What is Phubbing and How Does it Affect Relationships?

Causes of Phubbing and How to Overcome it, Explains Couples Therapist Shivani Sadhoo

How many times have you been in a conversation with someone, only to feel like you’re talking to a screen rather than a person? If you’ve ever experienced this, you’ve encountered phubbing – a term derived from “phone snubbing.” This phenomenon, aptly termed “phubbing,” is a combination of the words “phone” and “snubbing.” So, what does Phubbing mean and how does it impact human relationships? Let’s find out Delhi’s leading couples therapist and marriage counsellor, Shivani Misri Sadhoo.

Phubbing refers to the act of prioritizing one’s phone over engaging in social interaction. Phubbing can manifest in various ways, from sneakily glancing at your phone during a conversation to keeping it within arm’s reach at all times. While it may seem harmless, research suggests that phubbing can have significant repercussions on our relationships and mental well-being.

Causes of Phubbing and How to Overcome it, Explains Couples Therapist Shivani Sadhoo

What are the Causes of Phubbing?

Addiction to gadgets – Phubbing often stems from phone addiction, where the device becomes a constant source of instant gratification, offering entertainment and connection. This addiction leads to prioritizing phones over face-to-face interactions.

FOMO – Another reason why people engage in phubbing behaviour is because of FOMO, or the fear of missing out. They fear missing out on updates and interactions if they don’t check their phones. This drives them to prioritize devices over real-world interactions, striving to stay connected digitally.

Social Anxiety – Sometimes, people use their mobile phones as a shield to avoid uncomfortable feelings and vulnerability, particularly in challenging situations with partners. For instance, those insecure about their appearance may turn to social media during gatherings to distract themselves with selfies, seeking digital validation to escape social anxiety.

Boredom – Boredom can lead people to resort to phubbing as a means of seeking stimulation or distraction. The constant availability of apps, social media, games, and other content on smartphones provides a convenient escape from boredom.

What is the Impact of Phubbing on Relationships?

Deteriorates Relationship Quality – Everybody wants their marriage to thrive, but phubbing can sabotage it. Ignoring your partner for your phone predicts poorer relationship satisfaction and more conflicts. This behavior lowers relationship quality, leading to depression and reduced marital satisfaction. Phubbing not only hurts your partner but also indirectly affects your own life satisfaction.

You Feel Neglected – Imagine going on a romantic date with your partner. As you eagerly share your thoughts, they bury their face in their phone, responding with absent-minded grunts. You feel invisible as if your presence doesn’t matter. The disconnect grows, leaving you feeling neglected and undervalued, craving genuine connection.

Affects Mental Health – What can seem like harmless scrolling or texting when you’re stressed can harm your relationship. When you’re always on your phone instead of engaging with your partner, they might feel left out and unimportant. This feeling of being ignored can make them feel undervalued and lonely, which can hurt their mental health. It’s like saying, “Your feelings aren’t as important as my phone.” That can really hurt someone’s feelings and damage the trust in a relationship.

What Can You Do? You may try to do the following:

Talk to your partner – Express your feelings openly about how phubbing affects you and your relationship. Discuss the impact it has on your connection and set boundaries together regarding phone use. Communicate your needs and expectations respectfully to create a deeper sense of intimacy and understanding in your relationship.

Empathise – Try and empathize with your partner’s feelings and experiences, understanding their perspective without judgment. By validating their emotions and experiences, you nurture trust and connection in your relationship.

Refocus – You can prevent phubbing by assisting your partner to refocus. Engage them in conversation about their day or suggest a walk together. This redirects their attention, fostering presence and reducing phone addiction tendencies.

While it may be tempting to favor our phones over our relationships, phubbing can have detrimental effects. By openly communicating, empathizing, and refocusing on each other, we can strengthen our connections and foster healthier, more fulfilling relationships.