‘Phubbing’: The Modern Way To Ruin Relationships

The cellphone behaviour that irritates everyone.

The cellphone behaviour that irritates everyone.

Ignoring someone in a social situation to look at a phone threatens people’s fundamental need to belong, new research finds.

It is a form of social exclusion, making others feel invisible and eroding their self-esteem.

‘Phubbing’, short for phone snubbing, was linked to poorer communication and lower relationship satisfaction, the study found.

Examples of phubbing include:

  • Placing the cellphone where it can be seen during a social interaction.
  • Keeping the cellphone in the hand.
  • Glancing at the cellphone while talking.
  • Checking the cellphone during a lull in the conversation.

The conclusions come from a series of experiments that tested the effect of different levels of phubbing; from no pubbing, through partial phubbing to extensive phubbing.

The higher the level of phubbing, the results showed, the more people felt their fundamental needs were threatened.

For the study, 153 people were shown a series of animations depicting incidents of phubbing.

Phubbing also seems to breed a vicious circle of retribution.

When you are pubbed by someone, you want to phub them back.

And so we all get used to phubbing each other.

As the researchers write:

“…phubbing behavior itself predicts the extent to which people are phubbed, so that being a phubber can result in a vicious, self-reinforcing cycle of phubbing that makes
the behavior become normative.

Research on the effects of phubbing suggests that it may create negative, resentful reactions such that people perceive their interaction to be of poorer quality, are less satisfied with their interactions, trust their interaction partner less, feel less close to their interaction partner when a phone is present, and experience jealousy.”

The study was published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology (Chotpitayasunondh & Douglas, 2018).

Phones and relationships image from Shutterstock

Author: Jeremy Dean

Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology. He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book "Making Habits, Breaking Habits" (Da Capo, 2013) and several ebooks.

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