An online survey in Turkey found that people who are more exposed to partner phubbing (being ignored by their partner who was focused on their phone) are less satisfied with their romantic relationship and see its quality as lower. The study was published in Psychological Reports.
Smartphones allow individuals to fulfill many vital needs such as communication, shopping, banking transactions, and food orders, but also connect to social media, play games, surf the internet, and others. This is the reason why individuals use smartphones in all areas of life.
However, increasing use of smartphones has given rise to an array of social and possibly even mental health problems such as smartphone addiction, nomophobia (fear of being without a phone), and plagonomy (fear that the phone battery will run out).
One of these social problems is also phubbing, defined as an individual turning his/her attention to the smartphone during a face-to-face interaction and becoming less concerned with their surroundings. Individuals engaged in phubbing spend time using their smartphones instead of communicating with people around them.
The word phubbing is formed by combining English words “phone” and “snubbing.” Phubbing can indeed cause people being ignored in favor of the smartphone to feel disrespected and worthless.
Previous research has linked phubbing to depression, family conflicts, nomophobia level, social media addiction, and the fear of missing out on developments. Phubbing behaviors are also associated with negative effects on individuals’ life satisfaction, communication quality, psychological wellbeing, and marital satisfaction.
To examine impact of phubbing behavior on romantic relationships and life satisfaction, Faruk Caner Yam from the Gaziosmanpaşa University in Turkey conducted an online survey of 308 individuals (78.9% women, average age was 31 years).
Participants completed assessments of life satisfaction (the Satisfaction With Life Scale), of the level of exposure to partner phubbing (the Partner Phubbing Scale), relationship satisfaction (the Relationship Assessment Scale), and relationship quality (the Perceived Romantic Relationship Quality Scale).
Results showed that people who were exposed to more partner phubbing also saw the quality of their romantic relationship as lower and were less satisfied with it. On the other hand, partner phubbing was not associated with the overall satisfaction with life.
However, further analyses showed that higher levels of relationship satisfaction are linked to higher levels of life satisfaction (and, at the same time, lower levels of partner phubbing). This allowed researchers to test the assumption that the relationship between life satisfaction and partner phubbing is an indirect one, achieved through relationship satisfaction. The analysis of answers showed that such an indirect relationship is indeed possible.
“The phenomenon of phubbing, which hits individuals’ social interactions, is an important risk factor for romantic relationships. In other words, partners’ being too busy with their smartphones during their romantic relationships harms relationship satisfaction and perceived romantic relationship quality. For this reason, it is very important to raise awareness of couples about the use of smartphones during their romantic relationships,” the researcher concluded.
The study sheds light on the links between smartphone use habits and relationships with close others. However, it has limitations that need to be taken into account. Namely, the study participants were overwhelmingly female and the study design does not allow for any cause-and-effect conclusions. It is possible that partner phubbing reduces relationship satisfaction and quality, but it might also be a consequence of reduced satisfaction with the relationship and its lower quality.
The study, “The Relationship Between Partner Phubbing and Life Satisfaction: The Mediating Role of Relationship Satisfaction and Perceived Romantic Relationship Quality”, was authored by Faruk Caner Yam.