more likely to suffer, but also initiate, ghosting and breadcrumbing. We
found a positive relation between spending more time on using online dating sites/apps and suffering/
initiating ghosting, but not for breadcrumbing. For the control variables, the results revealed that being
© 2020 Escritos de Psicología Escritos de Psicología, 13, 46-5954
male increased the likelihood of initiating ghosting. Being in the 26-40 year-old age group (young adults)
increased the likelihood of suffering ghosting more frequently. Finally, being single increased the likeli-
hood of performing breadcrumbing with others.
Table 5
Multiple regression analyses to examine the associations among using online dating sites/apps,
practices related to online dating sites/apps and ghosting and breadcrumbing experiences.
Variables Ghosting receivers Ghosting initiators Breadcrumbing receivers Breadcrumbing initiators
Online dating
Use of online dating -0.14 0.09 -0.06* -0.23 0.10 -0.10* -0.28 0.11 -0.11** -0.32 0.12 -0.11**
Time spent 0.27 0.15 0.07* 0.41 0.16 0.11* 0.22 0.18 0.05 0.24 0.19 0.05
Short-term relationships 0.64 0.18 0.16*** 0.57 0.19 0.13*** 0.67 0.22 0.14*** 1.03 0.23 0.20***
Long-term relationships 0.27 0.29 0.03 0.24 0.31 0.03 -0.19 0.35 -0.02 -0.48 0.37 -0.05
ATM 0.01 0.14 0.04 0.02 0.15 0.07 -0.11 0.17 -0.02 -0.09 0.18 -0.02
Online surveillance 0.13 0.19 0.25*** 0.11 0.02 0.21*** 0.10 0.02 0.17*** 0.11 0.02 0.17***
Control variables
Age -0.12 0.06 -0.08* -0.01 0.06 -0.06 -0.01 0.07 -0.06 -0.01 0.08 -0.07
Gender -0.07 0.08 -0.03 -0.18 0.08 -0.08* -0.02 0.10 -0.09 -0.03 0.10 -0.01
Sexual orientation -0.08 0.11 -0.29 -0.10 0.12 -0.03 0.13 0.14 0.04 -0.09 0.14 -0.02
Level of education -0.04 0.08 -0.01 -0.05 0.08 -0.08 0.15 0.09 0.06 0.05 0.10 0.02
Sentimental situation -0.14 0.08 -0.06 -0.07 0.09 -0.03 -0.34 0.10 -0.12 -0.29 0.11 -0.10**
R2 (Adj. R2) .188(.172) .160(.143) .148 (.132) .152(.136)
F 11.826*** 10.635*** 8.907*** 9.180***
Note: Use of online dating (1= Yes; 2= No), Time spent (1= 1 hour or less, 2= more than 1 hour),
Gender (1= male, 2 = female); Age (1=18-25 years, 2= 26-40 years); Sexual orientation (1= hetero-
sexual, 2=LGB); Sentimental situation (1= single, 2= have a partner) *p<.05; **p<.01; ***p<.001
The objective of the present study was to analyze the prevalence and differences in the frequency of
ghosting and breadcrumbing by considering age, gender, sexual orientation level of education and
present sentimental status in a sample of Spanish adults. Another objective was to analyze the relation
among ghosting and breadcrumbing, use of online dating sites/apps and practices related to online
Prevalence and Frequency of Ghosting and Breadcrumbing
Although more than half the participants were unfamiliar with the terms ghosting and breadcrumbing,
roughly two in every 10 participants who lled in the online questionnaire informed having suffered and
initiated ghosting in the past year. The breadcrumbing data indicated a higher prevalence and revealed
that slightly more than three in every 10 participants had suffered it or performed it in the last 12 months.
Despite no nding previous studies that had analyzed the prevalence of breadcrumbing, our data agree
with former research conducted in the USA, which indicated that between 13% and 23% of the respon-
dents reported having suffered ghosting, and between 11% and 29.3% had initiated it (Freedman et al.,
2019; LeFebvre et al., 2019; Moore, 2014).
Regarding the socio-demographic prole of both the initiators and receivers of both behaviors,
the analysis of the differences in the frequency of ghosting and breadcrumbing showed that both were
suffered and initiated more among single participants than those with a partner when they answered
the questionnaire. This nding could be related to the fact that dating online apps/sites tend to be more
widely used by single people or those with an open relationship (Goedel, Mitchell, Krebs& Duncan,
2017; LeFebvre, 2018). The LGB participants reported suffering and performing breadcrumbing to a
greater extent than the heterosexual participants, and they also reported suffering more ghosting, but
we found no signicant differences with those who admitted having initiated ghosting in the last year.
The more widespread use of online dating apps and webs in the LGTB group meant that they were more
exposed to Internet risks (Anzani, Di Sarno & Prunas, 2018; Hahn et al, 2018) apart from ghosting and
breadcrumbing. Finally, the participants in the 18-25-year-old age group reported higher scores on brea-
dcrumbing than the participants aged 26-40 years. Despite former studies have demonstrated that the
use of online dating apps/sites is more usual among young adults (25-34 year olds) than among emer-
ging adults (18-24 years old), being more exposed to breadcrumbing in emerging adulthood could be
related with the fact that this age group is more familiar and use more those apps with which breadcrum-
bing could take place e.g. Instragram, WhatsApp or Snapchat (IabSpain, 2019; Waterloo, Baumgartner,
© 2020 Escritos de Psicología Escritos de Psicología, 13, 46-5955
Peter & Valkenburg., 2018). Another explanation for the age differences in breadcrumbing is that older
people could be more mature, sincere or have better skills to communicative and treat others without
using breadcrumbing. In this line, Manning et al (2019) found that younger people justied their ghosting
behaviors as being the result of their young age and immature actions. Older people also saw ghosting
as a normative behavior for younger ages but that disappear when people grow older.
Ghosting, Breadcrumbing and Online Dating Use
The obtained results revealed that using online dating sites/apps increased the chances of suffering or
performing ghosting and breadcrumbing (H1). This suggests that, at least in part, both these behaviors
can form part of the actual online dating dynamics, and that using online sites/apps as a tool to nd
potential partners can entail more exposure to, or use of, these tactics to break up or maintain the online
relationships initiated. Previous studies reveal that using technology, more specically smartphone
dating apps, is related to negative outcomes, such as more exposure to cyber aggression, cyberstalking
or risky sexual encounters and sexual abuse (Choi, Wong & Fong, 2018; Fansher & Randa, 2019; Mar-
ganski & Melander, 2018).
Notwithstanding, the time spent on using online dating sites/apps was only signicant for ghos-
ting (H2). This result could be explained by the fact that spending more time online would increase the
likelihood of knowing potential partners (Chan, 2016). Consequently, starting more relationships could
increase the risk of suffering or practicing ghosting when the expectations of one of the engaged part-
ners are not met, and they could wish to end the relationship. Although both variables (use and time
used) were statistically signicant, their explanatory power was weak. So we were unable to conclude
that ghosting and breadcrumbing are closely related conducts to relationships originated in the virtual
world. In line with what previous reviews and studies into ghosting have pointed out, strategies to put
an end to romantic relationships, and here we can also add strategies to maintain relationships, have
been used prior to the use of online sites or smartphone apps, but computer-mediated communication
may have helped to adopt more frequently non-direct confronting strategies like those formerly analyzed
(Brody et al., 2016; LeFebvre, 2017). Nonetheless, previous research shows that breakup rates for
marital and non-marital dating relationships are higher for couples who met online than for couples who
met through ofine venues (Paul, 2014). Thus, future research must analyze if differences appear in
how ghosting and breadcrumbing are employed according to how the relationship was originated (ofine
or online), and if ghosting and breadcrumbing are more characteristic of one type of relationship or the
Former research demonstrates that ghosting is the most widespread strategy used in short-term
relationships characterized by less commitment (Koessler et al., 2019). Along the same lines, the results
of the present study revealed that having more short-term relationships is related with suffering and
performing ghosting, and also breadcrumbing (H3). If we consider that short-term relationships may be
characterized by lack of commitment, or can be sporadic sexual encounters (e.g. hook-ups), technology
can facilitate the processes to break up relationships given that they allow a dating relationship to end
more easily if there are no emotional ties. The opposite is also possible. Those who perpetrate, or receive
ghosting and breadcrumbing could be more inclined toward short-term relationships. For example, in
the case of ghosting a series of short-term relationship are expected as one relationship has at least
ended through ghosting. Breadcrumbing could also be facilitated because one of the involved partners
could use it as a way to keep enjoying sporadic encounters without the relationship developing. As the
potential of online dating sites and apps for nding a romantic and casual sex relationships is similar
(Anzani et al., 2018; Bryant & Sheldon, 2017), future research should analyze is there are differences in
ghosting and breadcrumbing according to romantic or sexual motivations to form a relationship regard-
less of how long that relationship lasts. Previous research have shown that gay, bisexual and men who
have sex with men have been using increasingly dating apps to meet anonymous partners and have
sexual encounters (LeFebvre, 2018), and our results showed that LGB participants are being more
exposed to ghosting and breadcrumbing. Future studies should examine if ghosting and breadcrumbing
behaviors among LGB people are in some way related with the use of geosocial-networking apps to
meet new sexual or romantic partners. It would also be interesting to analyze to what extent ghosting
and breadcrumbing can be strategies adopted by people in committed relationships. Previous research
shows that those who already have a partner use dating apps/sites to nd casual sexual encounters, to
satisfy their curiosity about today’s dating market, and to know their worth as a potential partner com-
pared to single users (Alexopous, Timmermans and McNallie, 2020). So it would be interesting to know
how these motivations are related with strategies like ghosting and breadcrumbing.
© 2020 Escritos de Psicología Escritos de Psicología, 13, 46-5956
The results of the present study revealed that the amount of time between starting online contact
and deciding to meet someone in person is not related to ghosting and breadcrumbing (H4). Despite
former research has showed that shifting ofine is related to the expectations toward a potential partner
and perceptions of intimacy and composure in a relationships originated online (Ramirez et al., 2014),
shifting ofine is not apparently related to strategies to break up or maintain a dating partner. One
possible explanation for this lack of association is that ghosting and breadcrumbing could take place
regardless of the time chatting online, and even regardless of meeting in person. Thus ghosting could
be a strategy used by those people who, at any point of the online contact, do not wish to tell the other
person they do not like them or they do not meet their expectations, and wish to stop communicating
to avoid direct confrontations (LeFebvre, 2017). Similarly, breadcrumbing can be a strategy adopted to
delay meeting someone personally. That is, perhaps someone suffering breadcrumbing does not live up
to the expectations of the person initiating it, (s)he does not nd them attractive or does not know how
to end the relationship, but wishes to continue if they do not know anyone who is a “better” alternative,
and maintains him/her among their followers in social networks and to obtain their reinforcement as
an “admirer”. Future research must analyze if ghosting and breadcrumbing take place regardless of
the people involved having known one another ofine or otherwise. In other words, if it is more likely to
occur after knowing someone in person, or also when relationships have only been virtually maintained.
It would also be important to analyze the intentions of those who practice breadcrumbing and how their
behaviors inuence those suffering it.
Finally, the present results revealed that the participants using online surveillance in social
networks with partners they have known online are more likely to be initiators and recipients of ghosting
and breadcrumbing (H5). These results fall in line with those studies indicating that online surveillance
can happen when relationships form, while they continue or as part of strategies used to end relations-
hips (Tokunaga, 2011). As previous research reveals, online surveillance may have an inuence in
two directions as regards both the behavior of initiators and recipients of ghosting and breadcrumbing.
Given that online surveillance can be used to assess authenticity and compatibility (Couch, Liamputtong
& Pitss, 2011), online surveillance can contribute to decision making about ending relationships or to
avoid relationships developing when acquiring information from social networks allow to form a more
accurate idea as to whether (s)he meets their expectations or not. Additionally, online surveillance can
also be seen as a way to control by whoever suffers ghosting and breadcrumbing (Fox, 2016). Thus,
ghosting and breadcrumbing can be a response to being monitored by someone, breaking someone’s
trust, generating toxicity or shaping a negative impression of those who starts ghosting or breadcrum-
bing. Future research must investigate the perception of initiators and recipients of online surveillance,
their motivations to carry it out, and how both variables are related to ghosting and breadcrumbing. In
this line, former qualitative research has shown that ghosting is sometimes a way of protecting from dis-
respect, aggressiveness, or even harassment (Manning et al., 2019). Future research must investigate
the perception of initiators and recipients of online surveillance, their motivations to carry it out, and how
both variables are related to ghosting and breadcrumbing.
Limitations in the Present Study
This study is not without its limitations, which should be taken into account when interpreting its results.
First, we measured ghosting and breadcrumbing by only one question and we did not ask the partici-
pants about the relationship they maintain/had maintained with someone who had suffered or carried
out both strategies. Future research should collect more detailed information about these conducts and
the kind of relationship that was ended by ghosting or maintained by breadcrumbing (e.g. causal sexual
encounters, short-term relationship, committed relationships). Second we limited the analysis done of
practices related to online dating in order to know the time that had elapsed before knowing someone
in person and the online surveillance of the people met online. So it would be relevant to learn if online
surveillance is performed by people who initiate ghosting or breadcrumbing, or by those who receive
them. Third, although the age range is quite wide, it would be interesting to acquire data from other age
groups. Former research indicates that dating apps are becoming increasingly popular with other age
groups, like seniors aged over 65 years (Anzani et al., 2018). Therefore, future research should include
people over the age of 40 because they might also be exposed to these conducts. Finally, we collected
all the data by cross-sectional self-report measures that we acquired online. This was why we were
unable to make causal interpretations and we cannot be sure that the participants provided accurate
information about their conducts on the Internet.
© 2020 Escritos de Psicología Escritos de Psicología, 13, 46-5957
Two in every 10 participants reported being involved in ghosting, and more than three in every 10 par-
ticipants had been involved in breadcrumbing. Both conducts are related to using online dating sites/
apps and related practices like online surveillance. This study contributes to our knowledge about these
digital tactics to end or maintain dating relationships, and helps us to understand part of the personal
management that takes place with online dating in today’s society.
1. Abramova, O., Baumann, A., Krasnova, H., & Buxmann, P. (2016, January). Gender differences
in online dating: what do we know so far? A systematic literature review. In 2016 49th Hawaii Inter-
national Conference on System Sciences (HICSS) (pp. 3858-3867). IEEE.
2. Anzani, A., Di Sarno, M., & Prunas, A. (2018). Using smartphone apps to nd sexual partners: A
review of the literature. Sexologies, 27, e61-e65.
3. Authors (2019). Psychological correlates of ghosting and breadcrumbing experiences: a preli-
minary study in adult relationships. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public
Health [Under review].
4. Blackhart, G. C., Fitzpatrick, J., & Williamson, J. (2014). Dispositional factors predicting use of
online dating sites and behaviors related to online dating. Computers in Human Behavior, 33,
5. Brody, N., LeFebvre, L. E., & Blackburn, K. G. (2016). Social networking site behaviors across the
relational lifespan: Measurement and association with relationship escalation and de-escalation.
Social Media+ Society, 2, 2056305116680004.
6. Bryant, K., & Sheldon, P. (2017). Cyber Dating in the Age of Mobile Apps: Understanding Motives,
Attitudes, and Characteristics of Users. American Communication Journal, 19, 1-15.
7. Cambridge Dictionary (2019, November 11). Breadcrumbs. Retrieved from
8. Cambridge Dictionary (2019, November 11). Ghosting. Retrieved from https://dictionary.cambri-
9. Chan, L.S. (2016). Predicting the intent to use dating apps to look for romance and sex: using
the integrative model of behavioral prediction. Paper presented at International Communication
Association Annual Conference, Fukuoka, Japan, June 9-13.
10. Chen, M., Cheung, S. Y., & Chan, K. L. (2019). Doxing: what adolescent look for and their inten-
tions. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 16, 218. https://doi.
11. Choi, E. P. H., Wong, J. Y. H., & Fong, D. Y. T. (2018). An Emerging Risk Factor of Sexual
Abuse: The Use of Smartphone Dating Applications. Sexual Abuse, 30, 343–366. https://doi.
12. Cook, K. (2020). Mental Health, Relationships & Cognition. In The Psychology of Silicon Valley
(pp. 197-233). Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.
13. Couch, D., Liamputtong, P., & Pitts, M. (2011). Online Daters and the Use of Technology for Sur-
veillance and Risk Management. International Journal of Emerging Technologies & Society, 9,
14. Fansher, A. K., & Randa, R. (2019). Risky social media behaviors and the potential for victimi-
zation: a descriptive look at college students victimized by someone met online. Violence and
gender, 6, 115-123.
15. Finkel, E. J., Eastwick, P. W., Karney, B. R., Reis, H. T., & Sprecher, S. (2012). Online dating:
A critical analysis from the perspective of psychological science. Psychological Science in the
Public interest, 13, 3-66.
16. Fox, J. (2016). 7. The Dark Side of Social Networking Sites in Romantic Relationships. In B.K.
Wiederhol, G. Riva, & P. Cipresso (Eds.), The Psychology of Social Networking: communica-
tion, presence, identity, and relationships in online communities (pp. 78-89). Berlin, Germany:
DeGruyter Open.
17. Fox, J., Osborn, J. L., & Warber, K. M. (2014). Relational dialectics and social networking sites:
The role of Facebook in romantic relationship escalation, maintenance, conict, and dissolution.
Computers in Human Behavior, 35, 527-534.
© 2020 Escritos de Psicología Escritos de Psicología, 13, 46-5958
18. Fox, J., & Warber, K. M. (2014). Social networking sites in romantic relationships: Attachment,
uncertainty, and partner surveillance on Facebook. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social
Networking, 17, 3-7.
19. Freedman, G., Powell, D. N., Le, B., & Williams, K. D. (2019). Ghosting and destiny: Implicit theo-
ries of relationships predict beliefs about ghosting. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships,
36, 905-924.
20. Gini, G., Marino, C., Xie, J., Pfetsch, J., & Pozzoli, T. (2019). Associations of Traditional and
Peer Cyber-Victimization With Adolescents’ Internet Use: A Latent Prole Analysis. Cyberpsycho-
logy: Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace, 13, article 1.
21. Goedel, W. C., Mitchell, J. W., Krebs, P., & Duncan, D. T. (2017). Willingness to use mobile phone
apps for HIV prevention among men who have sex with men in London: web-based survey. JMIR
mHealth and uHealth, 5, e153.
22. Gómez, P., Rial, A., Braña, T., Golpe, S., & Varela, J. (2017). Screening of Problematic Internet
Use among Spanish adolescents: Prevalence and related variables. Cyberpsychology, Behavior,
and Social Networking, 20, 259-267.
23. Growth from Knowledge, GFK (2019). Estudio GfK sobre Plataformas de Citas online en España
[GfK Survey on Online Dating Platforms in Spain] [online] Retrieved from:
24. Hahn, H. A., You, D. S., Sferra, M., Hubbard, M., Thamotharan, S., & Fields, S. A. (2018). Is it too
soon to meet? Examining differences in geosocial networking app use and sexual risk behavior of
emerging adults. Sexuality & Culture, 22, 1-21.
25. Hobbs, M., Owen, S., Gerber, L. (2017). Liquid love? Dating apps, sex, relationships
ad the digital transformation of intimacy. Journal of Sociology, 53, 271-284. https://doi.
26. IabSpain (2019). Estudio annual de redes sociales 2019 [Annual study of social networks sites
2019] [online] Retrieved from:
27. Koessler, R.B., Kohut, T., & Campbell, L. (2019). When boo becomes a ghost: the association
between breakup strategy and breakup role in experiences of relationship dissolution. Collabra:
Psychology, 5, 29.
28. Lawson, H. M., & Leck, K. (2006). Dynamics of internet dating. Social Science Computer Review,
24, 189-208.
29. LeFebvre, L.E. (2017). Phantom lovers: Ghosting as a relationship dissolution strategy in the
technological age. In N. M. Punyanunt-Carter & J.S. Wrench (Eds.), The impact of social media in
modern romantic relationships (pp. 219-235). New York, NY: Lexington Books.
30. LeFebvre, L.E., Allen, M., Rasner, R.D., Garstad, S., Wilms, A., & Parrish, C. (2019). Ghosting
in emerging adutl’s romantic relationships: the digital dissolution disappearance strategy. Ima-
gination, cognition and personality: consciousness in theory, research, and clinical practice, 39,
31. LeFebvre, L. E. (2018). Swiping me off my feet: Explicating relationship initiation on Tinder. Journal of
Social and Personal Relationships, 35, 1205-1229.
32. Manning, J., Denker, K.J., & Johnson, R. (2019). Justications for “ghosting out” of developing or
ongoing romantic relationships: anxieties regarding digitally-mediated romantic interaction. In A.
Hetsroni, A. & M. Tuncez (Eds.). It happen on tinder. Reections and studies on Internet-infused
dating (pp. 114-132). Institute of Network Cultures: Amsterdam, 2019,
33. Marganski, A., & Melander, L. (2018). Intimate partner violence victimization in the cyber
and real world: Examining the extent of cyber aggression experiences and its association
with in-person dating violence. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 33, 1071-1095. https://doi.
34. Martínez-Ferrer, B., Moreno, D., & Musitu, G. (2018). Are adolescents engaged in the problematic
use of social networking sites more involved in peer aggression and victimization? Frontiers in
Psychology, 9, article 801.
35. Meenagh, J. (2015). Flirting, dating, and breaking up within new media environments. Sex Edu-
cation, 15, 458-471.
36. Menkin, J. A., Robles, T. F., Wiley, J. F., & Gonzaga, G. C. (2015). Online dating across the
life span: Users’ relationship goals. Psychology and aging, 30, 987-993.
© 2020 Escritos de Psicología Escritos de Psicología, 13, 46-5959
37. Moore, P. (2014, October 28). Poll results: Ghosting. Retrieved from
38. Paul, A. (2014). Is online better thatn ofine for meeting partners? Depends: are you looking
to marry or to date? Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 17, 1-4. https://doi.
39. Prestage, G., Bavinton, B., Grierson, J., Down, I., Keen, P., Bradley, J., & Duncan, D. (2015).
Online dating among Australian gay and bisexual men: romance or hooking up? AIDS and Beha-
vior, 19, 1905-1913.
40. Pronk, T. M., & Denissen, J. J. (2019). A Rejection Mind-Set: Choice Overload in Online Dating.
Social Psychological and Personality Science.
41. Ramirez, A., Sumner, E. M., Fleuriet, C., & Cole, M. (2014). When online dating partners meet
ofine: The effect of modality switching on relational communication between online daters. Jour-
nal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 20, 99-114.
42. Rosenfeld, M. J., Thomas, R. J., & Hausen, S. (2019). Disintermediating your friends: How online
dating in the United States displaces other ways of meeting. Proceedings of the National Aca-
demy of Sciences, 116, 17753-17758.
43. Stoicescu, M. (2019). The globalized online dating culture: Reframing the dating process through
online dating. Journal of Comparative Research in Anthropology and Sociology, 10, 21-32.
44. The Telegraph (2015, November, 5). Binge-watch’, ‘clean eating’ and ‘manspreading’ among
2015 Words of the Year. Retrieved from:
45. The New York Times (2016, July 8). The agony of the digital tease. Retrieved from https://www.
46. Tokunaga, R. S. (2011). Social networking site or social surveillance site? Understanding the use
of interpersonal electronic surveillance in romantic relationships. Computers in Human Behavior,
27, 705-713.
47. Tong, S. T. (2013). Facebook use during relationship termination: Uncertainty reduction and sur-
veillance. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 16, 788-793.
49. Urban dictionary (2019, November 27). Breadcrumbing. Retrieved from https://www.urbandictio-ne.php?term=Breadcrumbing
50. Víllora, B., Navarro, R., & Yubero, S. (2019). Cyber dating abuse and its association with mobile
abuse, acceptance of violence and myths of love. Suma Psicológica, 26, 46-54. http://dx.doi.
51. Waterloo, S. F., Baumgartner, S. E., Peter, J., & Valkenburg, P. M. (2018). Norms of online expres-
sions of emotion: Comparing Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and WhatsApp. New Media & Society,
20, 1813–1831.
RECIBIDO: 17 de julio de 2020
MODIFICADO: 24 de noviembre de 2020
ACEPTADO: 16 de diciembre de 2020
... Prevalence rates range between 13% and 23% for those adults who have been ghosted by a romantic partner [8,10]. In Spain, 19.3% have reported having suffered ghosting at least once in the past year [11]. ...
... Koessler, Kohut, and Campbell [12] discovered that the relationships which ended via ghosting were more short term and characterized by less commitment than those terminated by direct conversation. Navarro et al. [11] revealed that ghosting behaviors are linked to using online dating sites/apps, the time spent on online dating apps/sites, online surveillance, and more short-term relationships. ...
... Empirical evidence for breadcrumbing is more limited than that for ghosting. Navarro et al. [11] reported a 35.6% prevalence rate of Spanish adults who stated that they had been victims of breadcrumbing. These authors also found that breadcrumbing was linked with employing online dating sites/apps, more short-term relationships and online surveillance of people met online. ...
Full-text available
The present study aimed to examine differences in three psychological constructs (satisfaction with life, loneliness, and helplessness) among adults experiencing ghosting and breadcrumbing. A sample of 626 adults (303 males and 323 females), aged from 18 to 40 years, completed an online survey asking to indicate whether someone they considered a dating partner had ghosted or breadcrumbed them in the last year and to complete three different scales regarding satisfaction with life, loneliness, and helplessness. The results showed than those participants who had indicated experiencing breadcrumbing or the combined forms (both breadcrumbing and ghosting) reported less satisfaction with life, and more helplessness and self-perceived loneliness. The results from the regression models showed that suffering breadcrumbing would significantly increase the likelihood of experiencing less satisfaction with life, and of having more feelings of loneliness and helplessness. However, no significant relation was found between ghosting and any of the examined psychological correlates.
... Research (Vásquez, 2021;Zapata, et al., 2021) also shows how the uses of these applications deepen narcissistic behaviors in the way of relating and according to Navarro et al. (2020) the use of online dating applications increases the probability of suffering/exercising ghosting and breadcrumbing 4 . ...
Full-text available
The year 2023 marks the 50th anniversary of the publication of Herbert I. Schiller’s The Mind Managers that carried out a critical political economy analysis of the myths that sustained industrial capitalism and the role played by the media and cultural industries in their dissemination. As a tribute, this paper highlights the value of Schiller’s work, tracing the historical origins of, and updating, what he considered to be the most important myth in this groundbreaking book: individualism and personal choice. The research shows that this myth has strengthened and undergone important changes in the technologically-centered neoliberal context of today’s cognitive capitalism, where its function is to hide and idealize the present-day structural conditions. The prevalence and characteristics of this myth are analyzed through the paradigmatic example of dating apps. Both the possibilities and limitations provided by media technologies are considered in the context of power relations.
... Little scientific research has been carried out as of yet regarding the phenomenon of breadcrumbing, which constitutes a relevant gap in knowledge. The few published research investigations on this phenomenon focus on the prevalence of breadcrumbing victimization [30,31]. Therefore, the scientific knowledge about the profile of individuals who are most likely to become breadcrumbing perpetrators is limited, making it difficult to develop effective prevention and intervention programs. ...
Full-text available
New technologies are changing people’s lifestyles and in turn, their way of relating to and interacting with others. Breadcrumbing is one of the new 2.0 concepts linked to the virtual relationship paradigm. This study aimed to design and psychometrically test the Breadcrumbing in Affective-Sexual Relationships (BREAD-ASR) Questionnaire to explore breadcrumbing perpetration in adolescent relationships online. A total of 247 adolescents participated in a paper-and-pencil survey carried out from March to June 2019 in a high school in southeastern Spain. Psychometric analysis showed a satisfactory content and construct validity for the instrument. The ordinal alpha coefficient was 0.83, indicating the BREAD-ASR questionnaire had good internal consistency. The BREAD-ASR questionnaire constitutes a valid and reliable instrument which can be used by health professionals in screenings for breadcrumbing perpetration and to design effective prevention and intervention programs in the community, which may help and support adolescents and families to deal with new forms of online relationships and perpetration successfully.
Full-text available
Bu çalışmada, çevrimiçi buluşma uygulamaları kullanma motivasyonları ile ilişki sonlandırma stilleri arasındaki ilişkide karanlık üçlü kişilik özellikleri olarak adlandırılan narsisizm, makyavelizm ve psikopatinin düzenleyici rolü incelenmiştir. İlişki sonlandırma stilleri olarak iletişimi kesmek amacıyla aniden ortadan kaybolma anlamına gelen hayaletleme (ghosting) ve belirsiz zamanlarda kısıtlı ilgi gösterme anlamına gelen oyalama (breadcrumbing) ele alınmıştır. Çalışmaya halihazırda çevrimiçi buluşma uygulamalarını kullanmakta olan 18 – 29 yaş aralığındaki (Ort. = 25.08, SS = 2.84) 193 kişi katılmıştır. Demografik bilgi formunun yanı sıra Sumter ve arkadaşları (2017) tarafından geliştirilen Çevrimiçi Buluşma Uygulamaları Kullanım Motivasyonları Ölçeği’nin Türkçeye çevrilmiş versiyonu, Jones ve Paulhus (2014) tarafından geliştirilip Özsoy ve arkadaşları (2017) tarafından Türkçe’ye uyarlanan Kısaltılmış Karanlık Üçlü Ölçeği ve araştırmacı tarafından hazırlanan Hayaletleme - Oyalama Davranışları Anketi kullanılarak veri toplanmıştır. Toplanan veriler SPSS aracılığıyla analiz edilmiştir. Ölçüm araçlarının faktör yapısını belirlemek amacıyla faktör analizi yürütülmüş ve çevrimiçi tanışm uygulamalarının altı farklı motivasyonla kullanılmakta olduğu görülmüştür. Bunlar Eğlence Arayışı, Özgüven İhtiyacı, Cinsellik, İletişim Kolaylığı, Bilgi Edinme ve İlişki Başlatma’dır. Çevrimiçi tanışma uygulamaları kullanım motivasyonlarında, hayaletleme – oyalama davranışlarında ve karanlık üçlü kişilik özelliklerinde cinsiyet farkını saptamak amacıyla yürütülen bağımsız örneklemler t – testlerinin sonucunda erkeklerin kadınlara kıyasla daha çok cinsellik amacıyla çevrimiçi buluşma uygulamalarını kullandığı, karanlık üçlü kişilik özelliklerinin psikopati alt boyutundan daha yüksek puan aldığı tespit edilmiştir. Hayaletleme – oyalama davranışları açısından ise cinsiyet farkı saptanamamıştır. Çevrimiçi tanışma uygulamaları kullanım motivasyonları ve hayaletleme – oyalama davranışları ile yaş arasındaki ilişkiyi saptamak amacıyla yürütülen korelasyon analizleri sonrasında yaşın eğlence arayışı ve özgüven ihtiyacı ile, ayrıca hem hayaletleme hem de oyalama davranışı ile negatif anlamlı ilişki içerisinde olduğu bulgulanmıştır. Ayrıca hayaletleme – oyalama davranışları üzerinde çevrimiçi tanışmauygulamaları kullanım motivasyonlarının ve karanlık üçlü kişilik özelliklerinin etkisini görmek amacıyla regresyon analizleri yürütülmüş; eğlence arayışı ve makyavelizmin hayaletlemeyi, eğlence arayışı ile ilişki başlatma ve makyavelizm ile psikopatinin oyalamayı yordadığı görülmüştür. Düzenleyici değişken analizleri sonucunda ise yalnızca eğlence arayışının hayaletleme üzerindeki etkisinde psikopatinin düzenleyici rolünün bulunduğu görülmüştür. Sonuçlar, hayaletleme ve oyalama davranışlarının ilişkili olduğu ve etkilendiği faktörler hakkında bilgiler sağlamaktadır. Bu çalışma aracılığıyla Türkçe literatüre kazandırılan hayaletleme ve oyalama davranışları hakkında yapılacak gelecek çalışmaların, bu bilgilerin çoğaltılması yönünde katkı sağlayacağı tahmin edilmektedir.
Full-text available
ABSTRAK Aplikasi Tinder memberikan pengguna kemudahan dengan fitur-fitur yang ditawarkan, misalnya terkait kemudahan mengakhiri hubungan dengan ghosting. Bagi ghostee, ghosting menjadi pengalaman pemutusan hubungan yang paling tidak diinginkan. Namun, beberapa studi menemukan ghostee yang juga melakukan ghosting dan membenarkan perilakunya. Penelitian ini memiliki tujuan eksplanatori untuk mengetahui hubungan moral disengagement dan kecenderungan perilaku ghosting dalam kencan online Tinder; dan eksploratori untuk menguji peran variabel gender dalam hubungan kedua variabel penelitian. Penelitian ini melibatkan 70 emerging adult (18-25 tahun) pengguna Tinder. Pengumpulan data menggunakan skala moral disengagement (α= 0,921) dan skala kecenderungan perilaku ghosting (α= 0,840). Hasil menunjukkan hubungan positif moral disengagement dan kecenderungan perilaku ghosting yang signifikan. Terdapat pula perbedaan kekuatan hubungan yang signifikan antarvariabel dimoderasi oleh gender (f2 = 0,783), dengan efek moderasi yang lebih tinggi pada laki-laki. Hasil ini dapat menjelaskan mengapa ditemukan ghostee yang menilai ghosting tidak pantas juga dapat melakukan ghosting.
Full-text available
The use of online dating websites and applications is becoming an increasingly accepted way to meet a potential partner. Dating is known to be an ambiguous and contradictory process, highly vulnerable to influences from cultural settings. In this paper, I argue upon the capabilities online dating may have in reframing the dating process and in generating changes in the social structure of our society. These changes would result in the adherence of a globalized dating culture as online dating applications increase in popularity worldwide. This paper also reviews the literature on behavior in an online dating environment, underling the advantageous characteristic that computer-mediated communication is known to have. Moreover, a retrospective with regard to popular concepts that explain relationships in the digital era is made.
Full-text available
This study uses data from 30 interviews to examine ghosting, “a process in which one relational partner abruptly ends communication, typically early in the relationship” (Buchanan, Manning, & Denker, 2019). Past research suggests ghosting is an often-hurtful, anxiety-laden form of relational dissolution that frequently involves computer-mediated communication such as texting. Drawing from participant accounts of ghosting, the present study examines themes related negative aspects of ghosting and offers a typology of ghosting motivations. The thematic analysis reveals that participants have disjunctive attitudes regarding ghosting; specifically, they speak negatively about ghosting when it happens to them but justify it as a form of relational dissolution when they enact it. Other themes introduced by participants include uncertainty, relational skills development, and undefendable instances of ghosting. The typographic analysis reveals three key justifications for ghosting: lack of relational development, situational factors that allow permission for ghosting, and protection against disrespect, aggressiveness, and abuse. Discussion explores future directions for ghosting research, especially as it relates to interpersonal relationships.
Full-text available
Significant overlap exists between traditional victimization and peer cyber-victimization. Yet, they can also be somewhat differentiated. Adopting person-centered approaches, studies showed that multiple classes of peer victimization are distinguishable. In particular, this study analyzed the differences in Internet use, Internet motives and behavior and ethical media use of adolescents who are victimized only (or mainly) online (i.e., “cyber-victims”), their peers who are victimized at school (“traditional victims”), students who are frequently victimized both offline and online (“dual victims”), and students who are not victimized. A sample of 1377 Italian adolescents (49.5% females, age M = 16.13, SD = 1.27) completed self-report questionnaires of traditional and peer cyber-victimization and a variety of Internet-related measures. Latent profile analysis yielded four distinct groups: non-victims (79.6% of the sample), traditional victims (9.2%), cyber-victims (9.1%), and dual victims (2.1%). Among the four groups, dual victims, that is, adolescents who are frequently victimized both at school and online, showed the most problematic use of information and communication technologies (ICT). Dual victims and cyber-victims also reported to engage more frequently than the other groups in a variety of Internet activities (e.g., role-playing games and visiting adult sites). Traditional victims reported more coping and conformity motives for using Internet compared to non-victims and, in the latter case, also to cyber-victims. The current findings may help to better understand the link between traditional victimization and peer cyber-victimization with adolescent’s use of information and communication technologies and may inform prevention and educational programs about positive use of new technologies among adolescents.
Full-text available
Chapter 8 examines the more individual and human impacts of technology, including happiness, mental health, wellbeing, cognition, relationships, and personal identity.
Full-text available
The paradox of modern dating is that online platforms provide more opportunities to find a romantic partner than ever before, but people are nevertheless more likely to be single. We hypothesized the existence of a rejection mind-set: The continued access to virtually unlimited potential partners makes people more pessimistic and rejecting. Across three studies, participants immediately started to reject more hypothetical and actual partners when dating online, cumulating on average in a decrease of 27% in chance on acceptance from the first to the last partner option. This was explained by an overall decline in satisfaction with pictures and perceived dating success. For women, the rejection mind-set also resulted in a decreasing likelihood of having romantic matches. Our findings suggest that people gradually “close off” from mating opportunities when online dating.
Full-text available
Ghosting, or avoiding technologically-mediated contact with a partner instead of providing an explanation for a breakup, has emerged as a relatively new breakup strategy in modern romantic relationships. The current study investigated differences in the process of relationship dissolution and post-breakup outcomes as a function of breakup role (disengager or recipient) and breakup strategy (ghosting or direct conversation) using a cross-validation design. A large sample of participants who recently experienced a breakup was collected and randomly split into two halves. Exploratory analyses were conducted in Sample A and used to inform the construction of specific hypotheses which were pre-registered and tested in Sample B. Analyses indicated relationships that ended through ghosting were shorter and characterized by lower commitment than relationships that ended directly. Recipients experienced greater distress and negative affect than disengagers, and ghosting disengagers reported less distress than direct disengagers. Ghosting breakups were characterized by greater use of avoidance/withdrawal anddistant/mediated communication breakup tactics and lessopen confrontation and positive tone/self-blame breakup tactics. Distinct differences between ghosting and direct strategies suggest developments in technology have influenced traditional processes of relationship dissolution.
Full-text available
Doxing is a form of cyberbullying in which personal information on others is sought and released, thereby violating their privacy and facilitating further harassment. This study examined adolescents’ doxing participation using a representative sample of 2120 Hong Kong secondary school students. Just over one in 10 had engaged in doxing, and doxing behavior significantly increased the probability of disclosing personal information on others (odds ratio ranged between 2.705 and 5.181). Social and hostile doxing were the two most common forms of doxing. Girls were significantly more likely to conduct social doxing (χ2 = 11.84, p < 0.001), where their target was to obtain social information (χ2 = 4.79, p = 0.029), whereas boys were more likely to engage in hostile doxing aimed at obtaining personally identifiable information (χ2 = 4.31, p = 0.038) and information on others’ current living situations (χ2 = 4.17, p = 0.041). Students who had perpetrated doxing acts were more likely to have experienced information disclosure as victims, perpetrators, or bystanders. Future studies should examine doxing’s impacts and its relationship with other forms of cyberbullying and traditional bullying. Because doxing may lead to on- and off-line harassment, family, adolescents, schools, and communities must work together to develop effective approaches for combating it.
Full-text available
The purpose of this study is to examine relational dissolution using the technique of ghosting. This qualitative study explores the emerging adults’ dissolution strategies leading up to and through enactment of disengagement through mediated contexts. Participants (N = 99) completed questionnaires about their ghosting familiarity and participation as initiators or noninitiators. The majority of participants reported participating in both roles. Five themes described why initiators chose to enact ghosting, and three themes chronicled their ghosting decision-making processes. Noninitiators illustrated how they realized ghosting occurred through three themes. This exploratory investigation offers a definitive definition of ghosting and a modern discussion of its contents to dissolution, communication, and romantic relationship development.
We present data from a nationally representative 2017 survey of American adults. For heterosexual couples in the United States, meeting online has become the most popular way couples meet, eclipsing meeting through friends for the first time around 2013. Moreover, among the couples who meet online, the proportion who have met through the mediation of third persons has declined over time. We find that Internet meeting is displacing the roles that family and friends once played in bringing couples together.