Flashpanning Is Yet Another Troubling Dating Trend Fueled By Commitment-Phobes

If you're going to date in the 21st century, you better get used to dating trends — especially toxic ones. We're living in an era that Vanity Fair writer Nancy Jo Sales labeled as the "dating apocalypse" and although this isn't the beginning of it, we're certainly not even remotely close to the end of it.


It seems that pretty much every week another dating trend surfaces that we as daters need to be wary of. Although not every person we meet is going to use a toxic dating trend on us, because each of these trends gets a fun little label, it means it's happening enough that someone out there — if not many people out there — is experiencing it. You may have avoided being ghosted or breadcrumbed so far, but that doesn't mean you won't find yourself in a situation where you're being paperclipped or exposed to zombieing.

The latest troubling dating trend to pop up? Flashpanning. It's far less glamorous than it sounds, so here's everything you need to know about it.

What is flashpanning?

Being born out of the saying "a flash in the pan," meaning that someone has a sudden but short-lived appearance or success, flashpanning isn't much different. Flashpanning is sudden, exciting, then is followed by a person quickly taking their leave when the honeymoon phase is over. 


Not unlike love-bombing, in which the relationship gets off on a hot and heavy foot and is inundated with affection and gifts that are over-the-top, flashpanning starts the same way. There are a lot of romantic gestures, promises of a future together, and all the things that most of us are looking for when it comes to dating someone new. But when things start to cool off and the relationship becomes something real that requires maintenance and upkeep, the person doing the flashpanning checks out and usually does so in just a matter of weeks. For them, it's all about the fun in the beginning and not the effort and time that comes with having an actual relationship.

Why does it happen

Three words: fear of commitment. Flashpanning is a commitment-phobe's dream dating trend because it gives them all the great stuff that comes in the early stages of dating. They meet someone, turn on the charm, have an amazing time, get what they want out of it, then take off. Why stick around when it's obvious that things are — gasp! — moving in a serious direction?


"They like when it's fun. But when it gets real, they have no skill set. They evacuate, because now something has gone wrong for them," relationship expert Susan Winter tells USA Today. "And instead of saying, 'oh, we have conflict. Something has happened,' they don't understand this is a normal part of a relationship."

Because they lack the skill set, as Winter mentions, to deal with what it takes to have a relationship, they also don't know how to say goodbye or even officially end it. Instead, they ghost you. It ultimately becomes a smorgasbord of dating trends.

How to know you're being flashpanned

At first, trying to recognize if you're being flashpanned isn't easy. For the most part, a lot of new relationships start off exciting, full of affection, and all the other delicious stuff that comes with new love. While a flashpanner will never reach the attachment stage of falling in love or even the attraction stage before that, because the lust stage is in full effect — as it is for all new relationships — you, the one who's being flashpanned, are unable to see beyond that. You're following along the path that leads to serious relationships. 


Because of this, if the person is planning to flashpan you either deliberately or subconsciously, picking up on the signs early on can be fairly impossible. It's only after when the person you're dating turns cold and starts to pull away, that you'll know something is up. But before you even have a chance to ask them what the problem is, they're gone. In other words, you're more likely to know you've been flashpanned after the fact.

Why it's a toxic dating trending

Flashpanning is straight-up cruel in a handful of ways. For starters, the person who's using this dating trend isn't thinking about anyone but themselves. When they ghost you after courting you and making empty promises, they don't think twice about their behavior, nor do they come around again — like a flash in the pan. With these types of people, it's only about what they want and they use you to satisfy those wants. They may not even realize that their behavior is harmful because their fear of commitment is so strong that they can't even conceive of what a relationship looks like or how breezing into someone's life and then breezing out is toxic.


Playing with someone's emotions and being reckless with their heart is one of the worst things you can do to someone, especially if that someone is out there looking for love. Flashpanning is getting someone's hopes up and giving them a taste of romantic happiness, then leaving them with nothing but a further distrust of people and disappointment in dating.

How to deal with it

Although you're not likely to realize you've been flashpanned until you've been left high and dry, you can still take steps to try to avoid it. For example, when you start dating someone new, be honest and upfront about what you want. If you're not looking for something casual, then say it — tell them you want a relationship. People who want something serious tend to take things slowly because it's about building a relationship that will stand the test of time, as opposed to being hot and heavy and then fizzling out. With this approach, it's hard for someone to flashpan you because you're virtually not giving them the opportunity to do so.


Also, since a flashpanner gets ready to leave the second there's any sign of conflict, you can get ahead of that by communicating with them about the issue and reach a healthy resolution. However, while you may be able to stop a flashpanner in their tracks with the first problem that arises, don't assume you can do it every time. Remember, these people are commitment-phobes, and trying to change that wiring is no small feat. If you can't prevent the flashpanner from flashpanning you, then the best you can do is accept it and realize it's their inability to be mature and open themselves up to a real, loving, committed relationship. It's not about you or anything you did. It's all on them, and you dodged a bullet.