From ghosting to breadcrumbing to benching, sometimes it feels like we need an entire dictionary of words describing annoying dating behaviors. Well, someone call Merriam-Webster, because there’s a new term to learn: Paperclipping.
We’re not talking about any old paperclips here, but a particular paperclip that millennials know very well: Clippy, the Microsoft Word icon that would pop up to ask if you needed help writing a letter or formatting a resume. Microsoft retired Clippy back in 2007, but he lives on in our memes and memories.
So what does Clippy have to do with dating? This summer, illustrator Samantha Rothenberg used the infamous icon as a visual for a certain kind of flaky behavior. A post on her Instagram account, Violet Claire, shows Clippy voicing some too-familiar sentiments.
“Sometimes I pop up for no reason at all,” Clippy says in the illustration. “See, the truth is, I’m damaged, flaky, and not particularly interested in you. But I don’t want you to forget I exist."
"To me, paperclipping is when someone has you on the back burner and feels like you're about to go cold. They'll reach out — not in attempt to see you, or move things forward — but to re-stoke the flame and make sure you're still an option," Rothenberg tells Refinery29. "It's wildly common, and there's something empowering about putting a name to the action — now, rather than letting a papperclipper give you false hope, you can call it out for what it is and move on."
If you’re guilty of paperclipping someone, stop that immediately, eharmony’s resident relationship expert Dr. Seth Meyers tells Refinery29. “People who paperclip others should think more about the feelings of the other person,” Dr. Meyers says. “The goal is to become more sensitive and compassionate in your relationships. Discontinuing this insensitive behavior and becoming more sensitive can set the stage for the kind of emotional maturity they'll need if they want to sustain a good relationship in the future.”
As for when your ex paperclips you? “While there are exceptions to every rule, a general rule to follow is to avoid people who have already shown you disrespect in the past,” Dr. Meyers says. “Research shows the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.”
While you can just ignore your paperclipper, you might decide to tell them you know what they're up to. "I've had several people send me screenshots of them sending my comic to people who attempted to paperclip them," Rothenberg says.