Nicholas Kotch

HED: ‘Phubbing’: When phone etiquette hinders relationships

Try to recall a time when you were in the middle of a conversation with another person and they pulled out their phone and began to browse through it. You have officially been “phubbed.”

The term is a portmanteau for “phone-snubbing” and has become a third wheel in many American relationships — 70 percent of participants in a study conducted by the American Psychological Association said that “phubbing” has interfered with their ability to interact with their romantic partners.

“I’ve never heard the term before, but now that I have, it has definitely happened to me on more than one occasion,” said Matthew Bates, a sophomore business management major. “If it became a reoccurring incident I could definitely see how it could negatively affect a relationship.”

As of 2016, a vast majority of the American population — 95 percent — owns a cellphone of some kind. Of that percentage, more than 75 percent are owners of a smartphone. This creates a large platform for phone snubbing to thrive in modern relationships, but can also have a positive affect on daily interactions.

“When you’re out on a business trip, you have the use of Facetime or texting that can strengthen a relationship,” said Jeffrey Child, associate professor of communication. “But if you’re out with friends and all they do is text while in your company, that can be a real drain on the relationship.”

As this issue becomes more pressing as time moves forward, society must equip itself with how to properly deal with this “techno-ference” that strains human relationships.

“Some people are respectful of you when asked that, and they can realize your intentions,” Child said. “Others may not recognize what they are doing and that it can come across as offensive or distancing to others.”

While “phubbing” may just be second nature to those who are heavily interested in social media accounts or stay up-to-date with a sports team, social anxiety could also be a factor in this trend.

“When you mix technology with social anxiety, it creates the ability for people to hide and maintain their relationships through media rather than face-to-face communication,” Child said.

Technology is at service to humans, not the other way around. While it makes sustaining relationships easier, it can harm others in the process.

“We get great freedom to maintain relationships when we use it in the right way,” Child said. “We all just have to be aware of how and where we are using technology.”

Nicholas Kotch is the consumer tech reporter, contact him at [email protected]