Curving: Hidden Rejection on Social Media

Curving is a widespread practice on social media. It basically expresses a rejection of someone. However, it's based on a rather perverse use of communication.
Curving: Hidden Rejection on Social Media
Sergio De Dios González

Written and verified by the psychologist Sergio De Dios González.

Last update: 10 April, 2022

Social media has its own language which isn’t always clear to newbies or ‘seniors’. Curving is one such term. It refers to one of the new trends in interaction within the framework of virtuality. It’s actually a practice that already existed in the face-to-face world, but which has become more evident and incisive on the Internet.

Curving is a subtle way of ignoring or cutting off another person in such a politically correct way that it often goes unnoticed. It’s a subtle form of rejection. Furthermore, in some cases, it even becomes a form of manipulation.

The best way to distance yourself from someone is in a direct manner. Indeed, your ability to communicate means you have at your fingertips a good number of phrases to express these sentiments. However, curving, as its name implies, doesn’t follow a straight line, but runs along a sinuous and extraordinarily exhausting path.

Separation anxiety happens to human beings all the time and saying goodbye, either temporarily or permanently, increases it. We’re social subjects, but isolating ourselves from others is a defense against anguish.”

-Mirta Goldstein-


Sad man looking at mobile

Curving manifests itself in different ways. The most common is what some call ‘letting someone go’. When this happens, one person sends a message and the other sees it but doesn’t respond, certainly not immediately. As a matter of fact, it may take days or even weeks before they answer. Furthermore, when they do, it’s usually in a rather disinterested way.

On the other hand, they may occasionally reply quickly but in such a way that demonstrates their eagerness to bring the conversation to a close. They might be quite polite but, at the same time, somewhat superficial and lacking in real warmth.

At the opposite extreme is the person who claims they don’t really understand what’s  happening. If someone treats you in this way, you might think that they’re just having a bad day, week, or month. You’ll tend to believe that they want to maintain communication, but that their circumstances are preventing it. In fact, many of those who practice curving say things like: “I’m sorry I didn’t answer you earlier, but I was really busy.”

From curving to manipulation

Sometimes, curving is only maintained for a short time, until the other person realizes what’s happening and understands that there’s not much they can do about it. This is the healthiest way of bringing it to an end. Nevertheless, there’s also the possibility that the game will last for a while.

The latter takes place when one party adopts an ambiguous attitude. They don’t respond quickly and don’t react with genuine interest to interactions, but they do show signs of interest from time to time. Indeed, every once in a while, real conversations take place which encourage one party to persevere.

Whoever exercises curving in this way usually does it because they don’t want to hurt the other or because they’re tired of giving and not receiving. It’s really likely that they’re not fully aware that acting in this way has a clear name: manipulation. Why do two people, who are almost always adults, enter this maze?

Woman with mobile pout face

Anguish as the basis

People who practice curving in a manipulative way need the other person. For this reason, they don’t want to completely lose the link with them, but they don’t want to allow it to advance and deepen either.

However, it’s also possible that they themselves are victims of a form of separation anxiety. In which case, ‘losing’ the other would be quite painful for them. Therefore, they don’t want to stop receiving these signs of interest and affection because they need them. What they don’t do is practice reciprocity.

Something similar may happen to the one who perseveres, despite the signs of rejection. In fact, persisting becomes a way of dealing with their dormant modes of anguish. They may not be so interested in the other person but voluntarily submitting to the cycle of acceptances and rejections ‘helps’ them overcome an existential void. In fact, the curving, from side to side, speaks of a lack of honesty with themselves.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Frias-Navarro, D., Monterde, H., & Peris, F. (2009). La medida del prejuicio manifiesto y sutil. Interpsiquis, 1, 1-9.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.