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Languages & Cultural Blog

Phubbing – Does Your Phone Matter More Than A Friend?

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A portmanteau of “phone” and “snubbing”, phubbing describes the habit of ignoring someone in favor of a mobile phone.  Initially coined by a campaign conducted by Macquarie Dictionary, the word gained the majority of its traction and popularity due to the “Stop Phubbing” campaign created by Alex Haigh of McCann advertising agency.

Since the introduction of the first smart phone in 2007 and with an estimated 2.3 billion smartphone users today, mobile phone have become an inexplicable part of daily life. The attachment we think we owe to our phones and the subsequent dependency is unavoidable.

Mobile phones have changed the world and made it smaller, giving us an unprecedented perspective on globalization and has advanced technology in ways that did not even seem possible a mere 20 years ago. A study published by the Daily Mail revealed that an average smartphone user touched their display about 2617 times a day, for a grand total of 1 million times a year.

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It is therefore not surprising that the term phubbing is still “in” today, 5 years on from its origin, and that studies continue to research the influences of its behavior.

The majority reaction to the behavior since the existence of the word is negative. Ignoring an actual person in front of you to favor a non-living, handheld device is just plain rude. If that wasn’t enough reason to not “phub” someone, studies conducted since have shown phubbing to be a major cause for ruining relationships, due to interfering with the accessibility, responsiveness and engagement that is expected from a partner. All things considered, phubbing is generally construed as one of rudest of all phone behaviors and the viral popularity of campaigns such as “Stop Phubbing” is plenty evidence on the reproving attitude toward it.  

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Nevertheless, the number of individuals buying phones is no less today than it was during the origin of the term. This, along with the 17.2 billion apps that were downloaded in 2016 for both iOS and Android show that smartphone usage is nowhere near its end. In fact, current polls on the Stop Phubbing campaign website show a higher vote for phubbing rather than against. Would it then not be hypocritical to condemn phubbing as rude? An argument can be made that phubbing is not an intentional act – it is rather a habit that is a byproduct of a technological addiction that not many are exempt from.

The hard facts still remain, however, that phubbing could directly lead to dissatisfactory relationships and a general lack of courtesy for the person in front of you.

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Although both sides of the topic can be argued, phubbing has been popularly condemned in modern society. What cannot be denied regardless of the perspective on the matter is that phubbing has remained a trending phenomenon for quite a while with the numerous studies conducted on its impact, its inclusion in the latest Oxford Online Dictionary, and many celebrities even being called out displaying it by the media.


Fed up of phubbing or being phubbed? Then dust off your communication skills and work on your active listening!


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