Are You Guilty of ‘Phubbing’ Your Family and Friends?

By Emma Griffin

‘Phubbing’, AKA snubbing the people around you in favour of scrolling through your phone, is on the rise. Here are some ways to break your double-screening habit.

Be honest – have you ever totally zoned out of a conversation with a significant other because you were too focused on a Whatsapp group chat, or a particularly interesting meme? Do you instinctively check your phone, even when there’s plenty of exciting stuff unfolding in your real life? Then, like many of us, you’re guilty of ‘phubbing’ – AKA snubbing the people around you in favour of scrolling through your phone. You’re not alone. A 2015 US study found 46% of people in romantic relationships feel they have been ‘phubbed’ by a partner.

If Apple’s introduction of the Screen Time feature tells us anything, it’s that addiction to tech is a very real phenomenon in 2019. In fact, we are so dependent on our smartphones there’s even a word for it: nomophobia, the fear of being separated from them. Over the last decade, our shift to an always-on, digital landscape has had some pretty shocking effects on not just our mental agility (a recent study found that smartphone usage has caused our attention spans to plummet below that of a goldfish) but also our connection to the world – and the people – around us.

It’s a sad truth, but the apps designed to connect us are drawing us further apart. If Alanis Morisette had written Ironictoday, she’d almost definitely have added a line about that. The good news is, there are steps we can take to reverse bad tech habits and be more present. If you’d rather snuggle up to your iPhone than your partner or can’t watch TV without a simultaneous Instagram scroll, take note…


Buy an alarm clock


We all know that the blue light our favourite little screens emit is disrupting our eight hours a night. But we’ve become so dependent on our phones to wake us up every morning, it’s easy for many of us to excuse their special place next to us as we sleep. So, buy an alarm clock, leave your phone outside the bedroom and reach for a book before lights out instead.

Have a designated phone area at home


The mere presence of a mobile phone – even if you’re not using it – has been found to make people feel less connected to each other. If you find yourself constantly double-screening or serial-checking your phone for no reason, you probably need to set some new barriers. Designate a drawer or a basket at home to put phones in after a certain time. Or, if phones are a regular bug bear when you go out with friends for a meal, why not challenge each other to disconnect fully by enforcing a total ban? Trust me, there’s no better way to resist the lure of a notification if the one who picks their phone up first has to pay the entire bill…

Use do-not-disturb mode


All those pings, bells and flashing banners are designed to keep us slaves to our screens. Research shows that the dopamine rush we get from a new ‘like’ or incoming message is enough to make us crave them more – much like the neurological patterns that show up in drug and alcohol addicts. Scary, huh? So, even with the strongest will in the world, you’re setting yourself up to fail on a tech detox if you don’t stop the temptation. Turn notifications off for all but essential apps, put your phone on do-not-disturb, airplane mode or whatever you need to do to stop yourself being drawn in by the catnip of those little notifications.

Give it a go, and you’ll be amazed by how much of that lost time spent scrolling can be channelled into really exciting things.


Emma Griffin

Emma Griffin