The Dangers of Phubbing

“Phubbing” may be a made-up word, but the phenomenon it describes is very real. The verb to phub was originally coined as part of a marketing campaign for the Macquarie Dictionary, and it describes the behavior of snubbing someone in order to use a smartphone.

The word has caught on, to some extent anyway. On the scientific front, researchers at the University of Poland have created the “Phubbing Project” to investigate the psychology of phubbing.

Recently, those researchers studied phubbing in a group of 400 students at different colleges in India, publishing their results in the Journal of Family and Community Medicine.

As it turned out, phubbing was prevalent among the students surveyed. In fact, about half reported engaging in phubbing!

The researchers then looked into which students were more likely to phub and found several factors that increased people’s odds of being phubbers. Unsurprisingly, people with more symptoms of smartphone addiction and Internet addiction were more likely to phub. Those who phubbed also tended to have a greater fear of missing out as well as less self-control.

Next, the researchers asked what the consequences of phubbing were (other than being rude!).

It turned out that phubbing was associated with several kinds of negative outcomes. People who phubbed more tended to report having less healthy social lives and relationships. They also had higher rates of depression and distress.

One point of caution is that it’s not clear to what extent these problems are consequences of phubbing and to what extent they’re causes. For example, it also seems possible that people who already have poor relationships are more likely to bury themselves in their smartphones, no?

Common sense, however, suggests that at least to some degree, phubbing would exacerbate these negative outcomes. After all, even if you already have poor relationships, it’s unlikely that shunning people to their face in order to play Candy Crush will help!

Image: Flickr/Joelle Hatem


  1. Diesel Estate on February 27, 2018 at 1:15 am

    Surely, every smart phone owner will, at some point, phub? The advent of the smartphone gave an omniscience to the mighty G-ds of Google. For the past five years I’ve had the web at my fingertips. I’ve not had to wait until I get back to a PC, before I can type out a question, or suchlike… So, yeah. Everybody with a smartphone will phub. The real question is: How often?

    • Neil Petersen on March 1, 2018 at 1:04 am

      It’s true — to phub is human. I have a smartphone, therefore I phub.