One of the saddest things I’ve seen in a restaurant is a family dining together at a table with the adults tinkering on their phones while the kids were so engrossed with their tablets.
There was a time, I also spotted a couple waiting for their order and the lady was silently inspecting the venue’s interiors while the man was busy on the phone, playing a mobile game. Amid silence, focusing on gadgets when a person is or people are around screams disinterest or bluntly, disrespect.
In 2013, I came across a word that best captures the concept – phubbing. It has been ten years since but phubbing has yet to be widely recognized a societal sin.
Phubbing, a term derived from “phone” and “snubbing,” refers to ignoring someone in favor of using a mobile phone or other electronic devices. In recent years, with more mobile trends and games, phubbing has become increasingly more prevalent, affecting interpersonal relationships and social interactions. Effects of phubbing on individuals’ well-being and relationship satisfaction have been examined.
Studies have consistently shown that phubbing can have detrimental effects on interpersonal relationships. When individuals engage in phubbing, they send out a subtle yet strong message to their partners, friends, or family members that their virtual connections are more important. Feelings of rejection, neglect, reduced intimacy, and dissatisfaction in relationships are heightened.
To prevent phubbing and promote healthier relationships, several strategies are suggested through personal experience:
Start with yourself. Remember the Golden Rule? Treat others the way you want to be treated. Model the behavior and be mindful of your phone usage. If you expect others to respect your presence, demonstrate the same respect by minimizing your distractions and focusing on the people around you.
Communicate and update. Discuss the issue of phubbing with your loved ones or social groups. Raise awareness, especially among the elders, about the concept’s negative impact on relationships and emphasize the importance of being fully present during social interactions.
Practice active listening. When conversing, make a conscious effort to listen actively and attentively. Maintain eye contact, ask follow-up questions, and show genuine interest in what others are saying. This can foster stronger connections and discourage phubbing behavior.
Set boundaries. Establish clear boundaries regarding phone usage within relationships. Agree on designated zones where and times when it is acceptable to use devices and communicate the importance of undivided attention during specific activities. Promote the development of phone etiquette guidelines among family and friends, or between romantic partners. This may include guidelines such as not checking phones during conversations, keeping devices on silent mode, or excusing oneself if urgent matters arise.
Phubbing is a behavior that can erode the quality of connections and relationships. By fostering a culture of mindfulness and respect for one another, we can minimize the negative effects of phubbing and make other people feel that they matter.