Mental health experts shed light on increasing trend of ‘phubbing’


Phubbing, or phone-snubbing, is when a person ignores the other by using devices or apps in between conversations. This phenomenon seems to be common among youngsters and couples show studies but is it worrying?

Picture a couple at a restaurant, one talking about their day and the other scrolling through Instagram. Unconsciously, the latter becomes a phubber — a person who snubs someone else with their phone. Macquarie Dictionary constituted the term after many studies were published by professors from Stanford and Yale Universities, who discovered just how much technology is affecting relationships.

In most cases, a person doesn’t realise when they’re being ‘rude’ or just simply disinterested in a conversation and automatically tend to reach out for their phones, the researchers say. “Phubbing, that is snubbing someone you’re talking to look at a cell phone has almost certainly become a part of people’s everyday life. Just think about how often a conversation stalls because your friends (or you) pulls out a phone and descended into the social media black hole. Ironically, this means you’re connecting with someone through a phone screen as opposed to the person in front of you,” says Swathi M, a graduate in psychology from a city college.

This is precisely why phubbing is not to be ignored says consultant psychologist Bhaskar Ramachandran. “If you find that a person is depending on technology or devices to zone out or for a diversion, do not ostracise them or snatch away their phones — instead, get them to interact with you or a group of like-minds to healthily occupy them,” she says. Doing so may avoid factors that could affect their mental health, especially factors like belongingness and self-esteem.

He goes on to explain, “Gain a phubber’s trust to show that you’re not trying to harm him/her but do good. One could find solace in other hobbies or by interacting with animals to get over their phone addiction.” Follow the same thing in your bedroom and at home, if you’re married, for increasing number of cases of ‘disillusioned marriages’ due to gadgets coming in between are on the rise, warns Bhaskar. “Like Emma Seppälä (author of the Happiness Track) said, ‘If your life partner is on the phone, that means that they are prioritising something else over you in those moments of togetherness’,” he quotes.

Working professionals and parents of youngsters agree with the experts. RangaYali, who is a technician in the film industry shares, “I know so many of my friends’ siblings or children who are addicted to social media apps. While we too have smartphones and rely on technology to make our day-to-day living easier, some teenagers can’t seem to stay away from them even for five minutes. When we try talking to them, they ignore us.”

On the other hand, newlywed PrarthanaHarshithfeels that texting or speaking on the phone all the time need not be considered taboo. “I think a term like phubbing is derogatory to some people. There have been times when I was chatting with a friend on WhatsApp but ignored something my husband asked me. He doesn’t take offence because he understands I’m not addicted to my phone — if it were my parents in his situation, they might have jumped to conclusions,” she clarifies, concluding that modern terms like phubbing should not be over analysed.

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