Socially thinking: Phubbing. You may not know what it is, but I bet you’ve done it.


Maybe you’ve never heard the term, but I bet you’ve done it.

And if you haven’t done it, then it’s been done to you.

According to Psychology Today, phubbing is “the practice of snubbing others in favor of our mobile phones.”

We can all do it, without meaning to, but then there are those who do it because they are simply so addicted to their phones they don’t know how not to do it.

I knew someone with an addiction like this at one time. Honestly, I got tired of being shown I was not important by how often the person surfed on their phone while I was sitting in front of them. They could not stop touching it. It became very clear to me I was a complete bore to them and nothing I said mattered when they even started answering phone calls from people in mid-conversation with me and proceeded to start a conversation with that person.


I remember them saying when they picked up the phone, “No. No problem. I’m just at a friend’s house.” And then continued to have a conversation like I wasn’t there for the next five to ten minutes.  They hung up and went back to scrolling Facebook while I sat across from them, bewildered why they had stopped by. The same person couldn’t even handle walking from the soccer field to our cars without scrolling and showing me cat memes as we walked while I tried to ask about their day.

When I brought this up to the person, finally, after a year of being treated this way, their answer was “I’m not going to apologize for trying to escape the stresses of my life.” I said, “Was I the stress? I was sitting across from you when you were doing it” I didn’t get an answer to my question, but this person wasn’t going to apologize and saw nothing wrong with their behavior so we haven’t spoken in about nine months, not that we were “talking” before then either.

So what are we saying when we do this to people? We’re telling them whatever is on our phone is more important. Cat memes, the news, the latest fashions, celebrity gossip, politics, and trite comments on social sites are all more important than the person across from us. In that case, why is the person across from us even there? Why are we even there?

I think there are those of us who would crawl inside our phones and live thereto escape life if we could. I get it. Sometimes life really is stressful and we feel like we have to medicate to handle it. Sometimes we medicate with drugs, sometimes with alcohol, sometimes with food and in this day and age, we medicate with escapism. No matter what we use, we are filling our lives with things that really won’t actually fill the voids in our lives or the holes within us. And while we are medicating ourselves we are pushing away people who really care about us and what to actually communicate with us and we are pushing away God.


All photos by Lisa R. Howeler

I’ve fallen into the trap of burying myself in social media to avoid the stress of life. That may be why I accepted the phubbing that was done to me for so long, but when it hit me how much I was missing by being completely absorbed in my phone – in things that will not matter in the long run — I put the phone down. I looked around me and realized how pervasive technology addiction had become in our society. Sitting at soccer practice one time, I looked down an entire row of parents, all sitting, their necks bent over their phones, their fingers simply scrolling, while their children practiced soccer in front of them.

None of them talked to each other or looked at their children. They were like robots working for the tech companies, lining their pockets with their views and their purchases and their “hits.” It made me sick to my stomach and it made me sick to my stomach that that had been me at one point, though for a more brief time than some.

The sad thing is that eventually the person who you chose your phone over stops trying to interact with you and also stops caring if you interact with them.

That’s what happened with the person in my life. I realized they could care less that I cared about them. They were more interested in their phone, in what they could pin on Pinterest, and what photo of their latest diet they could post on Instagram. I stopped wondering how they were, what they thought, or what was going on in their life.

Honestly, I do still wonder about the person from time to time, even pray for them, but the idea of trying to engage them in friendship again gives me a sick feeling in my stomach. The human part of me doesn’t want to be rejected again but  I also realize now that if that person had cared about me, they would have listened when I told them I felt their phone was more important than our friendship, instead of saying “I’m not going to apologize.”

Hopefully, the person has since resolved this issue and now shows family and other friends they do care about them, by putting the phone down when talking to them.  I know where my place was in their life, thought, and wouldn’t step back into that place again for anything.


photo by Lisa R. Howeler available on

The one good thing that came from that situation is it showed me how addicted I had also become to social media and how it was causing me to ignore people and activities in my life that were not only more important but more edifying to my overall life.  After the repeated phubbing done to me, I worked harder not to do it others and I also cut back on social media, even deleting my Facebook account for four months. I realized that social media-based relationships were completely unfulfilling to me.

Since then I’ve decided to try to implement some changes to my life to help reduce technology addiction, as well as phubbing. Some of them I had already implemented two years ago.

Changes I plan to implement or have already started to (some of these were suggested from an article about phubbing on Healthline, others simply from various sites, and others simply from my own ideas):

  • Making meals a place where no phones are allowed (we already do this at my parents when we have Sunday dinners, only allowing my dad to take a photo of dinner before we start, if it is a particularly lovely looking dinner that is);
  • Leave my phone behind for some trips, though this always makes me nervous because I worry someone will need to reach me in an emergency;
  • Institute a no-technology hour which has become even more important for me to do now that my son has his own phone and is showing signs of addiction. We’ve done this before and have really enjoyed the quiet, the increase opportunity for creativity and the way we can connect on a deeper level as a family;
  • Make people charge their phones or devices in a central area of the house, which will encourage them to engage with others when they come to hook up their devices. I have not tried this yet, but since reading about it earlier today I absolutely want to try it.


Changes I made two years ago (maybe more), include:

  • No Facebook app on my cellphone, so the temptation to look at it while talking to someone in person is gone. I’ve also stepped this up and removed Instagram and YouTube as well. Sometimes I even shut the sounds off to keep the dinging notification sound of texting from triggering dopamine and causing me to want to see who has sent me a message. There are actually only two people who message me regularly: my brother or my husband. Any other messages I receive are people who want something from me and then ignore me all other times of the year.
  • No looking at social media at least two hours before bed (somedays I do better at this than others, especially if there is a breaking news story unfolding.)
  • No devices or computer at all, other than my Kindle, up to an hour before trying to sleep (this works only when I’m not working on a book because I tend to write a little before bed since it is one of the only times during the day I have to write.) I really like this one when I stick to it because it helps me slow down my thoughts and relax more.

We can implement all the changes to our technology habits we want, but until we look at how our choosing our devices over people we love affects the psyche of those people, we probably won’t implement any changes.

We have to ask ourselves, in the long run, will what we read on Facebook matter when we are looking back on our life at the end of it? Will the latest cat meme, the latest celebrity gossip, or the latest political rant by your dad matter at the end of your life if it caused you to lose your connection with someone in your life who wanted to connect with you in person?

I think for most of us, the answer to those questions will be ‘no.’



27 thoughts on “Socially thinking: Phubbing. You may not know what it is, but I bet you’ve done it.

  1. My hubby and I don’t have cell phones, but tablets and computers are just as bad. So we have set a curfew on our gadget time. It’s definitely impossible to talk to someone when they are on their devices. I’m just as guilty of being absorbed in it too. Thanks for sharing. It’s always great to be reminded to be mindful of the people in your lives.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. A couple weeks ago our family went out for lunch, and at the table next to us there was a woman with her adult daughter. The daughter was so glued to her phone that the woman just got up and left without a word, and it still took a few minutes for the daughter to realize it. Ouch.


  3. A M E N. We’ve started a basket here where the goal is to put all phones, Kindles, electronic devices in it and only take them out at the same hour of the afternoon for free time. I asked the children, “What should we call that hour when devices are allowed?” “Happy Hour.” was the answer :0 Anyways…it doesn’t completely work because they “need their phones” to get back to people and for homeschool lessons. Those devices are like a sneaky, roaring lion, seeking to devour — (it feels like sometimes.) Even now, my dear son is asking me questions and showing me his artwork and wanting me to look at him. But instead, I am looking at my computer, talking to strangers. So, I will get off now.

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    • Our Kindles only have books on them – no Kindle fires, so my husband and I can keep them when we do device breaks but no phones or iPads. We have a lot of fun when we put all the devices away. My daughter talks to me non-stop sometimes so I do have to take a little time for myself but I have been catching myself on WordPress when she’s trying to talk to me so I’m trying to cut that out! It can be hard to find time for yourself when you’re a stay-at-home, homeschooling mama, though!

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  4. Honestly, I struggle with this so badly sometimes. I don’t do it really when I am with my friends and family, well, sometimes my mom. Sorry mom! But I do know it is an issue and I am working on it. 😦 I used to be a smoker, then I quit about 15 years ago. I feel on some level that i pick up my phone like I used to light a cigarette, so I see the connection to addiction for sure. I have had friends and family use theirs constantly though, while we are together, or at family gatherings and it’s like what the heck! So I really try. Great post!

    And your friend who answered the phone while you were in a conversation with her? That is nuts!!!

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  5. This is exactly why I despise smartphones and sincerely believe them to be the single worst invention ever. For exactly this reason. I get angry when I go to parks and see parents of toddlers following their kids around, but paying more attention to their phones than on what their child is doing and saying. I think a lot of kids throw fits and tantrums just to get someone’s attention. It’s sad, and I would completely hate myself if I ever did that. The addiction to phones is getting out of hand. I’ve gotten to the point where I’ll take great pleasure in talking to someone (friend or family, of course; not complete strangers on the street!) while they’re on their phone and, when they finally look up and ask what I said, I give them a pointed look and refuse to repeat myself. I have too much self-respect to stand for being second behind a stupid device! I’d love to see the world undergo a no technology hour. Actually, there’s an episode of Arthur on PBS where the Internet went out at Arthur’s house while his friends were over. It was only 15 minutes, but they spent part of that time going crazy trying to figure out how to restore the connection before finally exploring some old boxes and finding treasures like encyclopedias and a vintage camera. It’s amazing what a break from technology can and will do!

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    • We have those technology free evenings from time to time and plan to do it again tonight, much to the disappointment of my oldest. He likes playing with his legos and reading so I think he’ll be okay. My daughter will play with her toys or draw. I’ve seen that at playgrounds too and there were a couple of times that was me for a short time while we were there. I looked around and saw other parents doing it and was embarassed and shoved my phone back in my pocket. Not a good excuse, but at the time I was going through some real stress and looking up information about the issue, but that’s not where I needed to be doing it. My other experience with phubbing was so changing that I really do make my best effort to put the phone away more. Not having any social media on the phone helps that.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Perfect! I felt like this was me!!! I quit FB and haven’t gone back. I actually don’t miss it. We got rid of cable, too. We only stream what we want to see. No commercials; no news channels. I still have IG and Twitter, but I prefer podcasts and streaming info over the regular pablum served. That experience you described happened to me. I could get no interaction. I picked up my phone and started a game. The guest never noticed. After they left I felt so bereft and empty, and sad. I pray for them because it’s a family member. I’m going to try some of your suggestions. Thank you!!!

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  7. My husband lost a friendship that he had for decades because he got rid of his cell phone over ten years ago. Our grown kids have cell phones now but they didn’t get them until they graduated from High School.
    There was one time my daughter’s teacher asked the class a question and the only one that answered was my daughter all while giving her eye contact. The teacher looked around at that moment (she was writing something down before she looked up to get the answer) and when she saw my daughter looking at her face to face with an answer she asked her “Wait, do you have a cell phone?” and my daughter answered “No”.
    The teacher said that was why she was so different and in a good way, because she actually spoke to people and carried on conversations. All the other kids were looking down at their cell phones when this happened. They allowed cell phones into the classrooms. Now you wonder why most young people now days don’t seem to know a lot about real world knowledge and history, especially when they don’t have cell phones with them.
    Those devices are so additive, it is scary. Once my daughter got one she became and still is addicted to it. We have to help remind her to take breaks and to get off of it. She realized she had a problem when she checked to see how many hours she was on it during the day and was shocked to discover over 5 hours a day. Our son is also becoming addicted.
    We are in a battle where social media is trying to take over the next generation and how they think…so frightening. Those little devices are the perfect weapons. Now I know why Obama had a program to get cell phones into everyone’s hands. We even have homeless people who have cell phones. Sorry about bringing up politics, you can delete this afterwards (I don’t mind) just wanted to point out how scary social media is and what it is doing all around the world.

    Liked by 2 people

    • It’s true, though..the government shoves phones into people’s hands in the name of progress but it is negatively affecting our young people and how they learn and function. My son is on ridiculously too much and we are having a “come to Jesus” talk today about it. When we go into stores and young people look at you like you have three heads because you actually spoke to them I want to ask them for their cell number so I can text them a “hello” so they don’t feel so awkward.

      Liked by 1 person

    • It’s one I’ve had to preach to myself so I know I’m guilty, though I don’t know I have ever done it to the extent I’ve seen others do it. Mind boggling to watch a child practically beg their parent to pay attention to them because the parent is on the phone. My dad is actually a little like this with his iPad. I keep telling him one more political comment isn’t going to change anyone’s mind but he just won’t listen.

      Liked by 2 people

  8. Oh gosh, don’t get me started! I’ve written about this as well, but didn’t know it actually had a title – phubbing. Thanks for educating me on that one. People who can’t put the cell away are one of my biggest pet peeves and members of my own family are addicted to their cells and get angry when I point that out to them. All I can say is a cell phone can’t hug you when you need a hug, listen and comfort you when you cry out in grief or anguish, and certainly can’t pray with and for you. Okay, rant done now.

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  9. Ouch. I’ve experienced this often too. And the rejection stings deep! Thankfully it’s never been by a close friend or family member. With your friend, I’m thinking there’s a spirit of rebellion within them as well. It’s more than just pain. I’m slowly starting to have my eyes opened to the words this spirit speaks: words like “I’m not sorry” “who cares” “It doesn’t affect anyone” “I don’t need to listen to you.” are all hardened hearts to the emotions we should be feeling about our actions. It’s a rebellious spirit against others, disrespecting them and it needs to be taken very seriously! I hope your friend finds freedom from that pain/sin and that you find healing from the rejection you felt!

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    • One thing I learned from it all is to not really reach out to people. It’s sad but I realized most people really don’t care about other people – they care more about what’s on the screen in front of them, sadly.


      • Most people don’t know HOW to care about other people. It’s never been modelled for them. They’ve never allowed the walls to come down to the few people who have tried to reach them. The longer I live, the more I realize that the deepest desire everyone has is to be fully KNOWN and to be loved anyway. The tricky thing is that only Christ’s love is able to do this: see flaws and love anyway. It’s one of the hardest things that God is teaching me.

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