7th Feb 2017

Are You Phubbing Me?

Sorry, what did you say?... Phubbing!? What's that? 

Like me, the chances are you hadn’t even heard of 'phubbing' – but the sad thing is, you’ve probably already done it. In fact, ‘snubbing’ someone in favour of your ‘phone’ – 'phubbing' – is something many of us have done at one time or another. 

Guilty as charged?  

A 2016 study by the US National Opinion Research Center showed 'phubbing' has become the new ‘relationship-buster’ among the more usual culprits of money, sex and children problems. 

Many of us rely on our smartphone, just like we rely on our right hand (and it’s rarely far from our hand) - so what is the negative impact on relationships?

Impact on relationships

The statistics make me wince; on average smartphone users check them once every 6 ½ minutes and we tend to keep them within very easy reach; on the sofa, on the table, by the bed!  It’s easily done, isn’t it? “I’ll just check tomorrow’s weather”, which of course then turns to a quick scroll through your Facebook feed, a glance at Twitter, check email and, before you know it…

If those minutes take us away from our partner and our family, then they can feel 'phubbed' while we are distracted and over the long term that could lead to issues in those relationships.

How not to fall foul of phubbing

Talk of course (and not by text or WhatsApp!).  Agree ground rules.  Should you have a rule of no phones during meals?  Or after 8.30pm.  I know one family who have ‘screen-free Sunday’ and focus on activities which keep them together and communicating, like a walk or board games.  It is feeling second place to the phone which causes the problem, so having common courtesies that everyone adopts should really help. 

If your partner won’t play ball or is secretive about their phone you may need to take further steps - before it is too late.  10-15 years ago, Friends Re-United was the new bad boy in divorce petitions, then Facebook. If current trends continue, then a petition which cites phubbing is looking like the next thing- which makes smartphones not so smart after all...


Sarah Smith is Yorkshire's only Eminent Practitioner in Family Law. She is a qualified mediator and Managing Director of Berwins Solicitors.

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