Paying attention to your cell phone instead of your social circle impairs social interaction and is linked to an array of mental health consequences, according to a study published in Psychological Reports.
The act of ignoring someone while fixating on a phone screen is so widespread that it has even garnered its own name – phubbing. Numerous studies have linked phubbing to mental health consequences such as depression and lower life satisfaction. The general public appears to shun the practice and yet people continue to ignore others for their phone and the negative effects of the behavior are only climbing.
“I’m a social psychologist and psychological counsellor. In my professional experiences with my clients, I have observed many behaviours that influence face to face interaction. I have experienced that some of my clients demand to look at their phone during psychological sessions. That’s why I’m interested in it,” said study author Naif Ergün, a researcher at Mardin Artuklu University.
This new study aimed to add to the current research by further examining the experiences of phubbing and being phubbed and how the two situations relate to the psychological factors of anxiety, depression, loneliness, hostility, life satisfaction, and somatization.
To test this, two separate studies were conducted. The first study involved 576 subjects between the ages of 18-76 who completed the General Scale of Phubbing. The second study had 510 participants between 18-58 years old complete the General Scale of Being Phubbed. Both studies assessed subjects using The University of California Los Angeles Loneliness Scale, the Satisfaction with Life Scale, and the Brief Symptom Inventory.
Results showed that when it came to ignoring someone while looking at a phone or being ignored by someone else on their phone, both situations predicted anxiety, depression, hostility, somatization, and negative self. They also found that duration of phone usage predicted the likelihood of engaging in phubbing.
The authors point out that these findings are in line with research that shows that phone addiction is related to adverse psychological traits and impaired social interaction. They explain, “As people are more obsessed with their mobile phones, they engage in their relationships less, lose stability in their behaviors, become unaware of their talents, interests, and skills and are less eager to pursue a bright future”.
Unexpectedly, phubbing was negatively related to loneliness. Researchers propose that this indicates a lack of distinction between interaction on the phone versus face-to-face interaction. They explain, “phubbers may perceive the virtual friends and applications that he/she engages as real people. In such a case, the phubber may not identify as alone and feel lonely”.
No relationship was found between ignoring others while fixated on a phone screen and life satisfaction. However, being ignored by others who are engrossed in their cell phones was negatively associated with life satisfaction. The authors reason that people who feel they are constantly being placed second to a companion’s phone will conceivably feel inferior and uncomfortable.
The authors suggest that future research uses longitudinal studies to look at phubbing behavior over time to look for stable patterns. They also suggest media education for families as well as kids in school in order to promote healthy phone habits and avoid communication problems that may arise from phubbing behavior.
The study, “Effects of Phubbing: Relationships With Psychodemographic Variables”, was authored by Naif Ergün, Idris Göksu, and Halis Sakız.