Phubbing: How Cell Phones Cause Relationship Problems
Commentary by Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
Pphubbing is the newest phenomena of the cell phone culture and it refers to the bad habit of checking your cell phone when you’re supposed to be fully present to your significant other. A new study says this could be hazardous to your relationship!
The study, which involved 450 people, was conducted by researchers at Baylor University and found that almost half (46 percent) said they were “phubbed” by their partner with 22 percent saying their relationship suffered as a result.
“Phubbing is a portmanteau of the words ‘phone’ and ‘snubbing’ and occurs when your conversation with someone is interrupted by him or her attending to a cellphone or when you are in the presence of another but he uses his cell phone instead of communicating with you,” researchers explain.
Partner phubbing, known as Pphubbing, is the extent to which this behavior occurs between significant others.
“The presence and use of cell phones is ever-increasing, causing the boundaries that separate our work and other interests from our romantic relationships to become more and more blurred. As a result, the occurrence of Pphubbing is nearly inevitable,” they write.
In a sample of 143 individuals involved in romantic relationships, 70 percent admitted that cell phones “sometimes,” “often,” “very often,” or “all the time” interfered in their interactions with their partners.
And it’s causing problems.
“There are three important connection factors that will give us a sense of satisfaction in our relationships,” explained relationship expert Julie Hart from Australia’s The Hart Centre, to Kylie Matthews of Whimn.com.
“The first one is accessibility, that you’re both open and listening to one another,” Hart says. “The second is responsiveness, as in you both empathize and try to understand how the other feels, as in ‘get’ each other, and the third is engagement, so you’re both making the time to be fully attentive to each other.”
Pphubbing interferes with all three of these factors, Hart says, so it’s no surprise that people are feeling less satisfied with their relationships.
She has been witnessing this trend more and more over the last decade, particularly in the past five years.
“I have more and more people, couples – one or both partners – coming to me and saying, ‘My partner is constantly on their device and there is no time for me, I feel so completely unimportant in their life’.”
Perhaps for some, it seems easier to pay attention to your cell phone than your partner, but those who make this choice are substituting a superficial interaction with one of a much higher quality.
“It can also be a way for some people to avoid confrontation or to deal with the difficulties of life or issues in a relationship,” she warns.
One of the solutions is to broach the subject with your phubbing partner and explain how this behavior has now been shown to be damaging to relationships.
“And tell them that while the occasional disruption doesn’t matter, it’s this constant attention being taken away from spending any quality time that does matter and it’s making you unhappy.”
Then sit down together and lay down some rules establishing phone-free time when you put your phone away somewhere where you can’t hear it for at least a full hour every night while you and your loved one spend quality time together. The bedroom should be a completely phone-free environment, as should dinner time and time spent driving in the car which are good times for bonding and conversation.
“Most people would be amazed at what a dedicated hour a day of phone-free time can do for their relationship over time,” she says.
So how do you know if you’re a phubber? Hart constructed the following list which should give you some clues as to whether or not you’re experiencing this phenomena in your own life:
-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 focused 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.
Young people can be particularly vulnerable to this vice because most can’t even remember a time without smart phones. These devices are so much a part of their life they might not even be aware that they have slipped into the phubbing habit with their friends – whether they be romantic or platonic.This is why so many teen-oriented programs, such as Young Women of Grace, strive to provide strong guidance on how to make good choices when it comes to friends, guys, and cell phones!
Quality friendships are precious. Let’s not phubb it!