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What Is ‘Phubbing’? Here’s How The Habit Can Ruin Your Relationship

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Phubbing is a serious offense with (reportedly) serious side effects. It is a very real epidemic happening all around the world. What is it? Phubbing is the act of phone snubbing. It is someone ignoring the person in their company to pay attention to their phone instead. Not only is it rude and inconsiderate, but it is a real problem that is actually ruining many relationships and causing depression in individuals.

Maybe you don’t even realize that you are doing it. Most likely, if you are a victim of this offense you know…but maybe you don’t realize how much it is actually affecting you. So if you’re curious and you’d like to get a sense of how often you and your partner (or friends) phub each other, answer each of these questions on a scale from 1 (never) to 5 (all the time):

  1. During a typical mealtime that my partner and I spend together, my partner pulls out and checks his/her cell phone.
  2. My partner places his or her cell phone where they can see it when we are together.
  3. My partner keeps his or her cell phone in their hand when he or she is with me.
  4. When my partner’s cell phone rings or beeps, he/she pulls it out even if we are in the middle of a conversation.
  5. My partner glances at his/her cell phone when talking to me.
  6. During leisure time that my partner and I are able to spend together, my partner uses his/her cell phone.
  7. My partner uses his or her phone when we are talking .
  8. My partner uses his or her cell phone when we are out together.
  9. If there is a lull in our conversation, my partner will check his cell phone.

This (above) questionnaire was one part of a study conducted by James A. Roberts, a professor of marketing at Baylor University Hankamer School of Business, and his research partner, assistant marketing professor Meredith David, Ph.D. They wanted to learn about the relational effects of “Pphubbing” or partner phubbing.

The study involved the team developing the “Partner Phubbing Scale,” then conducting two separate surveys with it. More than 450 U.S. adults participated. The researchers published the study and their findings in the journal “Computers In Human Behavior.”

The Surveys

The First Survey

  • 308 adults participated.
  • Participants were given the above questionnaire (those 9 questions previously listed for you to answer) and asked to give each question a numeric value (as you were) for the answer in regards to their partners’ cell phone usage in their company.
  • The scores from the answers were accumulated and used to develop a nine-point scale of common cell phone behaviors that respondents identified as snubbing behaviors.

The Second Survey

  • 145 participants took the survey.
  • This second round of questions was based on that nine-point scale established by the first survey.
  • The questions were aimed to measured relationship and life satisfaction, depression levels, and “anxious attachment” – something experienced by people who feel less secure with their partner.

What They Found

  • 46.3 percent of respondents said their partners phubbed them.
  • 22.6 percent said it caused issues in their relationship.
  • 36.6 percent reported being depressed.
  • 32 percent expressed no issues and were very satisfied with their relationship.
  • Overall, the lower levels of relationship satisfaction led to lower life satisfaction rates and ultimately to higher levels of depression.
  • Even momentary cell phone distractions added up. If one partner an repeatedly distracted by his or her phone, more often than not, the other partner beg to feel less and less satisfied with the relationship.
  • The more one party interrupted couple time together through cellphone use, the less likely the other person would be satisfied in the relationship. This led to enhanced depressive feelings and lower well-being of that unsatisfied individual.

In Conclusion

The whole point of the study was to determine how often people use or get distracted by their cellphones when they’re with their significant others. What they found, according to Roberts, was that:

“[W]hen someone perceived that their partner phubbed them, this created conflict and led to lower levels of reported relationship satisfaction.”

Dr. Gail Saltz, psychiatrist for Today, explains that even if couples don’t show signs of problematic phubbing, people still feel rejected when loved ones pay more attention to their phones. It could be that the person is keeping their feelings to themselves, but the phubbing is making them secretly unhappy.

If you don’t want this happening to you (or because of you) you’ve got to consider how your actions are effecting others.  Saltz says:

“Maybe you have to think about how phubbing makes people feel. Most people don’t… It is hard for a person who is looking for an intimate connection to not feel somewhat put off or rejected if you are constantly looking at something [else].”

Furthermore, don’t feel bad to speak up. Saltz says:

“If the behavior occurs over and over, it’s okay to point it out in the moment and say something like, ‘This is what makes me feel bad.’”

The moral of the story is:

Be more mindful of how much time you’re spending on your phone when in the company of others.

Last but not least:

If the thought of phubbing makes you angry enough to join a movement, check out where you’ll find fascinating information, not only on phubbing and its effects, but also on how to put an end to the pandemic. Actually, you should check out that website no matter what because it is very entertaining!

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