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What Is Phubbing? Why Is It Bad for Your Mental Health?

Phubbing: Why Is It Bad for Your Mental Health? - Paradigm Malibu

As technology has evolved and changed over the past decade or two, many new words have come into everyday usage. One example of this is the word “phubbing.” Chances are good that just a few short years ago, you had never heard the word; in fact, you still might not know what it means. Phubbing is a combination of two words: phone and snubbing. When someone is phubbing, they are snubbing someone by paying more attention to their phone than to the person they are with. In addition to creating problems in relationships, phubbing can cause mental health issues. Read on to learn more about phubbing, why you shouldn’t do it, and how it can cause mental health problems if left unchecked.


Examples of Phubbing

In order to understand what phubbing is, it might be helpful to provide some examples. Even if you haven’t ever heard the word itself, it is likely that you or someone close to you has phubbed someone, either intentionally or unintentionally. Here are some ways that might look:

  • You are out for dinner with a group of friends and all of you are looking at your own devices, texting others, or otherwise not engaged with the group because the phones have taken center stage. This is not uncommon at all; walk into any coffee shop or diner and you are likely to see this scene.
  • You are on a hike or a beach with your family and rather than engaging, you are taking photos with your phone and posting them to Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter. Then you go back from platform to platform waiting for notifications that your photos were noticed by others.
  • You are in a meeting at work and one person keeps looking at their phone under the table. Even if they are participating peripherally, they are still phubbing everyone else because a good portion of their attention is going toward their phone.

Note that while phubbing mostly refers to someone looking at a smartphone, it could also be that they are snubbing others while looking at a tablet, a laptop, or some other electronic device.


How Phubbing Hurts Relationships

One way that phubbing can negatively impact someone is by harming existing relationships. If an individual is feeling ignored, it is likely that they won’t want to spend time with or get to know the person who is ignoring them. Even though you are likely using your phone to interact with others, doing so when you are in the presence of someone else is often considered rude. It also can depend on who you are with; older adults tend to be more offended by phubbing than teenagers and younger adults. Even if you are a teen with a group of your friends, however, some of those friends might not like being ignored while you use your phone.

In addition, it is important to know when phubbing might be more acceptable and when it is unacceptable. While you are waiting for your fast food to be ready, it might be fine to take out your phone and scroll through your social media, even if your friends are hanging out nearby. If you are eating at a nice restaurant, however, this is generally deemed rude. Knowing when phubbing is not going to be accepted and who will overlook it (or even do it themselves) can help you keep your relationships intact.


Impacts Mental Health

Humans are social creatures, and one of the ways that we interact with others is through regular face-to-face contact. Not all of our communication is strictly defined by the words we use; much of it has to do with intonation, body language, and facial expressions. When you deprive yourself of this type of contact, you might find yourself developing social anxiety, signs of depression, and other symptoms that could indicate that you are developing a mental health concern. You might feel alone even in crowd, and you might begin to lose the ability to gauge how others are feeling based on their body language and expressions. This can lower your self esteem.

Phubbing does not only impact your own mental health, however. Those around you might feel as though you are purposely ignoring them if you are phubbing. They might deal with signs of anxiety when they are in this position and they can also suffer a blow to their self-esteem. We all need to feel that we are important enough to be paid attention to, and by focusing your attention on your phone instead, you could cause the people around you to feel unimportant and bad about themselves.


How to Stop Phubbing

If you have determined that you are phubbing and would like to stop in order to boost your own mental health, the mental health of those around you, and your relationships in general, it might not be as easy as simply putting down the phone. Many of us have mild to severe addictions to our technology. In some cases, it is simply a sign of the times, and in others, it can be quite unsettling and even harmful. The good news is that you can take steps toward improvement.

First, set rules for yourself that will cause you to have to put the phone down at certain times. For example, you might decide that you will not use your phone at mealtimes or when you are riding as a passenger in a car (of course, you should not use it while driving, either; that is a given!). You might also decide that you won’t take out your phone while you are with your grandparents, a friend who you know dislikes when others use their phones while with them, or with anyone else who is offended by phubbing.

If you are having trouble controlling your phone usage, try talking to your parents, a guidance counselor, or your doctor. You might need counseling in order to help you get past this issue. Understanding that you are phubbing and taking steps now to stop can help you improve your relationships now and in the future. You can do it!

Paradigm Malibu is an adolescent mental health and drug treatment center dedicated to identifying, understanding and properly treating the core issues that impact teens and their families.

One response to “What Is Phubbing? Why Is It Bad for Your Mental Health?

  1. Thanks for sharing the great information. Phubbing: The act of snubbing someone in a social setting by looking at your phone instead of paying attention.

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