We’ve all been there before. You’re conversing with someone, and suddenly they start checking their phone. They might even do it right in front of you!

This is called phubbing, and it’s a growing problem. People are so addicted to their phones that they can’t put them down, even when they’re in the middle of a conversation. Nearly 32 percent of people reported being phubbed 2-3 times daily!

In this post, we will discuss what phubbing is, why it’s dangerous, and how to stop it.

What is Phubbing? (Definition)

Phubbing, also known as  “phone snubbing,” is the act of ignoring someone in favor of the phone.  It can happen in any conversation—whether it’s with a friend, family member, or even a business associate.

The act of phubbing can come in other forms, such as when someone overhead gazes or looks above your head during a conversation in hopes of finding someone (or something) more interesting.

Phubbing tends to be rude and inconsiderate behavior. It conveys that the person on the other end of the phone is more important than the person you’re talking to.

Sure, I'd love to come over and hang while out with you you talk and text other people on your phone the entire time.

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Why is Phubbing Dangerous?

Firstly, phubbing can lead to communication problems. When someone is phubbing you, they’re not really listening to what they’re saying. This can make you feel left out in a conversation.

Second, phubbing can damage relationships. Eye contact is super important in bonding and developing oxytocin, the chemical that builds trust and connection. A lack of eye contact due to phubbing can make people feel like you don’t care about them or value their time.

Fun Fact: Researchers found that people who simply observed others phubbing during a conversation felt stress themselves!

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How to Stop Phubbing

If you’re sick and tired of being phubbed, there are a few things you can do to stop it.

Follow their gaze

If you encounter someone who phubs during a conversation, follow their gaze. Notice what they look at and make a comment:

  • If they are looking above your head, turn back and try to see what they’re looking at. “Oh, I thought you were looking over there.”
  • If they look at their phone, gaze over at their phone screen. “Did you want to show me something interesting?”
  • If they’re eyeballing the person next to you, look over at them. “Oh, do you know them?”

Every time they phub, look where they are looking. They may realize 3 things:

  1. It’s super distracting
  2. It’s not nice
  3. They will become annoyed or self-conscious with you pointing out their phubbing

Either way, they’ll likely stop phubbing.

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Reward eye contact

Some people might be guilty of phubbing because they’re super introverted or socially anxious. And that’s OK! In this case, you’ll want to help them by rewarding them with eye contact.

Here’s how:

  1. Flash them a reassuring smile whenever they look up. Smiling will act as a reinforcement and cue them that it’s good to look at you. You can even add a few small nods to the smile.
  2. Pause first, continue later. When someone snubbed you during a conversation (especially if you’re talking), immediately employ the pause. You might even be in the middle of a sentence—that’s OK! When their attention finally returns to you, continue talking.

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Be verbally direct

If you notice someone is phubbing you if they are upset about something or avoiding something, you can verbally say, “Is everything OK? I notice you’re looking down a lot,” or, “I notice you haven’t been looking at me.”

This is a straightforward approach, but if you think they are going through a personal issue, this might be a way for them to open up and share what’s going on.

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“I’ll wait for you to finish.”

Try saying this line when you notice someone buries themselves in their phone. You’ll give them the heads-up that you won’t make conversation with them unless they’re giving you their full attention.

This one’s super direct! Save it for those hardcore snubbers.

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Use a playful one-liner

You can playfully say, “Say hi for me!” or another fun/humorous/playful one-liner. This will help lighten up the conversation while also pointing out that you notice their snubbing.

Other clever one-liners might include:

  • “Don’t worry. You can take my number down later.”
  • “This must be important. Is that the President on the other line?”
  • “Oh, you must be checking out the latest memes, right?”

Don’t let phubbing get in the way of true, genuine conversations.

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Phubbing FAQs

What is phubbing behavior?

Phubbing is a term used to describe the act of snubbing someone in favor of the phone. It’s a blend of “phone” and “snubbing.” Phubbing behavior can also be seen in overhead gazing or looking over someone’s head for an opportunity during a conversation.

What is an example of phubbing?

The most common form of phubbing is when someone is talking to you, looking at their phone instead of making eye contact. Other examples of phubbing someone can do include:
• Interrupting a conversation to take a phone call
• Scrolling through social media while they’re supposed to be listening to someone
• Turning to the phone to escape an argument or disagreement, especially with a partner

What causes phubbing?

Phubbing can be due to boredom and a way for someone to find quick entertainment. It could also be due to someone trying to avoid an awkward conversation or feeling socially anxious during social interactions. Other times, snubbing can happen when someone becomes addicted to their phones.

Is phubbing an addiction?

Phubbing can be addictive, especially when it becomes normal during social interactions. Some people might over-rely on phones and avoid social interactions, especially during parties, friendly get-togethers, or business conferences. If phubbing starts damaging relationships, it can be dangerously addictive.

If these tips don’t work, use this as a last resort: 62 Ways to Politely End a Conversation In ANY Situation

About Vanessa Van Edwards

Vanessa is Lead Investigator at Science of People. She is the bestselling author of Captivate: The Science of Succeeding with People, translated into 16 languages. More than 50 million people watch her engaging YouTube tutorials and TEDx Talk. Her much anticipated new book Cues releases on March 1st, 2022.

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