The Quick Report

‘Phubbing’ is a Growing Problem in Relationships

Phubbing is a portmanteau (a combining of the meaning and sounds of two or more words), “phone” and “snubbing.” It refers to the act of ignoring someone in favor of using a smartphone.

Phubbing happens in conversations when a person might tune out from listening to family, friends, or associates. It is becoming a common occurrence in romantic relationships.

The Negative Impact of Phubbing 


When one person “phubs” (phone + snubs) another, it can make the other person feel unimportant and cast aside. The person trying to gain the attention of the phubber may become frustrated.

Psychologists say that recipients of phubbing find the practice offensive. And because the use of smartphones is ubiquitous, the practice is growing.

Why Do People Do It?

Psychologists say one of the biggest driving factors is the fear of missing out. They also say the habit of phubbing is likely a product of boredom, which is a predictor of loneliness. These reasons make the pull toward reaching for a smartphone tempting.

Smartphones and the Need for Constant Stimulation


Because our smartphones can connect to so many different things and put them right at our fingertips, they are a constant source of stimulation. Not only is this tempting, but it can be addictive.

Our smartphones offer us continual news, photos, videos, updates from friends, recipes, games, sports, text, email, and more. All this makes us feel a sense of connection.

While all this stimulation can give our brain a dopamine effect, it also can lure us away from many things as it engages our attention. It can prevent us from getting work done.


Watch the latest episode of 'A Swift Look' with host Zoe J!

However, when it lures us away when we are in the direct presence of others who are attempting to engage us in conversation – we risk harming relationships, as well as the well-being of others.

The Cost to Relationships


Psychologists say that phubbing can predict and is linked to poor relationship well-being, Psychology Today reported. According to research (Roberts and David, 2016), phubbing was associated with lower relationship satisfaction. 

Research (Thomas and colleagues, 2022) documented that victims of phubbing respond in a variety of ways to the practice, both internal and reactionary. The research found that these victims:

  • Feel more resentment
  • Experience greater curiosity about a partner’s phone use
  • Retaliate by engaging in their own phone use

Retaliative Phubbing

When someone in a romantic relationship feels harmed by phubbing, they may choose to retaliate in a variety of ways. There are three specific situations that motivate a partner to engage in retaliative phubbing.

1. Wanting revenge: A partner who has been the recipient of phubbing may seek out revenge by engaging in their own phubbing as retaliation.

2. Wanting support: A partner who feels rejected due to phubbing may seek out support from someone other than their partner. They may do this by engaging in their own phone use.

3. Wanting approval: A partner who feels rejected due to phubbing may seek out approval from someone other than their partner. They may do this by engaging in their own phone use.