Are you a Phubber (Phubbing = partner phone snubbing)?

With the rise of smart phones and social media, phubbing is now rife throughout the world.

You don’t need to travel far to see it in action; at your local restaurant, in the car next to yours on the highway, at a friend’s birthday BBQ, or even simply walking down the street. In greater numbers, people are ignoring the partner, friends or family they’re with, in favour of interaction with their mobile phone.

The new term ‘Pphubbing’ or ‘Phubbing’ means when you are with your partner (or a friend), using or responding to your phone as the priority, instead of them.

According to studies in US and UK, on average we check our phones every 4 to 6 mins of our waking hours (over 150 times a day).

For tech companies like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and TikTok- it pays to have your attention as often as possible. Companies are deliberately creating tech and apps with as much digital addiction as possible, because it is one of the most important components to making their companies thrive.

What happens when you get a message, a request or a like? We’re wired to be seduced by the neurochemical hit (of dopamine) of this constant connection at a safe distance; “who else wants to connect with you, the number of likes you’ve got, another funny story to read, the excitement of something new”. Due to this, it can easily be what you do with your spare time.

So, it’s not much of a jump from that to also continuing to do so when you are with your partner, instead of using this time as an opportunity to connect with him or her, the real person right in front of you, who I am assuming is the most important person (or one of the most important people) in your life.

Depending on the degree you do it, and your ability to stop it, it can become addictive behaviour.


You know you are a phubber if you:

  • Have your phone out and close to you when you are with your partner, at all times
  • You keep your conversations with your partner short because your attention is more focussed on what is on your phone
  • You break your attention from the conversation you are having with your partner to look at or respond to your phone
  • You check your phone when there is a lull in the conversation
  • If you are watching tv together, you look at your phone when there is an ad break
  • You take a call that is not urgent when you are having quality time with your partner


The impact on your relationship:

  • This seriously undermines the quality of your relationship. It sends a strong (implicit) message to your partner that he or she is not as important to you as your phone / these other people. There is never a time that you will put him or her ahead of everything else.
  • The anticipation of being disrupted actually changes what you choose to talk about, and how deeply you will talk about it. It keeps you more on surface level topics. You feel less safe to share more important or emotional things as these kinds of topics need a safe and undisturbed environment to be dealt with adequately.


Our Relationship satisfaction is due to the following 3 connection factors:

  • Accessability – you are both open and listen to each other
  • Responsiveness – you both empathise and try and understand how the other feels – he or she “gets” you
  • Engagement – You both often make time to be fully present with each other (give each other your full attention)

As you can see, constantly checking your phone while you are with your partner interferes with all of these three elements of relationship satisfaction.

A recent Study by Meredith David and James Roberts (Baylor Uni 2016) showed that 70 % of the 145 people they studied said that phubbing interfered with and hurt their relationship, and caused significant conflict between them over the use of phones. This made them less satisfied with their relationship as a whole.


Advice to phubbers:

My suggestion to you if you have noticed that you are in fact a phubber, is to be willing to create a shared rule about a phone free time for an hour a day quality time just for the two of you, plus time in bed.

Also, if you have a family, make dinner time and car time (when you are together) a phone free time.


Advice to phubbees:

If you find yourself with a phubber, I suggest you have a talk with your partner about how it is a real thing that is having a damaging effect on your relationship, that you are not happy about. Hopefully he or she will be willing to set some shared rules about phone free time. If not, you might need to take them for a visit to a relationship Psychologist.

Your relationship will thank you.

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