This is “phubbing,” the act of snubbing someone with your phone. (Yes, it’s a real word, thanks to the 2016 Oxford Dictionary.) And look, no one is innocent. We’re all guilty of phubbing—you, your S.O., even your kids. So here’s everything you need to know about the epidemic.
Why is phubbing so bad for relationships?
Well, according to a study (found via Emma Seppälä’s eye-opening article in The Washington Post), choosing your phone over your partner leads to lower marital satisfaction and more fights. Even just the presence of a phone during a conversation with your husband, wife, kids or even casual friends can make you appear less present. Why? Well, when someone’s attention is elsewhere, we feel unheard, unseen and unimportant. (Insert sad face emoji.)
Why is it so common?
As you’ve probably noticed, everybody is phubbing. That’s because, as another study points out, it’s a vicious cycle. When you’re being ignored, you want to connect with something. So what do you do? You go to your phone. You connect with likes, hearts and emojis. Now everyone’s on their phone, and no one’s present.
How do we stop it?
Be more cognizant about how your phone use makes others feel—especially the people closest to you. Set a phones-off policy during dinner. Make eye contact, and don’t worry about that Instagram notification. The common denominator that has us all locked to our phones? The desire to feel connected. It’s time to reconnect with the person right in front of you.
If you’re like most people, myself included, it’s likely you engage in phubbing quite a bit, and probably don’t realise you’re doing it. You might even be doing it right now.
Phubbing is a portmanteau of phone and snubbing, a combination that describes the act of being distracted by your smartphone when really you ought to be concentrating on the person with whom you’re supposed to be interacting.
Phubbing is a phenomenon. Glenn Hunt
Sometimes that person is your partner. Let’s say you’re in the middle of a romantic dinner. If you interrupt the conversation to read a text message or take a call, you’re being a phubber. If you pause to check out an app or read the news, likewise you’re being a phubber. Which is why research released last year found relationships where that happens a lot diminish in quality over time.
The same researchers have just published the findings of their latest study, which takes this act of neglect away from romantic partners and into the workplace. They introduce a variation of the term which they’ve named “boss phubbing”. Across three studies and hundreds of participants, they found boss phubbing “undermines the trust an employee has in his or her supervisor … which in turn has a negative impact on employee engagement”.
That’s because when employees see their boss’s focus shift away from them and towards their phone, that diversion is viewed by employees as overtly devaluing their work, which consequently weakens their self-confidence. In effect, their boss’s short attention span makes them feel as though they’re less capable of performing well, thereby diminishing their motivation and engagement – and it’s all due to something for which they’re not personally culpable.
The scholars explain that “although the ubiquity of smartphone use may present a challenge to managers in tackling the issue of workplace phubbing, [it] is a harmful behaviour and … it undermines any corporate culture based on respect for others”.
They, therefore, suggest it’s important to refrain from viewing emails and messages as urgent requests demanding an immediate response. Sacrificing quality face-to-face time with employees isn’t worth the ensuing damage it causes to the relationship. One solution could be to enforce strict policies, such as having smartphone-free areas, or even simply mandating that all smartphones be placed into a basket when entering a meeting, to be retrieved only once the meeting is over.
So how can you tell if you’re a phubber? Well, if you answer in the affirmative to some of the following nine statements, which the researchers have identified as being most reflective of phubbing, you can safely assume you’re guilty.
Business & Personal Phubbing
- During meetings, you pull out and check your phone.
- You use your phone in meetings.
- You place your phone in a position where employees can see it when you’re together.
- Your phone is in your hand when you’re talking to others.
- You use your phone while talking to others.
- If your phone rings or beeps, you pull it out even if you’re in the middle of a conversation.
- You glance at your phone while engaged in conversation.
- Your employees compete with your phone for your attention.
- You’re constantly on the phone even when you’re in the company of other people.
So how did you go? As the researchers conclude, committing just one of those acts – even something as simple as looking at your phone for a second without actually using it – can “ultimately undermine an employee’s success”. And obviously yours.
Sources: Sydney Morning Herald
According to their study of 145 adults, phubbing decreases marital satisfaction, in part because it leads to conflict over phone use. A follow-up study by Chinese scientists assessed 243 married adults with similar results: Partner phubbing, because it was associated with lower marital satisfaction, contributed to greater likelihood of depression.
This behavior also also affects our casual friendships. Not surprisingly to anyone who has been phubbed, phone users are generally seen as less polite and attentive. When someone’s eyes wander, we intuitively know what brain studies also show: The mind is wandering. 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. Especially during meaningful conversations, you lose the opportunity for true and authentic connection to another person, the core tenet of any friendship or relationship. These findings hold true regardless of people’s age, ethnicity, gender, or mood. We feel more empathy when smartphones are put away.
This makes sense. When we are on our phones, we are not looking at other people and not reading their facial expressions. We don’t hear the nuances in their tone of voice, or notice their body posture.
So how do those who are phubbed react to being ignored?
According to a study published in March of this year, they themselves start to turn to social media. Presumably, they do so to seek inclusion. They may turn to their cellphone to distract themselves from the very painful feelings of being socially neglected. We know from brain-imaging research that being excluded registers as actual physical pain in the brain. People snubbed in favor of technology in turn become more likely to attach themselves to their phones in unhealthy ways, thereby increasing their own feelings of stress and depression.
“It is ironic that cell phones, originally designed as a communication tool, may actually hinder rather than foster interpersonal connectedness,” write David and Roberts in their study “Phubbed and Alone.” Their results suggest the creation of a vicious circle: A phubbed individual turns to social media and their compulsive behavior presumably leads them to phub others — perpetuating and normalizing the practice and problem of “phubbing.”
Why do people get into the phubbing habit in the first place? Not surprisingly, fear of missing out and lack of self-control predict phubbing. However, the most important predictor is addiction — to social media, to the phone and to the Internet. Internet addiction has similar brain correlates to physiological forms like addiction to heroin and other recreational drugs. The impact of this addiction is particularly worrisome for children whose brain and social skills are still under development.
Consider this: The urge to check social media is stronger than the urge for sex, according to research by Chicago University’s Wilhelm Hoffman.
In some ways, these findings come as no surprise. We are profoundly social people for whom connection and a sense of belonging are crucial for health and happiness. (In fact, the lack thereof is worse for you than smoking, high blood pressure, and obesity.) So, we err sometimes. We look for connection on social media at the cost of face-to-face opportunities for true intimacy.
Awareness is the only solution.
Know that what drives you and others is to connect and to belong. While you may not be able to control the behavior of others, you yourself have opportunities to model something different.
Research by Barbara Fredrickson, beautifully described in her book Love 2.0, suggests that intimacy happens in micro-moments: talking over breakfast, the exchange with the UPS guy, the smile of a child. The key is to be present and mindful. A revealing study showed that we are happiest when we are present, no matter what we are doing. Can we be present with the person in front of us right now, no matter who it is?
The most essential and intimate form of connection is eye contact.
Posture and the most minute facial expressions (the tightening of our lips, the crow’s feet of smiling eyes, upturned eyebrows in sympathy or apology) communicate more than our words.
Most importantly, they are at the root of empathy — the ability to sense what another person is feeling—which is so critical to authentic human connection. True connection thrives on presence, openness, observation, compassion, and, as Brené Brown has so beautifully shared in her TED talk and her bestselling book “Daring Greatly,” vulnerability. It takes courage to connect with another person authentically, yet it is also the key to fulfillment.
What if someone in your presence snubs you for their phone? Patience and compassion are key here. Understand that the person is probably not doing it with malicious intent, but rather is following an impulse (sometimes irresistible) to connect. Just like you or I, their goal is not to exclude. To the contrary, they are looking for a feeling of inclusion. After all, a telling sociological study shows that loneliness is rising at an alarming rate in our society.
What’s more, age and gender play a role in people’s reactions to this behavior. According to studies, older participants and women advocate for more restricted phone use in most social situations. Men differ from women in that they viewed phone calls as more appropriate in virtually all environments including intimate settings. Similarly, in classrooms, male students find phubbing far less disturbing than their female counterparts.
Perhaps even worse than disconnecting from others, however, Internet addiction and phubbing disconnect us from ourselves.
Plunged into a virtual world, we hunch over a screen, strain our eyes unnecessarily, and tune out completely from our own needs — for sleep, exercise, even food.
So, the next time you’re with another human and you feel tempted to pull out your phone — stop. Put it away. Look them in the eyes, and listen to what they have to say.
Emma Seppala, PhD, is Science Director of Stanford University’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education and Co-Director of the Yale College Well-being Program at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence. She is author of The Happiness Track (HarperOne, 2016).
This story originally appeared in Greater Good Magazine: Science-based insights for a meaningful life published by the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California Berkeley It is used here with their permission.
Source: The Washington Post
Thanks, PureWow, The Sydney Morning Herald, the Washinton Post and for reading Phubbing: Why is It Bad for Relationships
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