Phubbing, a term that was coined by the Macquarie Dictionary in 2012, is used to describe an incident wherein a person ignores or snubs another, by choosing to spend time on his or her phone, instead of talking to his or her companion. And because the mobile phone is an essential part of our lives, this term has never been more relevant. However, researchers have now discovered that this phenomenon can have far-reaching consequences on interpersonal relationships.
Recently, a study done by Baylor University, Texas, USA, concluded that repeated incidents of phubbing can severely, and even permanently, damage romantic associations. The institute conducted a survey specifically with 145 adults who were in relationships, and found that almost half of the participants were victims of phubbing. The study concluded that 46.3% said that they were being phubbed by their partner. Out of that statistic, 22.6% felt that phubbing caused conflict in their relationships, and 36.6% revealed that they were depressed because of it. Interestingly, this phenomenon isn’t confined only to the west.
City-based relationship experts, too, have noticed an increase in the number of people coming to them with phubbing-related issues.
Relationship counsellor, Kinjal Pandya, says that if someone starts talking to another person virtually, while spending time with his or her partner, the latter is bound to feel neglected. “The partner may feel that he or she is not interesting enough. So, even if the ‘phubber’s’ reason for using the phone is genuine, the next person may not know that, and may feel that the ‘phubber’ has adopted this method to avoid a particular conversation, or simply ignore him or her. This can prove to be a major hindrance in a relationship,” she says. Communication is a key aspect of any successful relationship, and plays a vital role in strengthening a couple’s bond. According to relationship counsellor Vishnu Modi, a person who has reservations about phubbing, or feels he or she is being ‘phubbed’, needs to convey to his or her partner how he or she feels. “The other partner may not even know that the former is suffering silently,” says Modi.
Sometimes, people are unable to convey their problems to their partners. Pandya offers a solution for those situations, saying, “There may be something stopping you from confronting your partner. It may be your lack of confidence. But you need to overcome that, rather than not saying anything at all. And, if you don’t get proper feedback from your partner, you should take the help of a professional.”
A common situation that many couples face is when they’re in the middle of an important conversation, and one person receives an urgent call. While dealing with such incidents, Modi says, “Instead of just taking the call, explain to your partner that the call is important. Even if the call gets disconnected, you can always call that person back immediately. But make sure your partner knows why you need to answer it.”
Other problem areas
Problems related to phubbing are not confined to phone conversations alone. Chatting on mobile apps also leads to people feeling neglected. The simple solution, in such cases, is to leave your phone away from where you are seated.
Modi says, “With the use of social media and WhatsApp on the rise, third party interference in your life is unstoppable. You have to be strict and disciplined at times.” He also stresses on the fact that a phone can’t be used to “hang out” with someone on WhatsApp or Facebook, especially, when you are with your partner.