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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