Back in the day, when the whole family used to sit down for dinner together, there would always be a low point in the conversation. What did we do? We changed topics or focussed on someone else in the family. Nowadays, you might not even find a family having dinner together. Everyone eating where ever they want around the house with their favorite gadget. Even if you find the whole family at the dinner table, the gadgets won’t be set aside. Once the conversation gets boring, we switch from reality to the virtual world of the internet and other services that smartphones offer. This is what is called “phubbing” – ignoring another to pay attention to one’s mobile device. Add another ‘p’ and you have pphubbing, the act of paying attention to your mobile device instead of your significant other.
Baylor University conducted a study that proved that there is a direct correlation between the health of your relationship and your use of mobile devices while around each other (1). It was published in the journal Computers in Human Behaviour. It definitively shows that it damages your relationship and leads to higher levels of depression. The study found that it leads to lower levels of satisfaction in a relationship and could even lead to conflicts.
The main aspects of the study were to ask participants how much they felt their partners were pphubbing them, even if it meant a small glance at their gadget during a low point in the conversation. Participants were also asked to rate the satisfaction of their relationship on a scale of one to nine. Results showed that 46% of those who participated in the survey were at some point phubbed by their partner and 23% reported having conflicts because of pphubbing.
It is normal to assume that just a glance at your mobile phone isn’t that big a deal, but it can be a real conversation breaker. Remember, not all communication is verbal (2). There’s a lot that’s communicated through body language too. And if you’re busy looking at Twitter or Facebook, then you’re likely to miss out on most of what the other person is saying.
Real world communication is important. Face to face conversations is what really makes a relationship meaningful. You can always catch up on your newsfeed when you aren’t engaged in dialogue with your partner. And if you’re in a relationship where you aren’t really satisfied, then you are more likely to be bothered by pphubbing.
Surely, we can take some time out of our day to disconnect from the internet and talk, just like how people normally used to do, right? We’re busy chatting away with a friend who isn’t there when there’s someone right in front of us who’s looking to engage in a conversation. The fact that the internet has churned out a nickname for the phenomenon is proof enough that this practice is not only prevalent but annoying. Not to mention that pphubbing is just plain rude. When you’re talking to someone, you want them paying attention to you, not some handheld device.
So keep this in mind for the future. It could be a hard habit to get rid of, but actively thinking about pphubbing when you’re doing could be of great help. Then it would be easier to put away your handheld device and hold your partner’s hand and really engage in a meaningful conversation with both of you paying complete attention to each other. It’s a no-brainer that not looking at your partner’s face when they’re talking is likely to damage your relationship, so don’t do it.