Imagine that you and your family are sitting down for dinner at the table. You have the TV on in the background as you eat your meal. For a while all you hear are the voices from the television and the clinking of your silverware against your plates. In between bites you scroll through Facebook on your cell phone. You suddenly realize that your spouse asked you a question. You nod and say yes. However, when you glance away from your phone to look at them, they look disgusted with you. What did you miss? What did they say? Unfortunately, you don’t know because you were distracted with your cell phone. Would you say that this type of conversation is you?
Situations like the one above are becoming more common. We are affixed to our phones. We think we are multitasking but are we present in our conversations? I’ve had multiple conversations with people that grabbed their cell phone while we were talking. And you know what? I didn’t feel like they were really listening to me because later on I would end up having to repeat myself. Now I’m not saying that I’m not guilty of this. I am just as guilty. Because I know how it feels, I have tried to make an effort to keep my phone away while I’m with others but sometimes it is just inevitable.
Sometimes while I am at the gym with my sister, I find myself reaching for my phone in between sets. Occasionally I will get on my phone to find new workouts. Other times (okay, majority of the time), I’m just doing it because I can. I think for me, my phone has just become a bad habit. It’s not as if I need to be on my phone. It is just something that I can use to pass time quicker or a way I can communicate with family or friends. Very rarely is there an emergency where I need to be on my phone while I’m with others. Of course I am very thankful for that. But what about those times when there aren’t emergencies?
Are You Phubbing?
This cell phone behavior has become an epidemic and is labeled as phubbing or phone snubbing. Phubbing is the act of focusing on your phone and ignoring the person or people that are around you. The term phubbing has been around for a few years now. However, it wasn’t until a recent study from the staff at Baylor University Hankamer School of Business that made national headlines. The study focused on phone snubbing while in the company of relationship partners, called Pphubbing (partner phone snubbing). Baylor University’s study concluded that pphubbing leads to conflict, which causes unsatisfying relationships thus creating higher levels of depression or unhappiness.
Common behaviors for Pphubbing in the study included statements such as:
- My partner places his or her cell phone where they can see it when we are together.
- My partner keeps his or her cell phone in their hand when he or she is with me.
- My partner glances at his/her cell phone when talking to me.
- If there is a lull in our conversation, my partner will check his or her cell phone.
The results of the study demonstrated that 46.3 percent felt like they were being phubbed by their partner. Because their partner was distracted on their phone and not focused on them, 36.6 percent felt depressed some of the time. However, 22.6 percent said this behavior caused conflicts in their relationship.
Pretty interesting study, huh? I want you to think about some of your relationships, whether past or present. What caused conflicts in your relationships? Was your cell phone usage ever the cause of a fight? I find it very interesting that an object such as a cell phone could damage a relationship. However, it makes sense at the same time. Our phones are a social outlet and our entertainment. Of course it can cause distraction. Of course it can cause conflict.
Imagine a time when we didn’t have cell phones, tablets, computers, or televisions. Could say, the newspaper caused conflicts in relationships? I suppose so but I don’t think there are any studies on that, at least none that I could find. I believe we are wired for distractions today and that is partly due to technology. Devices such as your cell phone or tablet have made us think we need to be “in the know” 24/7. We fear we could miss out on something if we aren’t obsessively checking our phones.
I think until we make different choices about our cell phone usage, our relationships and our self-esteem may suffer. We can and should try to be in the present in conversations with our spouses and other relationships without reaching for our cell phones. Live in the moment and don’t be controlled by your cell phone.
Do you think in this digital world we live in is causing unhappiness in our relationships? Why or why not?