Friday, February 3, 2023


What phubbing is and why you should avoid it

Look around you. Whether you’re sitting at a campfire, doing laundry in the campground laundromat, or on the road traveling, you’ll probably see others phubbing. In fact, there’s a good chance you’re phubbing as well! What is phubbing? And why should you avoid it? Read on to find out.

What is phubbing?

“Phubbing” is a relatively new word. I hadn’t heard it before and wondered what it might be. Turns out phubbing is a combination of two familiar words: phone and snubbing. The Oxford Dictionary defines phubbing as: “The practice of ignoring one’s companion(s) in order to pay attention to one’s phone or other mobile device.”

Who’s phubbing?

It probably won’t surprise you to learn that teens and young adults are the groups that phub most often. I’ll see them in restaurants. Perhaps you’ve witnessed this, too. Although they’ve presumably come together to enjoy each other’s company, there just isn’t much interaction going on. Instead, every person intently studies their phone.

Full-grown adults are also phubbing more as time goes by. Family members phub one another more often than they use their phones while conversing with co-workers. Friends phub one another more often than they do strangers.

The phenomenon of phubbing is not isolated to the U.S. Studies have been done throughout the world. Phubbing is everywhere! It’s in rural areas as well as larger cities and across economic lines, as well.

What causes phubbing?

  • Boredom. This is one reason we bring out our cell phones while engaged in another activity. If you’ve phubbed while watching television, it’s probably because the programming isn’t holding your attention.
  • Avoidance. This is another reason folks phub. Perhaps the conversation is uncomfortable or threatening. The phone provides a safe escape in these instances.
  • Habit. Phubbing can become habitual. For some, whenever they sit down or stand still—even for a moment or two—they pull out their phone to check social media, play online games, text, and more.

Downsides of phubbing

Remember what Dad said way back when? “Just because everyone is doing it, doesn’t make it right.” In fact, phubbing can disrupt what might have been a meaningful conversation. Conversations are necessary to build and maintain relationships. Even sharing the phone with your companion disrupts the communication between the two of you.

When you phub, you are essentially removing yourself from the connection you have with people around you. We’ve all been in situations when someone in the group pulls out his/her phone and suddenly the conversation comes to a halt. The phubber is no longer involved in the discussion. They’ve removed themselves from interacting with the group. People within the group may feel insulted or angry at the person phubbing.

Phubbing can hurt loved ones who may believe the phubber places a higher priority on connecting with something or someone on their phone. In short, the phone is more important than the person you’re with at the time. No one likes to play second fiddle—especially to funny cat videos, Facebook, or a game of solitaire.

Breaking the habit

It is possible to stop phubbing. Here are some suggestions.

  • Leave the phone in your pocket/purse. Don’t even place it on a nearby table or your lap. In fact, having your cell phone in another room altogether might be the best idea. Restricting access to your phone may help you stop phubbing.
  • Talk about it. If your spouse or travel partner consistently phubs, tell them how phubbing makes you feel. Don’t judge or get angry. Use words like, “I love it when we can really talk to each other. Sometimes the phone gets in the way of our conversations. How can we fix that?”
  • Dedicate no-phone areas. Think about the places that are most conducive to meaningful conversation, like the bedroom or dining table. Plan to keep these agreed-upon areas phone-free.

Do you know a phubber? In your opinion, is phubbing a problem or not? Let us know how you feel in the comments below.



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Kimberly G
27 days ago

I use my phone camera to capture pictures of so many things that I want to share with others when we get together. It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words, and also provides me with a way to break out of my shell and engage socially with others.
I do agree that using a device to leave a conversation for more stimulating content fails to honor the human being(s) that are with you. That is just lazy and inexcusable. If you are bored by the conversation or there is a brief lag in the chat, ponder in the quiet to consider a new, interesting topic of discussion that the other can engage with.

27 days ago

This is why I call it the “Dumb phone” instead of the smart phone. It is smart to pay attention to what is going on around you

28 days ago

People talking on the phone while at checkout stands, has to be the rudest, most disrespectful thing I see currently. I think stores/employees should refuse to serve these people, direct them to the side to talk, for disrupting activities.

Neal Davis
28 days ago

New word for me, too! Thanks for this informative and helpful article that gives a name to one of my less-desirable practices.

D Hart
28 days ago

Good short article. I do not care what this behavior is call/named but it is disturbing. When I visit with relatives or friends I want to know that there is a genuine interaction. If the truth is the interactions are not wanted or stimulating enough then everyone should VERBALLY agree to disband the group’s non-interaction and get on with life. Human life by the way, is quite short and living via a device is very hollow.

Steve H
28 days ago

I would never use any of these new, made-up words–phubbing, hashtag, hack, bff, etc. Maybe it makes me an old fogey, but no one under 30 knows what that means either!

28 days ago

I am old enough to remember when we did not have all this tech.
As much good that it has brought with it , I also think it has brought bad along with it also.

28 days ago

My MIL/FIL had bluetooth things stuck in their ears all the time to call each other.

One afternoon my FIL and I were in the boat enjoying a fishing outting. After an extended time without a bite, he was looking right at me and lovingly said: “Hi Honey…love you.” Got a little scared for a moment until his conversation continued and I realized he was talking to my MIL!!! 🙂

28 days ago

I agree that phones have become a major distraction and even a disruption in society.
But in context, as has been pointed out in other comments, phones have replaced newspaper and books in many instances so reading on a phone is no different.

However, sitting around a dinner table or at a gathering of family or friends, put the phone down and interact. Game nights are good for distracting from phones!

28 days ago

SO are we calling out people that are reading a book or magazine while around the campfire or at the laundromat? Or are we just mad at the delivery method?

John S
28 days ago
Reply to  Snayte

A solution in search of a problem…

Carl W
28 days ago

I guess I must have been phubbing when I perused this article, but I also had the TV on and was paying more attention to the TV. Could that be teleubbing? Or does that mean that I perceived this was a boring article unable to hold my attention?

Michael Roach
28 days ago

I’ve always just called it being rude, and walk away from people doing this.

28 days ago
Reply to  Michael Roach

New word: “Narcisstitlement.” When you perceive yourself to be so important that when you are present others must stop doing what they enjoy and give YOU all of THEIR time and attention.

28 days ago
Reply to  SteveAustin

Well! Just what we needed, a new psycho-buzzword, to demean the idea of expecting simple respect from another human being. Perhaps we are better off if the phoneheads stay glued to them.

28 days ago
Reply to  wanderer

Your message is about YOUR expectations. Do you expect everyone who is reading a book, watching TV, or listening to music to stop what they are doing to pay attention to you, just to satisfy your craving for your interpretation and expectation for respect? You don’t see the irony in how disrespectful you’re being to them?

27 days ago
Reply to  SteveAustin

I suppose you should be ignored … my bad

Charlie Sullivan
28 days ago
Reply to  SteveAustin

Really? I think you and others missed the point of the article completely. No one said to stop reading or listening to music. what it did refer to is the behavior of ignoring the people you are together with to socialize but rather put all your attention to your phone and interacting with it. That is rude! If I come to a get- together in a social setting, I {bleeped} well expect you to be engaged, and not ignoring the people you’re supposed to be engaged with. If you prefer engaging with your phone, that’s fine, then don’t participate in social get togethers.

I recently saw a family of four at a restaurant and all four of them were on their phones and could barely look up when the waitress came to take their order…sad!

25 days ago


28 days ago
Reply to  Michael Roach

I agree, I do the same. If I am talking to someone and they pull out their phone and mess with it, I leave.  I do not believe I ever had a person pull out a book and start reading while we were talking. If they are messing with their phone (or reading) and I come up to them, then I do not feel the same; they were doing something else first.

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