What is Phubbing?!

You’ve almost certainly had it done to you, and have (probably) done it yourself as well. Simply put, phubbing = phone + snubbing. It’s the act of ignoring your partner (who’s right next to you) to prioritise your phone. By this, we don’t mean occasionally glancing at your phone for an important text from your mum. We mean obsessively scrolling through social media at the expense of ignoring the human being next to you. Constantly responding to every text or notification...

Sound familiar? 


Phubbing can manifest anywhere, not just in romantic relationships. Recent studies have shown that phubbing can cause a lot of harm, both to relationships and to the mental health of the individuals involved. There’s more to it than some temporary annoyance.


The social impact

We all know that being phubbed is annoying – it doesn’t feel great when someone you’re trying to have a conversation with is constantly on their phone. Ironically, social media is meant to connect you with people virtually. But this can often come at the cost of your relationships IRL, whether a friend or romantic partner.

Multiple studies have shown that peoplereact negatively just to the presence of a phone during a conversation, even if it is not being used. Another study has shown serial texters were perceived as less polite, inattentive, and poor, and that those attached to their phone often miss key impactful moments of human interaction. Long term, phubbing can accelerate depression in married relationships, decrease self-worth, and cause arguments more frequently. Constant phubbing during a relationship can imply that they value their phone more than quality time with their partner. Gaahhh!




F*cking up your mental health

Not satisfied with only f*cking up your relationships, it can alsoimpact your mental health. The person who’s being phubbed may experience a significant lack of belonging, lowered self-esteem, a lack of sense of control, and no meaningful existence - all of which are fundamental needs required for us to thrive in society. To put it simply, they’ll feel like crap because they’re being ignored. 

It’s not all rosy for the phubber either. Social media thrives on attention, validation, and dopamine bursts. But this can turn ugly real quick, as it can fuel anxiety and depression. Social media thrives on an unrealistic, narcissistic perception that can’t match up to real validation and love. If a partner goes looking for attention and validation from social media, chances are they won’t be able to find it.


What can potentially cause phubbing?

Internet addiction and FOMO are strong contenders for the main reason behind why someone is phubbing, but really, it becomes a habit that’s hard to break. 

On average, Aussies spend more than 30% of their day in front of a screen, be it a phone or computer. Of this, more than 3 hours every day goes to smartphone use. The issue crops up when this screen time overlaps with time spent with your partner. 

A 2020 study by Deloitte reported that Australians spent 35% more time checking social media since the ‘rona hit. Meanwhile, there was a 24% increase in the time spent on TikTok and YouTube.



So how do you know if you're a phubber? 

It’s now basically impossible to exist and interact with modern society without a phone, and not every person checking their phone is a phubber. So when does it become problematic? 

If you’re unsure if you’re a big time phubber, or you’re convinced your partner phubs with the best of them, try leaving your phone/s in a separate room and see how long you can go without checking your notifications. Here are a few telltale signs to watch out for:

  • You HAVE to check your phone once every few minutes, even if you have no notifications.
  • You keep reopening and scrolling through the same apps again and again 
  • You can’t have meals without scrolling through your phone (even when someone’s with you)
  • You constantly hold two (or more) conversations at once while someone’s speaking to you IRL
  • You’re mostly distracted while speaking to people because you’re on your phone


How to break the phubbing cycle

If you’re the phubber:

  • Use DND mode on your phone while spending quality time with your partner.
  • No more phones during meals! TikTok can wait
  • Use a screen time tracker to find out just how many hours you spend on your phone. Set daily time limits for social media apps, and stick to them.
  • Go on phone-less date nights. Focus on the present moment, and transfer attention to your partner and what mischief you can get up to
  • Empathize with your partner. If your partner tells you they feel bad because they’ve been phubbed,acknowledge and believe theminstead of getting defensive.
  • Use relaxation techniques like yoga, meditation, and mindfulness to reduce your screen-time. 
  • Seek professional help to form more mindful habits.



If your partner is the phubber: 

  • Call out the phubbing behaviour whenever you see it. Correct them gently. 
  • Try not to take it personally. It might be easy to take offence, but look at the situation from a place of compassion. Your partner is acting on an impulse, not intentionally.
  • Have an open conversation with your partner. Tell them exactly how phubbing makes you feel, and about what quality time means to you.
  • While having a conversation, use “I” statements. For instance, start with “I feel like I am not being valued in this situation,” instead of saying “You’re always on your damn phone”
  • State your needs, be it comfort, validation, attention, reassurance, security, self-esteem, or physical touch. 
  • Have a device-less date night every week. 
  • Seek professional help or couples counselling to have more direction. 


The bottom line  

If you're struggling with a relationship or friendship with a serial phubber, or you're starting to suspect you're a phubber yourself, you don’t have to continue to do so.  Having the right mindset to be more present, and highlighting the issue to your partner/friend with an open conversation is all it takes. Mindful habits can be created in every relationship. 

It can take time to form a new habit, but we believe in you. The more you preserve, the stronger the habit!