To Phubb and be Phubbed: Are you a victim, perpetrator or both?

Phone + Snubbing = Phubbing

It can’t be any more simple than that. In fact, even Merriam-Webster writes about it:

In May 2012, Australia’s Macquarie Dictionary and the McCann advertising agency assembled a group of language experts to name a phenomenon common in the era of the smartphone. They dubbed the phenomenon phubbing, and defined it as “the act of snubbing someone in a social setting by looking at your phone instead of paying attention.”

Here’s an example:

You’re out to dinner with a friend. The conversation winds down. They pick up their phone and begin scrolling through Instagram. You’re sitting there, just staring at them, as they are no longer present at the table with you. You’ve been phubbed. 

Or, this:

You’re enjoying an afternoon together with your spouse. Mid conversation, your spouse picks up their phone to answer a text message. You’ve been phubbed. 

Ouch. Snubbed in favor of a phone. But, this has become so commonplace it doesn’t really sting anymore. In fact, we may not even notice it’s happening or that we’re doing it to someone else.

According to the NY Post, you are a phubber if…

  • You have your phone out and close to you during social events.
  • You keep your conversations short because your attention is more focused on what is on your phone.
  • You break your attention from the conversation you are having to look at or respond to your phone.
  • You check your phone during lulls in a conversation.
  • If you are watching TV with others, you look at your phone during the commercial break.
  • You take a call that is not urgent when you are having quality time with others.

The impact of phubbing on our lives, however, can make a lasting impression on our relationships.

In a 2016 study titled, My life has become a major distraction from my cell phone, Meredith David and James Roberts suggest that “even the mere presence of cell phones has been found to undermine perceived closeness, connection, and conversation quality.”

Julie Hart from The Hart Centre states, “According to studies in US and UK, on average we check our phones every four to six minutes of our waking hours … that’s over 150 times a day.” When it comes to social media she says, “You can be so seduced by the neurochemical hit of dopamine it provides, of constant connection at a safe distance … who else wants to reach me, the number of likes I’ve got, another funny story to read, the excitement of something new … that it can easily become what you do with your spare time.

In fact, there’s even a book about it: Alone Together by Sherry Turkle compiles research about “why we expect more from technology and less from each other.

To understand the multiple layers of phubbing, check out this video:

Know a phubber? It’s time for an intervention. And, has an email template ready to go.

For restaurant owners, they offer you a free poster you can print and display in your establishment to warn phubbers:

There are also decals, wedding place cards and the opportunity to “shame a phubber” by uploading their photo. This is getting serious.

NumberBarn wants to help make your life easier with our phone management service. And, our service definitely does give you the flexibility and freedom to answer calls on your cell phone no matter where you are. But, we don’t want you to be a phubber!

So, how do you stop?

Hart recommends that you and your family or significant other “Sit down together and set out some rules about phone-free time, where you basically put your phone away somewhere where you can’t hear it, for a full hour every night while you and your partner spend some quality time together.

And, make sure to check out the 25 Reasons We All Need to Stop Phubbing Each Other to see just how ridiculous you look when you’re on your cell phone in a social situation.

We’re NumberBarn, we take phone numbers very seriously. But, we also like to have a little fun. To learn more about us, visit and follow us on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

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Written by

Jenny Dempsey

Jenny Dempsey is the Customer Experience Manager for NumberBarn