People get distracted sometimes, and it can be annoying if you’re trying to have a conversation with them. It’s particularly aggravating when someone engages in “phubbing”—snubbing you to look at his or her cell phone.
How often have you gotten together with a friend for lunch or met up with a colleague to find them taking out their cell phone to check something on it? It’s not an uncommon occurrence. And according to psychologist Emma Seppälä, author of The Happiness Track, it can be harmful to relationships.
“Ironically, phubbing is meant to connect you, presumably, with someone through social media or texting,” Emma told Time. “But it actually can severely disrupt your present-moment, in-person relationships.”
Several studies have examined the effects of phubbing on face-to-face interactions. When someone sends or reads a text during a conversation, it’s not only disruptive, it’s disrespectful. People feel less connected and less satisfied with a conversation when a person interacts with his or her phone in the midst of it. Just the presence of a cell phone can be distracting.
The study, “The effects of “phubbing” on social interaction,” found that “increased phubbing significantly and negatively affected perceived communication quality and relationship satisfaction. These effects were mediated by reduced feelings of belongingness and both positive and negative affect.”
Specifically, researchers found that phubbing adversely impacts a person’s four “fundamental needs”—belongingness, self-esteem, meaningful existence and control. In other words, phubbing makes people feel excluded and ignored.
The practice can also be harmful to marriages, according to other research. Spouses who “phub” each other are more likely to be less satisfied in their marriages and experience depression.
Both the phubber and the person who is phubbed are affected by the practice. For example, people who use their phones at the dinner table are more likely to enjoy their meal less, be more distracted, and be less engaged.
No one like a phubber. Many think it’s just plain rude. Unfortunately, most people with cell phones have probably been on both sides of the situation, which is why it’s so distressing. Technology is infiltrating people’s lives in so many ways that it’s replacing human interaction.
Fortunately, people can stop the bad habit by simply putting their phone away when meeting with friends, family and colleagues. In extreme cases, individuals may want to use meditation or other practices to quell the need to pick up the phone.
As for those who are victims of phubbing, a good defence is explaining to your friend or partner that it bothers you. If they care about your feelings, they will put the phone away.