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Nour Atik

Phub Off: Boost Your Well-Being by Breaking Free from Phone Snubbing

Boost Your Well-Being: Combat Phubbing for Stronger Connections. Understand, prevent, and counteract the negative effects of phone snubbing with mindful strategies.

Unveiling the Phubbing Phenomenon

"Phubbing" is the combination of “Phone” and “Snubbing” referring to the act of ignoring someone you are in a conversation with in order to look at or use a cell phone. It literally means zoning out from situation, specifically the person you are talking to, and focusing on the mobile device instead. Aligning with the modern culture, the term “Phubbing” came to place. It was created in 2012 as part of a marketing campaign by the publishers of the Macquarie Dictionary and went viral by promoting the “Stop Phubbing” movement. While it might not be a term frequently used in your everyday language, it is most certainly an act that plays a role in your everyday life.

Lost in Screens: How Phubbing Sneaks into Our Lives

Stop for a second and think of the last time you looked at your phone to text someone who’s not even present while disregarding the person actually present in front of you. Sometimes, it’s urgent. However, most of the time studies have shown that it’s just a subconscious urge to check social media, an instant message or a prompt notification. Consider how often a conversation comes to a halt when your friends (or yourself) grab the smartphone and immerse themselves in the depths of an Instagram spiral. If it’s deemed as such as annoying habit, then how come we consistently find ourselves unintentionally succumbing to it? Looking at the bigger scheme of the act of phubbing, it’s a means to connect you with others through texting or by checking social media. While it might look like a harmless habit to pick up, Emma Seppälä, a psychologist at Stanford and Yale universities and author of the Happiness Track has found that almost half of the relationships are negatively affected by phubbing.

Phubbing Fallout: The Hidden Toll on Relationships and Well-Being

  • Phubbing leads to a diminished sense of connection by jeopardizing your social relations and meaningful conversations with others

  • Phubbing diminishes the meaningfulness and depth of face-to-face interactions.

  • The presence of a smartphone during a chat, even if inactive, is sufficient to jeopardize the connection between individuals.

  • Individuals who imagined being phubbed during a simulated conversation report a more negative perception of the interaction.

  • Married couples, when engaging in phubbing, are more prone to become depressed, experience lower partnership satisfaction as well as increased feelings of distress and jealousy.

You might be wondering, how is phubbing that destructive in a partnership or in a marriage? Think about it. When a partner isolates themselves into their own bubble and stops being present with you, you’re likely to feel neglected and unimportant, especially in a shared moment. When you feel that your partner is prioritizing an Instagram post or texting someone who is not even available, it can easily lead to misunderstandings, resentment, and built-up rage. 

Viola, a 30-year-old woman, shares her challenges with her partner. She goes on by elaborating "My partner and I are struggling to communicate overall but even when we’re watching Netflix, we each end up on our phones, separately. We don’t even share this “separate togetherness” anymore. After some time, it got to a point where our conversations were reduced to the bare minimum. We had to consciously make an effort to break free from this habit and rebuild the emotional connection we once had.

Phubbing can damage your well-being by threatening your sense of self-esteem and belongingness

  • The act of phubbing presents itself by ignoring the person at the other side of the table, causing them to feel excluded, uninteresting, boring and unimportant. 

  • Phubbing is an implicit way of expressing one’s disinterest in the other person’s stories, mostly unintentionally. 

  • The fact that phubbing is a recurrent act result in its pervasive nature of potentially causing harm to people by testing their levels of patience (if any).

  • Constantly being ignored in favor of a screen can make individuals question their self-worth.

  • The fear of missing out (FOMO) and the pressure to be constantly connected exacerbate feelings of low self-esteem and stimulate more anxiety.

Take Alex, a college student, for example. He opened up about how he felt a dip in his self-esteem when his friends consistently chose their phones over him. He goes on to explain that he started questioning whether he was interesting enough or if something was actually wrong with him... He began second-guessing his social skills or whether he was entertaining enough. So, what happened in this scenario? When Alex was already dealing with the unease of being sidelined for a screen, FOMO swooped in. The fear of missing out on what others are experiencing through their screens intensified the pressure to stay constantly connected. It's a never-ending loop – Alex was worried about being left out, so he felt compelled to stay glued to his own screen, and the cycle goes on.

Phubbing can leave you feeling frustrated, isolated and lonely

  • Studies have shown that people who are exposed to phubbing experience psychological distress and loneliness.

  • From a brighter perspective, when it comes to our happiness, phubbing seems to have a temporary tiny positive effect on life satisfaction. 

  • Interestingly, phubbing has a more significant negative impact by making us feel lonelier. To make it simpler, loneliness isn't exactly the best companion for overall life satisfaction. So, it's like a little happiness boost from phubbing, but with a side of loneliness that kind of cancels it out in the long run.

  • Overall, Phubbing is significantly and negatively linked to life satisfaction

Try to picture this: You're sitting with a friend, pouring your heart out over coffee, when you notice their eyes glued to their phone’s screen. How will that make you feel? 

Phubbing is a very mechanical yet powerful act; it sends a subtle but potent message that the virtual world outweighs real-life connections.

Salma, a 27-year-old, talks about her feelings of isolation within her closest group of friends. She goes on by saying "It's heart-breaking to see everyone absorbed by their phones during reunions. On paper, we’re all gathered around having fun but in reality, most of my friends are emotionally absent. I started feeling disconnected and ended up retreating from social events. If I’m going to feel lonely among friends, then I would rather be my own companion and do something meaningful with my time”

Breaking Free: Strategies to Ditch the Phubbing Trap

The good thing is, you can actually stop phubbing. 

While this toxic habit is ruining the generation's ability to hold a real conversation, it can also be controlled and adjusted. By retraining our attentional capacity, becoming mindful of our act, establishing “technology-free zones”, setting boundaries and openly communicating our expectations and thoughts, we can break-free.

Retrain your attentional capacity

The concept of Mindfulness has been present for as long as I can remember. The great scholar Moses Maimonides advocates about mindfulness having a strong impact on maintaining a fairly good well-being by being fully present in the moment rather than being absorbed by past occurrences or future worries. By engaging in mindfulness and meditation, we’re promoting well-being on different levels. We allow ourselves to synchronize, regulate and re-train our attention by reappraising the situation and broadening our thinking-pathways. That way, we have a chance of increasing our self-awareness and becoming more mindful when we engage in phubbing. 

Practice Mindful Compassion

“Mindful compassion” is a concept I learned from personal experiences as well as research. If you are someone who is being phubbed, practice mindful compassion and patience and try not to be offended quickly. Remember that phubbers (someone phubbing you) picked up this habit and follow it by responding to a toxic urge, unintentionally.

When we expand our thinking pathways to try and understand the other person’s perspective, we tend to become less judgmental and anxious. Also, it’s a way to distance ourself from the act by taking it less personal thus taming our feelings of low self-worth and frustration. 

Establish Technology-Free Zones

If you believe you’re a chronic phubber, then establishing ground rules for yourself to stay in control is not such a bad idea to begin with. 

You can decide to put away all phones during a reunion, dinner or social gathering. This simple act can help you form healthier habits as well as engage in more meaningful conversations to reinforce the value of real-time interactions. 

Set Boundaries and Communicate Openly

Finally, when you’re being phubbed, it’s important to voice out your view on it by highlighting its disrespectful angle. Take a moment to explain to the person across from you the impact that phubbing has on your mental well-being without feeling burdensome or shameful. Remember that their intention is not to make you feel excluded, it might actually be quite the opposite. They’re probably scrolling through their phone seeking inclusion themselves so having a conversation about it might be just in place. 

You can also simply list the reasons behind your opposition of it. You.have.that.right. 

Lastly, have an open conversation to establish boundaries and create a shared understanding with the hopes of setting mutually agreed-upon guidelines for phone use!

Nour Atik

Journey Team

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Sabrina Rodorigo
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Together, we'll use a holistic approach that honors your mind, body, and spirit going beyond the surface level
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Sabrina RodorigoPsychotherapistMiami, USA
Ishita Pateria
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I believe in using an integrative approach adopting different therapeutic modalities according to each client’s personal needs
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Ishita PateriaPsychotherapist and Couples TherapistMumbai, India
Dr. Nick Little
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I use these therapies to help my clients regulate intense emotions and cope with the difficult life dilemmas they encounter
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Dr. Nick LittlePsychologistLondon, UK