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‘Phubbing’: is it damaging your relationships?

'Phubbing': is it damaging your relationships?

Have you ever felt exasperated, as your date reaches for their phone for the 100th time to check their notifications? Has a dinner date somehow tasted less delicious, as your partner quickly checks their group chat? Sounds like you’ve been a victim of ‘phubbing’.

‘Phubbing’ describes the act of phone snubbing, where someone snubs you in a social setting by concentrating on their mobile phone – and it can have serious negative effects on your dates and relationships.

Phubbing can occur both passively or actively; whether that’s a phone always strategically placed in view or constant chatting on apps – and with research suggesting we usually touch our phones more than 2,500 times a day, it doesn’t look like the cause of the problem will be going away any time soon. Read on to find out why it’s a problem and how to fix it.

How can phubbing hurt your relationship?

Phubbing makes your conversations less meaningful and your experiences less worthwhile – both things we definitely want to avoid on our dates or in our relationships.

While having your phone on the table, or checking your notifications as soon as your phone vibrates might seem like insignificant actions that only take two seconds, the overall effect that they have on your interactions and relationship can be startling.

Phubbing makes it harder for you to communicate

Dating is all about communicating and forging genuine connections with your date through interactions. When someone concentrates on their phone and not on building that connection (which is why you met up in the first place!), it’s like they decided, out of the blue, to bring a friend along to your date, who isn’t interested in you at all, and they’re constantly worrying about what they’re doing and entertaining them – instead of you. Naturally, this reduces the quality time you’re spending with them, as you’re unable to communicate properly – they’re spending time with their phone instead. It’s also been shown that the time you spend with someone in between phubbing is less meaningful than time with no phubbing at all.

Phubbing takes you ‘out-of-the-moment’

You’re on a coffee date and there’s a lull in your conversation – that’s completely natural. You see a notification flashing on your phone and you instinctively press your home button which brings up a message about your plans for tomorrow. Maybe you check it. No big deal, right? Wrong. Unfortunately we’ve completely transferred our attention from our date to somewhere else. We’ve also unconsciously told our date that

“What might be on my phone is far more important than the conversation and experience we were just having. Let me check and find out.”

Pauses, lulls and silences are all part of a healthy conversation; we often use these gaps to process what we’ve been chatting about, and then continue to learn what the other person has to say. Stay in the moment with your date, and don’t insult them by being distracted.

Phubbing is a lose-lose situation

Not only is phubbing rude, it actually doesn’t do anything positive for the person doing the phubbing. This isn’t a win-win, it’s a lose-lose.

“How many of your notifications are so unexpectedly-time-sensitive that you’d have really missed out if you’d looked at them later?”

For myself, I know that number is close to zero, and definitely zero for any date I’ve ever been on. So, not only are we subconsciously offending our date, we’re also not gaining anything from checking our phones subconsciously. Clearly, action has to be taken!

So, how can we fight phubbing?

The most dangerous part of phubbing is its creeping pervasiveness – phubbing often happens without us consciously realising we’re doing it, or that someone else is phubbing us. Here are the 5 key steps to purge phubbing from our dating lives:

  1. Phone-free time: When going on a date or doing an activity, designate a definitive time in your mind where you accept that you don’t need to use your phone.
  2. Out of eyesight: Break the bad habit of constantly putting your phone within your eyesight – keep it in your bag or a zipped pocket.
  3. Disable notifications: Turn your phone off, or put it on aeroplane mode, when you’re on a date or doing an activity with your partner.
  4. Have an honest conversation: if the person you’re dating frustrates you by phubbing you. Or, if you know you’re the one who often gets distracted, ask them to call you out on it.
  5. Remind yourself: why phubbing is harmful for relationships, and why you want to stop phubbing.

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