Skip to main content

Phubbing is hurting our relationships. What are its dangers, signs and how to fight?


What is phubbing?

Phubbing is a derivative of the English words phone (telephone) and snubbing (disdainful attitude). In practice, this is a kind of snobbery, manifested in the habit of often being distracted by your own gadget during live communication with another person.

It simply refers to ignoring people and activities, and being busy on the phone without taking into an account of what goes around.

The term was first introduced in 2012 at a convention of writers, poets and literary scholars at the University of Sydney.

By what signs can you determine that a person is a Phubber?

The main signs of phubbing include the following behavioral features:

  • A person does not part with the gadget even while eating, puts it next to him on the table, does not stop viewing messages or correspondence in social networks.
  • Does not let go of the smartphone even while walking, going to the store, on the way to work.
  • The device is instantly in their hands after the first sound alert, even if the Phubber is driving or in the middle of an important conversation.
  • On vacation (a party, a picnic, a walk), a person mostly sits aside with a gadget and prefers the company of a smartphone over communication with friends and family.
  • A person unreasonably flips through what he has already seen on the network.

And one more important point, the phubber constantly feels fear and anxiety about missing something important in the news feed or messages.

Have there been scientific studies of phubbing and what do they indicate?

Phubbing studies were carried out repeatedly, by different groups of scientists and were mainly in the form of a survey. In 2015, Professor D. Roberts and M. David of Baylor University in Texas conducted a survey of 453 Americans on a nine-question phubbing scale they developed in order to find out its impact on relationships in a couple.

They also carried out another study on the impact of smartphones on interpersonal conflicts. As a result, it was found that 46% of the respondents faced phubbing from their partner constantly, 23% had conflicts because of this, 37% fell into depression because of phubbing, and only 32% of phubbing did not cause complications in relationships.

The results of other scientists were quite interesting. It turned out that the constant use of a smartphone, along with sex, finances, raising children, is one of the most common causes of family conflicts.

Based on the analysis of the information received, it was found that men are less susceptible to phubbing than women, and the phenomenon itself is a product of the imitation effect. People watch how others “sit in a smartphone” and unwittingly do the same. As a result, such behavior becomes the norm.


By the way, you can conduct a quick test. If your smartphone is still near you because you are afraid of missing a call, status update or tweet, then you are at risk. If you are used to having two conversations at the same time-in person and on a gadget, then this already means belonging to a "respectable" phubber community.

What is the danger of phubbing?

It seems to many that there is nothing wrong with phubbing, but the desire to regularly look at your smartphone when communicating with a real interlocutor is not so harmless. Being distracted by a request, messages from other people, the phabber prefers the interlocutor on the other side of the screen.

The seemingly harmless distraction to the smartphone emphasizes the unimportance of the interlocutor's problems for the phabber. What do you think, will you want to repeat the attempt to share the innermost or just chat on different topics after such ignorance? I think no.

Phubbing not only spoils the impression of a person, but also weakens these ties. According to statistics, about 17% of smartphone users “phabb” their interlocutors up to 4 times, and 32%, up to 2-3 times a day.

Studies show that even just having a gadget on the table during dinner or a conversation interferes with establishing strong contact between people. And every time this strikes at the attractiveness of live communication with such a person. No one will be pleased to doubt whether the interlocutor heard you at all and how much he delved into the topic of conversation.

The most important, phubbing harms the mental health of both the phabber and the one who is regularly exposed to it, i.e. close and permanent environment-family, friends, colleagues. It has been established that phubbing poses a threat to the four main psychological needs of a person:

  • A sense of belonging to the community, which consists in recognizing and respecting the opinions, values ​​and needs of other members of the community, and on the other hand, the ability to influence them.
  • Self-respect, ie. assessment of one's own importance for a close or important person.
  • Meaningfulness of existence - life with a semantic assessment of the surrounding reality, one's activities and relationships with other people. Phabber actually lives on the machine, like working with a given program tied to a gadget. He does not even understand that his actions have signs of psychological dependence on information technology.
  • Control as a psychological defense and feedback mechanism with the surrounding reality.
Scroll to Continue

Phubbing can affect relationships negatively

The damage caused by phubbing to dignity and self-respect can even lead to the complete destruction of friendships, partnerships and marital relationships. Communicating most of the time with a smartphone online, a person is simply not able to focus on the real events of the reality around him, the feelings and desires of the other, and even his own. He practically deprives himself of the taste of life in the literal and figurative sense, cannot enjoy food, intimacy with a loved one and time in the company of friends.

An irresistible desire to constantly check social networks, track messages and notifications is sometimes stronger than sexual desires. Phubber not only deprives himself of all earthly joys, but also harms his reputation and career, as those around him and colleagues begin to consider him an ill-mannered, impolite and unreliable person.

Couples in which both partners are engaged in phubbing do not experience negativity, but what to do in this case with children who especially need direct parental attention, care and love?

Phubbing practically eliminates the initially laid down positive aspects from social networks, instant messengers and chats, which were designed to facilitate communication at a distance in anticipation of a meeting. But in fact, it turned out that virtual communication began to crowd out live and direct contacts.

Moreover, phubbing causes negative emotions in 2/3 of people whose partner hangs on a smartphone. Their emotional range varies from simple irritation to severe depression.

How can you fight phubbing?

Getting rid of phubbing is quite difficult, because it is not just a habit, but sometimes an already formed addiction to the Internet or even an anxiety disorder in which a person is in constant anxiety not to miss something important.

Naturally, without a sincere desire of the person himself to be cured of phubbing, it is simply impossible to help him. If it is, start by following these simple recommendations:

  • Create zones without a smartphone. For example, never put it on the table while eating, turn off the sound notification.
  • Received calls and messages can always be read later, and devote the time of a joint lunch or dinner only to your loved ones
  • Make it a rule to follow the rules of etiquette in personal communication. If you need to answer a phone, excuse yourself and step aside for a moment.
  • If you need to forward a text message, then it really should be urgent. At the same time, do not forget about apologies, explain that this is for work or family reasons, and limit the correspondence as much as possible.
  • Agree with family, friends and colleagues on urgent and important matters to call rather than send messages. So you will be relieved of the need to regularly check their receipt.
  • Try to "forget" your favorite gadget in your car or desk drawer. Of course, at first you will be very uncomfortable, you will feel insecure and out of work. But do not dramatize - all notifications, messages and news will remain in place, you just gradually begin to realize that they are not so important and that you can communicate normally without a smartphone.
  • Start introducing meditation and other relaxing practices into your life.
  • Try to praise yourself for increasing the amount of time you can spend without your smartphone.
  • If you get stuck in games, try deleting them from your smartphone while leaving the app on your tablet or laptop. You can delete your account on at least one social network.
  • Finally, the most radical way is to buy a cheap phone. No internet - no problem.

If the smartphone has entered your life so tightly that you cannot imagine your existence without it, you cannot do without the help of a psychotherapist or psychologist. Only a specialist will help you restore the quality of life.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2022 Hamza Hussaini

Related Articles