Q: My best friend has been talking to a “famous” local TikToker online. She has been telling me all the details and it sounds like she is really into him. Problem is, it doesn’t sound like he feels the same. Every time they plan to do something he cancels at the last minute or he just won’t answer her. He seems to be a player based on the things I read in his comment section and I’ve heard some about his past relationships. I don’t want her to get hurt. I want to protect her, what can I do?

A: It sounds like this situation is really hurting you. It can be extremely difficult to witness your friend experience this and feel helpless. According to Kelly Campbell, Ph.D., a psychology professor at California State University, your friend is being breadcrumbed. Breadcrumbing is the action of being led on by someone online. The “breadcrumber” does this to maintain/keep your interest in them, without the intent of becoming romantically involved. 

Breadcrumbing is an emotionally manipulative tactic to make a person dependent on them. Sadly, research shows that usually the “breadcrumbers” have an anxious/insecure attachment style. Meaning that they crave attention without actually wanting the commitment. In fact, in some cases, anxious and insecure people crave connection but also are scared of it. It is often what we call “fear of commitment”. Unlike ghosting where the person you’re talking to disappears, with breadcrumbing, they never seem to go away fully. 

As hard as it is to watch a friend go through this, in the end you cannot truly protect her. Regardless of what your friend decides, you want to be there for her as a listening ear or a shoulder to cry on. By doing so, you show her that your friendship is not conditional.