You know that annoying moment when you're trying to talk to bae and he/she ignores you because they're entranced by Instagram? There's a name for that—it's called "phubbing." The term (which is insanely fun to say) is a mash-up of the words "phone" and "snubbing." The word came to be in 2013, when a group of lexicographers, poets, and authors gathered together to craft a name for the phenomenon of someone on a smartphone ignoring someone else. "Phubbing" went viral, as people finally had a word for a situation that's oh-so-common. But in a surprise twist, an ad agency later revealed they ordered up the word as part of a campaign for an Australian dictionary (very sneaky!). The campaign has since ended, but the word "phubbing" has very much stuck around. And researchers are now exploring how "phubbing" can impact your relationship.
Professors James Roberts and Meredith David, at Baylor University's Hankamer School of Business, recently released a study that looks into "phubbing" and how it relates to relationship satisfaction. Here's how the researchers define "partner phubbing" in the study: "Partner phubbing can be best understood as the extent to which an individual uses or is distracted by his/her cell phone while in the company of his/her relationship partner." Basically, when bae won't look up from texting to hear you talk about the ~very intense~ dream you had last night. The study had a pretty small sample size—only 175 adults in romantic relationships were surveyed—so the results need to be taken with a major grain of salt. But here's what the results showed: The more a partner was on the receiving end of phubbing, the more smartphone use was a source of conflict in their relationship. And higher levels of smartphone conflicts led to greater relationship dissatisfaction.
Again, these results really can't be deemed as causal, but it did get us thinking about "phubbing" and relationships. How can a couple deal with "phubbing" if it's an issue? We asked a dating expert to find out. Dr. Jane Greer, a New York-based relationship expert and author of What About Me? Stop Selfishness From Ruining Your Relationship, tells SELF she hasn't heard of the term partner "phubbing," but she's definitely heard of the phenomenon.
"People complain all the time [about it]," Greer says. "They feel that they’re out with somebody and [the other person] is texting their friends—they’re not involved. So the message that they’re giving is that the time with their partner is not as important as the other activities and people in their lives."
Greer says phubbing can leave a partner feeling unimportant, insignificant, ignored, and often neglected. So, how do you fix the issue? Greer suggests acknowledging whatever your "phubbing" partner is doing on their smartphone, and then asking if they could put it on pause. Her suggested phrasing: "I understand that your work is really important and you need to be in touch with your friends." Then, follow it up with a question: "Do you think it’s possible to do that before dinner or after dinner so we have some together time uninterrupted?"
And if phubbing is a continual issue, Greer suggests having a conversation about phubbing itself—and setting some boundaries. "That’s the point to say, ‘Can we talk about how often we use our phones when we’re together and is there a way we can do it so we can have some uninterrupted private time?’" she says. "If you don’t put boundaries in place, you’re not going to have an opportunity to create a sense of 'we' and 'us' as a couple, and you’re going to feel like you’re available to everybody but each other."
Bottom line: Phubbing could definitely cause some tension in modern relationships, but there are ways to work through it. It's all about communication—and actually communicating with your partner when you're with them.
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