Are you guilty of ‘pphubbing’? Or why it’s wise to unfriend your partner | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022


GUESS what, I’ve got a new word for you today: “pphubbing.” Sounds weird, but you might unconsciously be practicing it.


Pphubbing puts together two or more different concepts or words into one—like the way we do with our favorite love teams. It is “partner phone snubbing,” or paying more attention to your phone over your significant other.


It sounds like a joke, easy enough to dismiss, but pphubbing and its effects on relationships have been the subject of studies and discussion the past few years.


In 2013, Time magazine ran a story on Alex Haigh, an Australian who started an awareness campaign on pphubbing to stop people from prioritizing their phone over their companion.


Last year, two studies on the effects of cellular phones on a relationship were published—one in the International Journal of Neurotherapy; the other, about “technoference” (a portmanteau on the words “technology” and “interference”), in the Psychology of Popular Media Culture journal.




A third, more recent one, from Baylor University, Texas, confirmed what the first two studies suggested—that among couples, one who uses more technology than the other is more likely to have issues, ranging from “lower relationship satisfaction” to simply “feeling ignored and less secure.” In short, half of the couple feels disconnected to the relationship while the other is hooked on his/her mobile gadget.


The Baylor study included only 453 respondents, yet almost half, at 46 percent, claim that they have been pphubbed by their respective partners.


A second survey measured how much pphubbing was done by couples. Most of us are guilty of checking our phones “just for a second,” and in most cases this isn’t really a problem.


But according to Baylor University researcher Meredith David, “Findings suggest that the more often a couple’s time spent together is interrupted by the partner attending to his/her mobile phone, the less likely it is that the other is satisfied in the overall relationship.”


Before saying you’re not pphubbing your partner, or others in your everyday life, here are questions to determine whether or not your phone usage is affecting your relationships.


1) Do you put your phone in a place where you can see it at all times when you are with your partner?


2) Do you check your phone during lulls in the conversation?


3) Do you check your phone when you are bored or every time you get a text or other notifications?


4) When having a meal with others (at home or in a restaurant) do you pull out and check your phone?


5) If your phone rings or beeps, do you pull it out and check, or glance at it, even if you are talking with someone?


6) Do you use your phone when you are on a date or with your romantic partner?


7) Do you use your phone in bed while your partner is present?


Making rules


If you answered “no” to all of the questions, congratulations! But I have a feeling you just often misplace your phone.


Brigham Young University psychologist Sarah Coyne, who was part of the technoference study, said there are ways to adapt to today’s technology without damaging one’s relationship.


One way is by making rules—when it is appropriate for couples to have their devices out.


In an article on pphubbing, family therapist doctor Ian Kerner recommended the following:



Practice the art of casual conversation.


We live in an age when multitasking is the norm, but this skill is best applied in the workplace. At home, the priority should be one’s partner and the family.


Practice the art of small talk, looking directly into your partner’s eyes as you speak. Intimacy is not just about physical contact, but also emotional connection that you build with every word and interaction.


Establish tech-free time.


As Coyne and Kerner pointed out, establish time that is meant just for you and your partner. A dinner date is romantic because it allows a couple to spend time with each other, not with friends on Facebook.


Unfriend or unfollow each other on social media.


If you want to have something new and exciting to talk about at the end of the day, you may want to consider this option. While it is convenient to be each other’s friends and share each other’s photo albums, etc., unfriending is worth a try.


I haven’t done this but I make a conscious effort not to check my husband’s Facebook page so I get to hear directly from him exactly how his day went.


Technology has immensely changed the nature of relationships, making connections easier. The world has virtually become smaller. But there are things that should never change, especially the lasting connections that do not require a mobile phone.

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