Why you should care about ‘phubbing’

Do you know what phubbing is? Or have you ever been phubbed by someone you were trying to connect with or care about?

What is phubbing?

Australians have been pretty innovative and creative over time; from Wi-Fi to an airplane’s black box we’ve invented some cool things.

Way back in 2012 some Australian academics from the University of Sydney had an invention of their own. As the age of the smartphone arrived, these academics sought to coin a term that captured the growing trend of “snubbing someone in a social setting by looking at your phone instead of paying attention.”

Phone + snubbing = phubbing.

Six years on, the phrase has made it not only to the Macquarie Dictionary, but also the Oxford English Dictionary.

What does phubbing have to do with health and why should you care?

Well an academic in England took a more serious look at ‘phubbing’ in terms of the impact it has on people’s mental health and the findings were alarming.

Published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology, an experiment found phubbing ‘significantly and negatively affected perceived communication quality and relationship satisfaction’.

Additionally, people who experienced ‘phubbing’ were more likely to feel socially disconnected, have their mood negatively affected and threaten elements of human needs such as belongingness, self-esteem, meaning and control.

Bupa Senior Advisor, Mental Health and Wellbeing and registered Psychologist, Chanel Nesci said most of us can relate to either phubbing, or being phubbed by someone we are trying to connect with or care about.

“It is no surprise that this can have a negative effect on our relationships as well as our self-esteem, due to feeling unheard or unimportant to the person we are trying to connect with.

What we also need to consider is that the habit of scrolling through our phones, even meaninglessly, has become more engrained in society and much of the time, phubbing is not an intentional act to hurt another person and instead an unconscious behaviour
Chanel Nesci, Bupa Senior Advisor, Mental Health and Wellbeing and registered Psychologist

In order to combat phubbing and strengthen our relationships, whether these are established or new, the act of consciously NOT phubbing (as simple as that sounds), is required.

If phubbing is affecting you, try these simple changes:

  • Implement a ‘no phone’ rule at meals. If you need help finding something to talk about in the absence of phones, and learn how to get the conversation started.
  • Whether by yourself or with others, have phone free time for 30 minutes a night and build this up gradually
  • When spending time out in public or on public transport, challenge yourself to put your phone away and be present in the moment and observe your surroundings

“Being present can also give us time to think through things and be better prepared for life’s challenges. Try these tips daily for a month and see what changes you observe in yourself and your relationships,” said Ms Nesci.

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