Are You Phubbing People?

More than 17% of people phub others at least 4 times a day.

Science Direct

The Day I Experienced Phubbing

I didn’t know what it was back then, but I remember it vividly. I was visiting Portugal for the first or second time after deciding to live and work abroad in England. As it had become the norm when reaching out to people, I asked on Facebook who wanted to meet over coffee. Some replied they would love to; others didn’t even bother to open my messages. Of those who had said yes, only one decided to go forward and meet in the city center. On top of showing up later than what we had agreed upon, I was also met with a reality that I found quite unsettling and annoying.

So there we were, in a fancy coffee shop, right in the middle of the heart of Lisbon. After the initial conversation over our order, my “friend” grabbed his phone and started scrolling. I was shocked and caught by surprise. Being the traditional people pleaser I was, I didn’t complain or made any remarks. I waited for him to correct the behavior but he didn’t. He kept reaching out for his phone and talking to me with his eyes glued to his smartphone screen. From that day onwards, I never bothered to invite him again or even made an effort to keep in touch with him.

What is Phubbing?

This kind of experience is called phubbing. And where did the word phubbing come from? Phubbing is a relatively new term. It was used for the first time in 2012 to describe the action of ignoring your friends and family while being on your phone. The person who does phubbing is called phubber, while the person who is on the receiving end is called phubbee.

Why is phubbing bad? As you can imagine, it’s not fun to be a target of phubbing behavior. Plus, studies have shown its negative impact on people’s well-being. The major impact seems to occur within relationships and on people’s psychological well-being.

Impact of Phubbing on Well-being

Is phubbing hurting your relationship? As a direct or indirect result of phubbing, communication problems begin to rise within relationships as well as conflict between partners. Phubbing has also been associated with decreased self-control, less satisfaction, and greater mood imbalance. Stress and depression are two of the most reported psychological states in studies that approach phubbing.

It is important to note here that both phubber and phubbee experience negative psychological consequences. Although phubbees are likely to experience phubbing consequences more instantly, phubbers also become more depressed and lonelier over time as a result of their mismanaged phone addiction and inattentiveness to what is going around them in the present moment.

Almost 32% of people report being phubbed 2 to 3 times a day.

Science Direct

Solutions to Reduce Phubbing

Now that you know what phubbing is, and how it impacts well-being, you might be asking how to reduce phubbing or how to prevent phubbing behavior.

One way to consciously reduce phubbing is to decrease the use of smartphones or work toward a more intentional use of such technologies. This ties into the recent concept of digital well-being, which deals with the impact of digital technologies on human mental, physical, social, and emotional health.

Another way to mitigate the depressive symptoms that arise with the practice of phubbing is to establish a healthy support system by nurturing and prioritizing social opportunities offline.

Digital Well-being deals with the impact of digital technologies on human mental, physical, social, and emotional health.

For couples who do phubbing to each other, there are interesting options to enhance and repair communication. Adding principles of appreciative inquiry to the couple’s dynamic, choosing offline forms of entertainment such as playing board or card games, going for a hike, or cooking a meal together are all practical solutions that can bring empathy back into the relationship.

The key here is to choose activities that both parties can enjoy and have fun with. And if you are willing to proactively improve your digital well-being, you might enjoy reading a recent article with 5 Offline Activities You Must Add to Your Well-being Routine.

Concluding Thoughts

Effects of phubbing sound alarming not only for our individual well-being but also for our social health. Phubbing has negative consequences for both phubber and phubbee. From experiencing loneliness and disconnection to unhealthy communication patterns between partners, phubbing can only do us more harm than good. The main leading factor of such behavior seems to be phone addiction.

If you or a loved one is experiencing phone addiction, please know that professional help is available and can be tailored to your needs.

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18 Comments

  1. C.S.I says:

    I never knew the name for it, but I suppose phubbing is as good as any. This is one problem I am aware of and, I believe is going to be hard for most people to get past. Everything in society today seems to be connected to our phones in one way or another. Whether it’s work or keeping in touch with our children, phubbing has become a big part of our lives. It will be a challenge for most to get past this. Thank you for bringing this to our attention. Great post

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey Billy, thanks a lot for your feedback and view on this. I totally agree with you, it’s a behavior that slowly became a “new normal”. I’m all for technology but phubbing is truly damaging our real-life connections. It sometimes heartbreaking to watch an entire family focused on their personal phones rather than chatting and creating memories together.

      Like

  2. Ron says:

    I never knew the term, however it turns out am a phubber. It is rather disrespectful thing to the phubbees and I will do better

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m sure you will, Ron 😊 We can always go back to our phones later 📱

      Like

  3. well, that’s harsh. Is there anyone out there who is 100% guilt-free in this? I am not, though I would like to believe that I am not all bad …. I tend to reach my phone when others do and I guess then we are all phubbers?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha, yes, phubbees become phubbers too sometimes 😂 I’ve been in situations in which I asked people relentlessly to leave their phones alone during meals. Even my parents do phubbing!

      Like

  4. Rachel says:

    I’ve never heard of ‘phubbing’ before.
    I think we do get too obsessed with our phones and need to give others our full attention when we spend time with them. Thanks for the reminder. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You nailed it! We became too dependent on the rush our phones give us with their plethora of notifications and never-ending scrolling opportunities 😂 We do get a lot more from trying to connect with those who are just sitting next to us. It may require some imagination and proactivity, but we feel a lot more fulfilled ❤️

      Like

  5. Hannah says:

    I genuinely had no idea there was a name for it, but I was the phubbee in at least 2 of my past relationships and I’m trying to prevent being one with my husband too – we’re working on it though and now we know what it is that’s even better! Really interesting and thought provoking article! We really do spend too much time with technology these days x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh yes! That’s great news! Have you tried to have an “offline box” for your phones? You can have a special box where you both commit to lay your phones down so that you can have some off-digital quality time 😊 x

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  6. Retiring Richie says:

    Hi Vanessa,

    A very interesting article, thank you. I can tell you that:
    1. I’d never heard of phubbing before reading your article (that’s my ‘something new’ for today!)
    2. I’ve never phubbed anybody.

    It’s not restricted to the more tech-savvy younger generation either – my boss often does it to his staff.

    It’s basically just a modern way of being rude, isn’t it? No better than bringing a book along, ordering your coffee, and then reading the book rather than engaging with the person that you arranged to meet.

    You are a better person than me – I would have left the cafe and left the “friend” to play with his ‘phone! He was a Muppet!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey Richie! I’m so pleased you got to learn something new here! And I completely agree with you – this is a phenomenon that everyone is doing, regardless of age or tech dominion. My parents are close to their 60s and they keep doing it. I believe it became so “normal” that people assume it’s okay. Some don’t even realize they are doing it, let alone it has an impact on themselves and others. I’m happy you don’t engage in such behavior, and that will be my “thank God, there’s hope” for today, hehe! Thanks for coming by!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. This is interesting to know about this. Well, it’s something new to me as well. Thank you for sharing it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad you got something new from here 😊

      Like

  8. This is a new term for me but I have experienced this and seen it a lot.

    I went for a walk today and saw a mother on her phone walking with two kids. I felt sad but also picked up immediately on the children’s sadness about the situation. As a pattern of behavior, this leads to neglect and can result in depression that you wrote about.

    An informative blog on an important subject, Vanessa! Thank you
    Blessings,
    Lisa

    Like

  9. Cassie says:

    Wow I didn’t realize there was a name for this. Luckily I don’t get phubbed often. Sometimes our grandson does it but we can convince him to put the phone down and talk, play a board/card game or go for a walk. I see it happen to other people in restaurants. Rude.

    Like

  10. sarah0711 says:

    Didn’t know the term!

    My work life is mostly online so I try to give myself time to be phone free and more “aware”.

    Thanks for the reminder x

    Like

  11. Cassie says:

    When you put this teaser out on Twitter, I had NO idea what it could possibly be. I used to be a restaurant manager and I distinctly remember one of my servers being so annoyed with phubbers that she would refuse to serve them. She would approach a table and address the person NOT on their phone and only that person. Made sense to me because the person with their face in the phone isn’t engaged or paying any attention anyway. I don’t spend much time on my phone. I think people have become uncomfortable with personal, face-to-face interaction and that’s a shame. I hope that one day people can get back to real-life engagement again. Great post! Thank you for giving that practice a name!!

    Like

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