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Definition: What is phubbing?

In the era where smartphones are an extension of our hands, a new social behavior has emerged, known as “phubbing.” This term, a blend of ‘phone’ and ‘snubbing’, was coined to describe the act of ignoring someone in a social setting by looking at your phone instead of paying attention to the person you’re with. As innocuous as it may seem, phubbing is a phenomenon that’s increasingly recognized for its social and psychological impacts.

The term “phubbing” was coined as part of a campaign by the Macquarie Dictionary in Australia. In 2012, the dictionary, along with a group of academics and researchers, created this word to describe the increasingly common act of snubbing someone in favor of a mobile phone. This initiative was not only about adding a new word to the dictionary but also about sparking a conversation on the social impact of mobile phone use in personal interactions. The term has since gained widespread recognition and is used to describe this specific form of social behavior.

The Emergence of Phubbing

Phubbing can be traced back to the advent of smartphones and the explosion of social media. These technologies have fundamentally altered how we interact with each other. While they have made communication more accessible and instant, they have also introduced a paradox; the more connected we are digitally, the more disconnected we may become in real-life social interactions.

The Psychology Behind Phubbing

Psychologically, phubbing can be understood through the lens of behavioral addiction. The instant gratification provided by smartphones, whether it’s a social media notification or a new message, can be compelling. This often leads to a habitual need to check one’s phone, sometimes unconsciously, even in the middle of a face-to-face conversation.

Social Impact

Phubbing has a ripple effect on social dynamics. It can:

  1. Affect Relationship Quality: It undermines the quality of interactions, making the person being phubbed feel undervalued and ignored. This can strain personal relationships, leading to feelings of dissatisfaction and disconnection.
  2. Hinder Communication: Non-verbal cues are essential in communication, and phubbing disrupts this, leading to misunderstandings and a lack of emotional connection.
  3. Impact Mental Health: Regularly being on the receiving end of phubbing can lead to feelings of exclusion and lower self-esteem, potentially contributing to anxiety and depression.

Combating Phubbing

Addressing phubbing involves a conscious effort to prioritize the people we are with over our digital devices. Some strategies include:

  • Setting Boundaries: Creating phone-free zones or times, especially during meals or special occasions, can encourage more meaningful interactions.
  • Mindfulness: Being aware of one’s phone usage and actively trying to reduce unnecessary checking can help.
  • Open Communication: Discussing the impact of phubbing with family and friends can foster a mutual understanding to reduce this behavior.


Phubbing is a modern social challenge that reflects the intricate relationship we have with our digital devices. Recognizing and addressing this behavior is crucial in maintaining healthy, fulfilling personal relationships in our increasingly digital world. By being mindful of our phone usage, we can ensure that our digital habits enhance rather than hinder our real-world connections.

Read the latest research about phubbing:

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