We live in the information age where it’s difficult not to get sucked down the social media black hole. You aren’t alone if you tend to spend hours looking at your smartphone and can’t stop checking your social media every few minutes.
Whether you admit it or not, it’s more than likely that you’ve phubbed someone or been phubbed by others. But what is phubbing anyway? Well, simply put, avoiding your partner to pay attention to your phone is what phubbing means.
You might be wondering how cell phone use and relationships are even correlated. You’re in the same room with your partner and listening to them while texting a friend. What’s so wrong with that? This may come as a shock, but phubbing does hurt your relationship.
In this article, we’ll discuss what phubbing is, signs to know if you’re a phubber, the effects of phubbing in relationships, and how to stop it from ruining your relationship and mental health.
What is phubbing?
The term phubbing was first coined in May 2012 by an Australian advertising agency and became popular by their campaign called ‘Stop Phubbing.’ So, what does the term phubbing mean? It’s a portmanteau of two words-phone and snubbing.
Now, what is phone snubbing? Phubbing is phone snubbing. It’s the act of snubbing someone by paying attention to your smartphone. So, it happens when you start to ignore someone you’re talking with in person in favor of your mobile phone.
Here’s an example of what phubbing looks like. Maybe you’re texting back a friend who lives a thousand miles away while you’re sitting at the dinner table and about to have a meal with your spouse. That’s phubbing right there. You might argue that, ‘how’s it phubbing? I’m just replying to a friend’s text’.
There’s nothing wrong with trying to stay in touch with your friend. But the problem is you’re paying no attention to your partner who’s interested to know more about your day and probably feeling left out and hurt.
A study found that smartphone addiction is the culprit behind your phubbing behavior, along with FOMO(The fear of missing out), internet addiction, and lack of self-control. It also showed that 17% of people engage in phubbing at least four times a day while another 32% were phubbed 2-3 times a day.
How can that not affect our relationships and mental health?
6 signs you or your partner are a phubber
Let’s look into the signs of a phubber.
They tend to check their phone every time it rings, even in the middle of a conversation.
From the bathroom to the dinner table- phubbers take their phone almost everywhere.
No matter what they’re doing or who they’re with, a phubber may keep looking at their phone.
Even when they’re lying next to their partner, phubbers hold onto their phone instead of giving full attention to their partner
They may halfheartedly talk to the person they’re with while they’re busy texting other people who aren’t around.
They immediately reach out for their phone when awkward silence or a lull in the conversation happens.
What is phubbing in a relationship? Well, it happens when one partner engages in texting somebody, scrolling through their Facebook news feed, or playing games instead of giving attention to the other partner.
1. Low marital satisfaction
Not only is it quite rude to your partner, but phubbing in a marriage can also be particularly detrimental. A study found that depression and lower marital satisfaction can result from a couple’s phubbing behavior toward each other.
2. Poor mental health
Also, conflicts arising from phubbing can negatively affect your relationship satisfaction and psychological well-being. You might wonder how cell phones destroy relationships or why texting ruins relationships.
Well, it’s because phubbing might make your partner feel unimportant when you’re busy scrolling through your phone while they’re trying to have a conversation with you. Your partner should never have to compete with an electronic device for your attention.
3. Emotional disconnect
When that becomes a regular thing, they may start to feel emotionally disconnected from you. Also, conflicts may arise over the phubber’s cell phone addiction if the phubbed partner’s primary love language is quality time.
If they feel like their partner is prioritizing their cell phone over a person, they may start to feel alone and excluded. Also, phubbers may spend a lot of time on social media and fall into a comparison trap.
Comparing their relationship to other couples on Facebook or Instagram may lead to low relationship satisfaction. Phubbing might help you connect with people who are far away from you through texts or emails.
But, it can be quite damaging to your in-person interaction with your partner, which can cause a rift in your relationship. Lots of research has been done on the impact of phubbing on people’s mental health and relationships.
4. Poor communication
Phubbing has been linked to poor quality of communication and overall relationship dissatisfaction. It can also negatively affect phubbees’ mental health as they feel neglected by their partner.
A survey done by Baylor University’s Hankamer School of Business showed that a whopping 46.3 percent of people were being phubbed by their partner, and 22.6 percent stated that the phubbing caused conflict in their relationships. Also, 36.6 percent felt depressed due to phubbing.
How phubbing affects mental health
Phubbing is disrespectful to the phubbee (who’s on the receiving end of phubbing). When they’re being phubbed, it’s normal for them to feel neglected, excluded, and uncomfortable, which can significantly impact their mental health.
To avoid feeling like that, the phubbed person might now start to use their phone and thus start a cycle of phubbing. However, phubbing doesn’t only affect the mental health of the person being phubbed. It’s harmful to the phubber as well.
For a study conducted by the University of British Columbia, Canada, over 300 people were recruited to eat a meal with their friends or family at a restaurant. The results revealed that phubbers didn’t enjoy their food as much.
Neither did they feel as engaged as those who refrained from phubbing at the table.
Research has also shown that phubbing tends to threaten four of our’ fundamental needs’ such as belongingness, self-esteem, meaningful existence, and control — by making phubbed people feel rejected and unimportant.
Excessive social media use during phubbing might cause depressive feelings and general dissatisfaction with life. It can worsen anxiety symptoms as well. So phubbing does a lot more damage than just ruining relationships and killing the bond between partners.
7 ways to avoid phubbing
Here’s how you can overcome your cell phone addiction and break the habit of phubbing.
1. Acknowledge the problem
Like any other problem, the first step in avoiding phubbing is recognizing that you’re doing it. Become more self-aware and catch yourself in the act the next time your partner has to ask you the same question twice because of phubbing.
2. Create no-phone zones
Don’t let phubbing interrupt the quality time you’re supposed to spend with your partner to have a healthy and meaningful relationship. Make your dinner table, bedroom, and car no-phone zones and put the phones and tablets away.
You may put your phone on silent or turn on ‘Do not disturb’ mode, so you don’t feel intrigued to check your phone every time it buzzes. Make an effort to be present at the moment, express genuine interest in your partner’s life, and get to know how their day was.
3. Keep your phone out of sight
Don’t keep the phone on the table when you’re out on a date or simply having dinner at a romantic restaurant with your partner.
Instead, leave it in the car, or if there’s a possibility that you might miss an important call, keep it with you but leave it in the pocket or your purse.
If you leave the phone around, make sure not to look at it every time the screen lights up. Think about how it would make your date feel when they don’t have your full attention and would have little choice but to start phubbing too.
4. Do a digital detox
Your smartphone itself can be used to help you stop phubbing. There are apps that you can download to track your phone usage and block distracting apps so that you can be present with your partner and stay away from phubbing.
You can remove the apps that distract you from your phone’s home screen and turn off the push notifications as well. Also, taking a break from social media for at least one day per week might help.
To understand the effects of cell phone addiction, watch this video.
5. Set limits and consequences for phubbing
Whenever you’re out together or having a meal, stash your phone in a place where none of you can see it. Then decide for how long you’re going to stay away from the phone no matter how many times it beeps or vibrates.
If you fail to stick to that time and use your phone before that, you’d have to stay out longer with your partner without using the phone or clean the dishes if you’re at home. Be creative and set up the limits and consequences that work for you.
Just make sure to implement consequences for your phubbing behavior.
6. Take your partner’s feelings into consideration
There are times when your partner may have had a bad day or need to talk to you about something important. They might get hurt if you don’t listen to them and keep phubbing. At some point, they might just feel like completely shutting off and stop telling you anything.
So, get your priorities straight and put yourself in their shoes the next time you start to phub them and stop right away.
7. Keep challenging yourself
While you might struggle to stop phubbing at the beginning, you’ll get used to being present in the moment and form a genuine connection with your partner soon enough. Set realistic expectations and keep rewarding yourself for staying away from your phone for a while.
4 ways to keep others from phubbing
Here’s how you can help others stop phubbing to break the notorious cycle of phubbing.
1. Openly communicate
If you’re the partner who’s being phubbed, it’s normal for you to feel isolated and ostracized. Before you start using your phone to brush off those feelings and start the vicious cycle, pause there.
Instead, take a breather and calmly tell your partner how their behavior is making you feel.
They probably have no idea that their action was causing you this kind of discomfort. Even if the phubber is aware of their cell phone addiction, they might not do it to exclude you on purpose. Give them some time to acknowledge the problem and work on it.
Also, you may give them a gentle reminder when they start phubbing you again and try not to take it personally. Be patient and refrain from phubbing them no matter how much you feel like giving them a taste of their own medicine.
2. Lead by example
You may start to model the kind of behavior you want to see from them. It might take some time, but eventually, the phubber might stop phubbing and start fully engaging in face-to-face conversation.
3. Be understanding and compassionate
No matter how disturbing phubbing is, forcing someone to quit may not be the best solution. Since it’s more of an impulse issue than an addiction, giving them time to break this habit and being sympathetic might be what they need.
You may try to set boundaries and make sure the phubber sticks to them.
When someone starts phubbing you, you might be tempted to check your phone too. Resist the impulse to reach out for your phone and look around. Talk about something interesting around you to catch their attention.
Help them focus on what matters in life rather than their phones.
When you two are together, your partner deserves your undivided attention. Using your phone during that time instead of making your spouse a priority can make them feel unheard and unloved. It can take a heavy toll on your relationship.
So the next time you get to see your partner, put your phone down and say no to phubbing. Instead, Look them in the eye and be fully present in the moment. It may help both of you form a deeper connection and increase relationship satisfaction.
If you feel disconnected or frustrated about the state of your marriage but want to avoid separation and/or divorce, the marriage.com course meant for married couples is an excellent resource to help you overcome the most challenging aspects of being married.
Sylvia Smith loves to share insights on how couples can revitalize their love lives in and out of the bedroom. As a writer at Marriage.com, she is a big believer in living consciously and encourages couples to adopt this principle in their lives too. Sylvia believes that every couple can transform their relationship into a happier, healthier one by taking purposeful and wholehearted action.