Why we should stop 'phubbing'

I like to think I'm a fairly mellow person, but there's one thing that I simply cannot tolerate: "phubbing." If you don't know what that means, it occurs when someone snubs you in favor of their cell phone. Irritating, right? According to a new study, it seems that my hatred of this 21st-century phenomenon is not unreasonable.

Researchers reveal that being "phubbed" can negatively impact our sense of belongingness, which can lead to a reduction in relationship satisfaction with the offending "phubber."

If you have ever been phubbed, these findings won't come as a surprise.

If you're not sure that you have been the victim of phubbing — or a "phubbee" — ask yourself whether you've ever been in this scenario:

You're having lunch with a friend. As you're spilling your heart about, say, a relationship problem, your friend's cell phone buzzes. Suddenly, their attention is diverted, and they proceed to pick up their phone and respond to a text.

How would this make you feel? Irritated? Ignored? I've been in this situation, and it actually made me question whether my "friend" really cared; my feelings were swept to one side, and her cell phone took priority.

Of course, there are times when this type of behavior can be overlooked; the "phubber" may have to answer a call from a babysitter, or there might be a family emergency. Unless there is a very good reason for paying attention to one's cell phone instead of engaging in face-to-face conversation, then, in my opinion, phubbers are simply rude.

However, with more than three quarters of us now owning a smartphone, phubbing is a common occurrence — so much so that researchers have taken to studying the phone-nomenon (sorry, I couldn't help myself).

As an example, a study published in 2016 found that more than 17 percent of us phub at least four times every day. You know who you are.

The latest study — which is published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology — delves into the feelings of those of us who are on the receiving end of phubbing. The results might state the obvious, but they make an interesting read.

How phubbing makes us feel

Prof. Karen Douglas and Varoth Chotpitayasunondh, who work at the University of Kent's School of Psychology in the United Kingdom, enrolled more than 150 adults to their study.

The adults watched one of three 3-minute animations of a conversation between two people. One animation portrayed high levels of phubbing, one showed partial phubbing, while the third animation showed no phubbing.

Each participant was asked to imagine that they were one of the people in the animations — more specifically, the person who was getting phubbed.

Unsurprisingly, people who were phubbed felt less satisfied with the quality of communication with the phubber, and, more importantly, relationship satisfaction suffered as a result.

Interestingly, the study's results show that such feelings were driven by the negative impact of phubbing on their sense of belongingness, or the human desire to be accepted by others.

It seems that when we're phubbed, we're internally screaming, "Hello! I'm here, willing to have a face-to-face conversation with you. Why are you more interested in your cell phone than me?"

O.K., so I have said that out loud to offending phubbers, too, and I think more of us should. Yes, technology and social media are important parts of modern life, but we shouldn't lose what is clearly a crucial contributor to our health and well-being: human contact.

Is checking a text message or Facebook notification really worth losing a friend over? It's time to start snubbing phubbing.