Is “Phubbing” Hurting Your Relationships?

Although restrictions on public gatherings are gradually lifting, many people, especially older adults and those with a compromised immune system will continue to ride out the summer months at home.  While technology has done wonders to keep people working remotely, staying socially connected, and providing online education for students, it can be a double-edged sword for couples quarantined at home together. 

Phone snubbing or “phubbing” has long been an issue for not only romantic partners but also between friends and among family members.  The practice involves choosing to respond to your smartphone emails, notifications, social media posts or news feeds over the person you are with physically.  In our shrunken social bubble, it’s understandable that many people have become more attached to their devices; a window to the outside world.  But whether between friends, family or a significant other, picking up your phone to check your messages in mid-conversation is hurtful and can lead to dissatisfaction in relationships. 

According to a recent Well and Good post, a 2017 study found that people who did not take their phones to the dinner table experienced greater levels of trust, empathy, and intimacy with their companions.  Therapists are reporting phone issues as a source of strife during social isolation.  When you see your housemates all the time, it’s easy to take their presence for granted and slip into bad habits with screen time. 

The solution to phubbing?  Start with some mutually-agreed-upon rules for mealtimes or outdoor activities.  Keeping devices out of the bedroom will not only help with a more restful night’s sleep, but it may also improve intimacy.  If someone is checking their phone or using their tablet or computer and you want to talk, ask first if it’s a good time to chat.  Setting boundaries and keeping lines of communication open will ensure we all come out of this pandemic with our relationships intact. 

Need help navigating through mental health issues during quarantine?  Many therapists are now providing telehealth visits or check out one of the many digital tools like the TalkSpace app to speak privately with a licensed therapist.