Phubbing: What Is It, Effects on Relationships, and How to Stop (2023)

Phubbing: What Is It, Effects on Relationships, and How to Stop (1)Share on Pinterest

What is phubbing?

Phubbing is the act of snubbing someone you’re talking with in person in favor of your phone. Quite simply, it’s phone snubbing.

Phubbing was first coined as a term in May 2012. An Australian advertising agency created this word to describe the growing phenomenon of people ignoring their friends and family who were right in front of them and instead scrolling through their phones. Soon after, the Stop Phubbing campaign was launched.

While the word might not be in your daily vocabulary, the action likely is. One study found that more than 17 percent of people phub others at least four times a day. Almost 32 percent of people report being phubbed two to three times a day.

While the behavior might not seem like a big deal, research suggests phubbing may be hurting your relationships and your own mental health. Read on to learn more.

How does phubbing affect relationships?

(Video) Common Trend, "Phubbing" Can Negatively Affect Your Relationships

Phubbing interrupts your ability to be present and engage with people around you. Today, more than three-quarters of Americans own a smartphone, so the phubbing problem may be getting worse.

One study found that texting during a face-to-face conversation made the experience less satisfying for everyone involved, even the guilty phubber.

Phubbing and smartphone use also can have an impact on marriages. One study found that phubbing decreases marital satisfaction. Conflicts over phone use were the driving force of these issues. Another study found that spouses who phub each other experience higher rates of depression.

The effect of phubbing may be worse on people who find themselves at the receiving end of the snubbing. A study published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology found that people who viewed simulated snubbing felt more negatively about the interaction when they were told to imagine being the person phubbed than when they were not asked that.

What’s the driving force behind those feelings? Phubbing is a threat to four “fundamental needs,” the study found. Those core needs are:

  • belongingness
  • self-esteem
  • meaningful existence
  • control

When someone phubs you, you may feel rejected, excluded, and not important. That can have a significant impact on your mental health.

Research also shows that people who are phubbed are more likely to reach for their phones and try to engage with their social media network in order to fill that void. This is the start of a vicious cycle.

Plus, diving into social media may actually make the problem worse. Social media may have a negative impact on your mental health, according to research published in Computers and Human Behavior. The study found that social media can make feelings of depression worse, and the more you use social media, the more likely you are to feel depression or anxiety.

(Video) Do You Have A Phubbing Problem?

The number one sign that you are guilty of phubbing is in your hand — your phone. If your phone is with you at all times because you’re afraid you’ll miss a call, a tweet, or a status update, you are likely guilty of phubbing.

Here are three signs you may be a phubber:

  1. You carry on two conversations at once, on your phone and in person. You’re likely doing neither very successfully, and you’re most certainly phubbing.
  2. You immediately bring your phone out at dinner or other social settings. Putting your phone beside your plate “just in case” is a warning sign that you’ll soon be phubbing. Plus, you don’t even have to touch your phone during a conversation for it to negatively impact your relationship. One study found that just the presence of the phone made people feel less connected.
  3. You can’t get through a meal without checking your phone. The fear of missing out is real — a real sign you’re phubbing.

If the idea of giving up social media makes you nervous and a little sick to your stomach, you’re not alone. In fact, one study found that the urge to check social media is stronger than the urge for sex. That doesn’t mean, however, that you can’t learn other ways to check in with social media without scrolling endlessly.

1. Make meals a no-phone zone

When it’s time to eat, no matter where you are, put the phone away. If a distant buzz of notifications will be too much of a distraction, turn your phone to the “do not disturb” mode, too.

Give yourself each meal to engage with the people in front of you and have a sincere conversation. It may feel forced at first, but soon you will feel more comfortable with having a face-to-face conversation.

(Video) Human gRace Project: The impact of 'phubbing' on relationships

2. Leave your phone behind

You might feel as if you’ve lost a limb, but don’t be afraid to simply put your phone in your car, desk drawer, or bag — and leave it there. Whatever alerts or updates happen, they’ll be waiting for you later.

3. Challenge yourself

Everyone enjoys a little prize now and then. Make ignoring your phone a challenge. Keep track of the meals or hours you go without your phone in hand. When you’ve completed a goal, treat yourself, and then challenge yourself again.

If you’re trying to help a loved one stop phubbing, here are three steps to get you started:

1. Model a better behavior

If you want to silently encourage the chronic phubber to stop, be a good example. Put your phone away when you’re lounging on the couch. Don’t encourage them to show you something on their phone during a date. Focus on the other people at the table. Slowly but surely, they’ll get the hint.

2. Call them out

There’s nothing like hard love. If someone you regularly interact with has a habit of phubbing, tell them. The Stop Phubbing campaign will email your loved one a note about their behavior if a face-to-face conversation is too difficult or uncomfortable for you.

Either way, tell them you don’t like it, and then help them develop better habits.

3. Be sympathetic

Phubbing isn’t a real addiction, but it is an impulse problem. Impulses and learned behaviors take some time to break, so be patient and understanding, but be firm, too. These 13 books can help you learn more way to change habits.

Checking your phone again and again can become an impulse you can’t control. If you have a hard time stopping the cycle, you may want to speak with a therapist or psychologist. They can help you learn to redirect your energy.

They can also help you discover why you may have developed this impulse in the first place. For many people, social media begins as an escape, or a way to zone out at the end of the day. Soon, however, it may become a problem.

Social media may lead to worsening symptoms of depression and low self-esteem. A therapist can help you understand these issues and work to improve your response to them so that you don’t feel as dependent on your phone and the world inside your social media apps.

(Video) What is phubbing and why you should stop this asap

You don’t have to stop using your phone to prevent phubbing. You just have to be more aware. Being mindful of your actions when you’re around other people is a great place to start.

You can also ask friends for accountability. If they feel like you’re zoning into your phone, they should feel free to call your attention to it.

Phubbing is a learned behavior — after all, it’s only recently become a problem — and you can unlearn it. It will take time and some work, but your mental health and your relationships will thank you for it.

(Video) How to Stop Phubbing


How does phubbing affect relationships? ›

According to their study of 145 adults, phubbing decreases marital satisfaction, in part because it leads to conflict over phone use. The scientists found that phubbing, by lowering marital satisfaction, affected a partner's depression and satisfaction with life.

Why phubbing is toxic for your relationship? ›

Coined as “phubbing”, excessive use of smartphones in the romantic context has been shown to represent a barrier to meaningful communication, causing conflict, lowering relationship satisfaction, and undermining individual well-being.

What does the phubbing impact on? ›

In both experiments, they found evidence that Phubbing can have negative effects on closeness, connection, and conversation quality. For the study titled, “My life has become a major distraction from my cell phone,” David and Roberts interviewed 145 adults about their smartphone use and their relationships.

How phones affect our relationships? ›

Excessive device usage acts as a barrier to quality communication, which leaves partners feeling ignored or unimportant. Many of us have experienced sharing a significant story with someone and they grab their cell phone halfway through the conversation.

How our phones are ruining our relationships? ›

Cell phones ruin relationships because their usage might connect us to the virtual world and people far away but can distract us from the ones near us and deprive us of important things. This can also make us unlikeable in your circle due to our non-verbal behavior. Such people are seen as less relatable and negative.

How do you stop yourself from going through your partners phone? ›

If you have a habit of always checking your husband's phone when he goes to bed at night, make it a new habit to pick up a book during that time, or power his device down and put it in another room. When you feel the urge to open his email, go for a walk or remove yourself from the room for 10 minutes.

How do you deal with someone who is always on their phone? ›

If Someone Is Occupied on the Phone, Offer to Leave Until the Person Is Finished. Whether you're at your friend's home, a business meeting, or out on the town, if those you're with are wrapped up in their phone, offer to leave them alone until they're done.

How do I stop my girlfriend from using my phone? ›

You could say, “We need to trust each other if our relationship is going to work. I won't go through your phone, and you shouldn't go through mine.” Tell your girlfriend this is a boundary for you. Say, "I keep my phone private, and I need you to respect that.

How do you stop interfering in a relationship? ›

11 Ways to Deal With People Who Meddle in Your Life
  1. Try to see if they mean well. ...
  2. Draw clear boundaries. ...
  3. Don't take it personally. ...
  4. Ignore them. ...
  5. Don't share private things with them. ...
  6. Retort with polite comebacks. ...
  7. React with kindness. ...
  8. Minimize your time with them.

Why couples should not go through each other's phones? ›

Dr. Tirrell DeGannes, Licensed Clinical Psychologist in New York City, says that looking through your partner's phone “may infer that trust is not well-built between the two people in the relationship. Curiosity is one thing but actively going through someone's phone is an exercise of mistrust.

How do you avoid toxicity in a relationship? ›

These steps can help you turn things around.
  1. Don't dwell on the past. Sure, part of repairing the relationship will likely involve addressing past events. ...
  2. View your partner with compassion. ...
  3. Start therapy. ...
  4. Find support. ...
  5. Practice healthy communication. ...
  6. Be accountable. ...
  7. Heal individually. ...
  8. Hold space for the other's change.

How do mobile phones affect your family relationship? ›

Cell phones can make you feel more connected, but they also can distract you and your family from connecting with each other in person. While some people need to check their phones for work or emergency purposes, it's important to model and prioritize making meaningful connections through face-to-face communication.

Does cell phone control our relationship? ›

We feel unheard, disrespected, disregarded. A set of studies actually showed that just having a phone out and present during a conversation (say, on the table between you) interferes with your sense of connection to the other person, the feelings of closeness experienced, and the quality of the conversation.

What is partner phubbing? ›

The term phubbing (a portmanteau of 'phone' and 'snubbing') refers to the act of focusing on one's mobile phone during a conversation instead of paying attention to a conversation partner (Ugur & Koc, 2015). If this act occurs within relationships, it is called partner-phubbing (pphubbing; Roberts & David, 2016).

What are the negative effects of being on your phone? ›

Researchers have found that excessive phone usage leads to stress, anxiety, depression, sleep disturbances, and relationship issues. Studies have also shown that young people experience withdrawal symptoms when away from their phone for a short period of time.

What are the effects of being on your phone too much? ›

Psychological Effects of Cell Phone Addiction
  • Sleep disturbances. Cell phone addiction has been linked to an increase in sleep disorders and fatigue in users. ...
  • Depression. ...
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. ...
  • Relationship problems. ...
  • Anxiety.

What positive and negative effects of mobile phones have on friendship? ›

Another valuable means is social media. Lives are taken over with google searches, Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. These social platforms allow one to create new and even more meaningful friendships. However, there are more negative aspects that can occur such as mental health issues, addiction, and drama.

How can phones improve relationships? ›

Here are five ways your cell phone can improve your relationship.
  1. Keep an ongoing gratitude list. ...
  2. Regular reminders to praise your partner. ...
  3. Jot down gift and date night ideas. ...
  4. Use the timer for extended eye contact exercises. ...
  5. Build sexual anticipation via text.
19 May 2015

How do I stop a check up on someone? ›

When checking up on your ex becomes a problem, here are six ways to stop yourself from stalking them online:
  1. Delete their profile. ...
  2. Keep busy. ...
  3. Find a replacement habit. ...
  4. Get back in the dating game. ...
  5. Block his pages if you have to. ...
  6. When all else fails, take a break from social media.

How do you build trust in a relationship? ›

How to Build Trust in a Relationship
  1. Communicate openly. Communication and trust go hand in hand. ...
  2. Respect your partner. Mutual respect is one of the best ways to establish trust with your partner. ...
  3. Set boundaries. Partners should share their limits and personal boundaries. ...
  4. Give the benefit of the doubt. ...
  5. Be vulnerable.
18 Apr 2022

How do you react if you found out your partner snooped through your phone? ›

What To Do If You Catch Your Partner Snooping
  1. Remain Calm. ...
  2. Understand That It's About Insecurity. ...
  3. Call Them Out. ...
  4. Talk It Out — Don't Accuse. ...
  5. Address The Issue Without Blame. ...
  6. Ask Yourself Questions. ...
  7. Figure Out If They're Trying To Control You. ...
  8. Find Out The Cause Of The Snooping.
12 Sept 2016

What to do when you are talking to someone and they are on their phone? ›

Just stop talking.

If someone is staring at their phone while talking with you, just stop talking until they look at you. “You don't need to say put down your phone and pay attention to me," Crenshaw said. "Just stop. There may be a lag time of a few seconds.

How do you stop someone from calling you over and over? ›

One of the best ways to block unwanted calls on a cell phone is to download a call-blocking app. A call-blocking app acts like a filter. The company behind the app uses call data or reports from users, the FTC, and other sources to predict which calls are illegal or likely scams.

Is it healthy to check your partner's phone? ›

"Under normal circumstances, and ideally, checking each other's phone is unnecessary, and not even a question. "People who check each other's phones have trust issues and insecurities, possibly resulting from previous incidents that made them believe they need to check up on their partner constantly," she says.

Should your phone be private in a relationship? ›

Cell phone privacy in a relationship is of utmost importance. To trust or not to trust is a hard question. But in the end, you need faith to keep loving someone. That way, you can find inner peace and be happy in a long-term relationship.

Is it right to check your partner's phone? ›

Checking other people's phone without their permission is a sign of disrespect. If you need to use your partner's phone, then ask for permission. Intimacy is not an opportunity to invade your partner's privacy.

How do you tell someone to stop interfering? ›

5 Polite Ways to Deal With People Who Not-So-Politely Keep Interrupting You
  1. Let it Go. Sometimes, the best thing you can do when faced with an interruption is nothing at all. ...
  2. Set Expectations Immediately. ...
  3. Just Keep Going. ...
  4. Ask Questions. ...
  5. Address it Head-on.
26 Aug 2022

What is too much control in a relationship? ›

A controlling relationship is one where one partner dominates the other in an unhealthy, self-serving manner. If your partner constantly makes you feel intimidated, insecure, or guilty, you could be in a controlling relationship. And control in a relationship is a form of abuse.

What are the factors that destroy relationships? ›

Top Things That Ruin Relationships
  • Taking your Partner for Granted. ...
  • Holding Grudges. ...
  • Piling Negative Emotions. ...
  • Neglecting The Needs Of Your Partner. ...
  • Doubting Your Partner. ...
  • Blame Game. ...
  • Depending Too Much On Each Other. ...
  • Being Ignorant About Your Appearance.
18 Sept 2020

Should I look through my girlfriend's phone? ›

Experts suggest that going through your partner's phone might mean you are feeling insecure in your relationship or thinking your partner is hiding something from you. While snooping on his phone might momentarily seem like a good idea but it only creates problem in the long run.

Should I let my wife look through my phone? ›

The long and short of it: No, it's generally not OK. It's a violation of your partner's privacy and a breach of trust ― not to mention, it's often unproductive: You might find nothing and then feel like a jerk for snooping. You might find something small and innocent and blow it out of proportion.

How do I stop toxic behavior? ›

Learn how to stop being toxic with these seven steps:
  1. Apologize when necessary. Everyone exhibits bad behavior from time to time. ...
  2. Assess yourself regularly. ...
  3. Be open to feedback. ...
  4. Deal with past trauma. ...
  5. Practice mindfulness. ...
  6. Respect boundaries. ...
  7. Seek opportunities for compassion.

How do you fix a relationship? ›

No matter how you dice it, going through a rough patch when you live together is stressful.
  1. Plan a weekly 'couples meeting' ...
  2. Learn to compromise. ...
  3. Spend time with friends outside of your relationship. ...
  4. Engage in affectionate physical contact. ...
  5. Don't be hooked on romance.
27 Aug 2019

How does screen time affect family relationships? ›

Finally, they found parents/caregivers who use mobile media devices during their parent-child interactions are less aware of and less responsive, both verbally and non-verbally, to their children's bids for attention. We are simply not giving them the attention they need when blissfully off in our media-driven frenzy.

How do I stop being Phubbed? ›

3 ways to help someone else stop phubbing

Put your phone away when you're lounging on the couch. Don't encourage them to show you something on their phone during a date. Focus on the other people at the table. Slowly but surely, they'll get the hint.

How do you tell someone to stop phubbing? ›

You can discuss how phubbing negatively affects your experience of the relationship. For example, you can explain that you're not as interested in sex when you feel ignored by your partner's phone use, or that you don't feel like a priority when your partner is scrolling Facebook during dinner.

How does phubbing make you feel? ›

Effect of Phubbing on your Mental Health

These studies show that phubbing is a threat to four human core needs. Snubbing a person can take a toll on how they feel about themselves. Overlooking a person to be on the phone with someone else will make them feel unimportant and this might affect their self-esteem.

Is your phone addiction hurting your relationships? ›

Yet, this is an incredibly common problem. A study on “Technoference,” the interference of technology in relationships, found that 70 percent of participants reported that smartphone interruptions negatively impacted interactions with their romantic partners.

Are cell phones interfering with personal relationships? ›

Divided attention, Sbarra and his colleagues say, may lead to relationship conflict. For example, the review paper cites a study of 143 married women, more than 70 percent of whom reported that mobile phones frequently interfere in their relationships.

How do cell phones affect romantic relationships? ›

Many studies have shown that phones can disrupt couples in regular, daily face-to-face interactions, hurting relationships. Findings show that phone disruption can lead to couples having more conflict or being less happy in their relationship.

Is it toxic to go through your partners phone? ›

Checking the phone does not help the relationship

More often than not, looking through your partner's phone leads to stalking, which is a serious invasion of one's privacy. As mentioned earlier, snooping leads to two outcomes - one, when you find something suspicious; two, when you do not find anything.

How can I stop using my phone too much? ›

  1. Keep yourself on a schedule. ...
  2. Turn off as many push notifications as possible. ...
  3. Take distracting apps off your home screen. ...
  4. Kick your device out of bed. ...
  5. If you have a smart speaker, put it to use. ...
  6. Try turning on your phone's grayscale. ...
  7. Stay accountable.
10 Jan 2018

How can I stop being addicted to phone? ›

7 Proven Ways to Break Your Cell Phone Addiction
  1. Set aside one day/week. ...
  2. Use a 30-Day Experiment to reset your usage. ...
  3. Use apps to bolster self-control. ...
  4. Don't charge your phone near your bed. ...
  5. Put your phone away when you walk in the door. ...
  6. Change your phone settings. ...
  7. Put a hairband around your phone.

Are you Phubbing '? Here's how you may be self sabotaging your relationship? ›

Here's how you may be self-sabotaging your relationship. Phubbing, or phone snubbing, involves ignoring someone in favor of paying attention to your phone. Though it's a common habit, experts caution it can ruin your in-person relationships.

What do I do when my wife is always on her phone? ›

If it's not the case and your partner isn't angry with you, share the way you feel with her. Tell your wife that her phone addiction makes you feel down and ignored.
Speak out
  1. do not blame a person for the addiction. ...
  2. avoid disrespecting and putting your partner down.
5 Apr 2018

When your partner is addicted to their phone? ›

Some tell-tale signs that your loved one may be addicted to their smartphone include if he or she: Spends more time texting, tweeting, or emailing instead of talking to people in real life. Has been increasing the amount of time spent on the phone. Sleeps with the cell phone on or under the pillow.

How do you tell your partner to get off their phone? ›

I'm really bad at it too, but a simple ask should suffice, maybe something along the lines of… “Hey, I'd love to spend some quality time with you and without our phones.” If they have to be digitally connected for work, maybe something like, “You've been at your computer/on your phone for almost eight hours now, maybe ...

Is flirting cheating? ›

For some, flirting can be deemed cheating when one partner is overly friendly with someone else, especially if this breaks previously agreed upon rules. For others, flirting is considered crossing the line into cheating when it risks turning into a physical or emotional affair.


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