How Phone Snubbing, a.k.a. Phubbing, Is Ruining Relationships

A couple in bed with each person looking at their phone

If you just read the title and wondered, “what the heck is phubbing,” don’t worry. You’re not alone in this. Similar to other modern terms like FOMO and bae, phubbing emerged as a result of the merging of two words: phone and snubbing. It essentially means that you’re paying more attention to your phone instead of to the person you’re with. And yes, that’s bad news for relationships around the world.

Phubbing and Emotional Infidelity

Here’s a scenario you probably know all too well: you’re trying to have a conversation with your partner, and they keep checking their phone each time it buzzes. Or, maybe it’s you who can’t resist the temptation of checking their feed. Or worse, you’re both absentmindedly scrolling through your Instagram and Twitter when you’re supposed to be having a romantic dinner. That’s a classic case of phubbing and the reason many relationships are failing these days.

A group of young people all looking at a phone or a tablet

Ira Israel, a psychotherapist, and counselor says that neglecting your time with your loved one to scan your social media is equivalent to emotional infidelity. This split-screen attention span we have acquired can eventually destroy a relationship because it hurts our ability to concentrate on anything, including making love.

How to Handle Phubbing

Although we are a generation of screen addicts, there is still a way for us to consciously control our “phone time” and our “love time.” Israel says that phubbing is directly linked to our insecurity and lack of self-esteem. The habit of checking your phone comes as a result of wanting to avoid unwanted discomfort and sometimes even interact with your partner. Breaking that pattern, therefore, requires conscious effort.

A couple holding hands

It’s all a matter of priorities, says Israel. If you’re with someone who’s important to you, be it your romantic partner or a friend, show them that you value the time you spend together. Take out your phone, look the person in the eye, and let them know you’re shutting your phone off. Then put it back in your bag or somewhere out of sight. This will signal your dedication to avoiding distractions and giving all your attention to the person you’re with. It’s not an easy shift to make, but it’s one worth doing.