What Is 'Phubbing'?

And Its Spousal Version, 'PPhubbing'?

Woman looking at her boyfriend suprisingly
Martin Novak / Getty Images

Yes, phubbing is phone-snubbing. This is when a person rudely snubs and ignores you in a social setting in favor of their smartphone. It's a very familiar situation: the person you are talking with gets a text message or an alert on their phone, or perhaps even an incoming call, and your presence is put on hold for several minutes in favor of the smartphone. The episode ends with a mumbled "sorry about that," followed by festering tension for at least several minutes.

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Man staring at phone during date
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The phubbing is particularly rude when it's not a message alert; when the offender opts for non-urgent phone surfing, like checking Facebook or their Instagram feed, they are essentially saying that your presence is less important to them right now.

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PPhubbing = Phone-Snubbing by Your Spouse

Groom talking on phone next to bride

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The phubbing term also has a special variation, 'pphubbing' spelled with double P. PPhubbing is when your life partner phone-snubs you. And yes, pphubbing is sometimes more common than regular phubbing, precisely because your life partner believes that they get more social leeway as your spouse.

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Origin of the Phubbing and PPhubbing Expressions

Man texting at dinner date

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The phubbing expression is both a portmanteau (combination of two words) and a neologism (a relatively new word that is starting to become common). It traces to an Australian advertising agency, McCann Melbourne and their Stop Phubbing campaign in 2012.

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How Bad Is Phone Snubbing Around the World?

Phubbing is pandemic

Screenshot/McCann Melbourne

It's bad. People everywhere are still learning how to balance social etiquette against the compulsion to be constantly connected. When it comes to tweenagers, the urgency of managing their digital identity is very pressing.

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What Can You Do About Phubbing?

phubbing intervention!

Screenshot / McCann Melbourne

Like any uncomfortable communication, you can opt to say nothing to your acquaintance or friend, and just give them a disappointed gaze. Alternatively, you could turn it into a humorous moment, and write a 'phubbing citation' on a restaurant napkin and hand it to them. Or you could send a 'phubbing intervention' email from the nice folks at McCann advertising here. Yes, you can fill out this online form and have it emailed directly to the person who phone-snubbed you.

There are no guarantees that an email will achieve anything. But if you care enough about the person to give them supportive feedback, perhaps try the McCann email approach.

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More Text Talk Expressions

Man sitting in the dark at home starring at smartphone
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Along with 'phubbing', many strange expressions and acronyms have spawned as part of the modern connected culture; for example, the popular text talk expressions.

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Mental Health Effects of Overusing Your Cell Phone

Man staring at phone during dinner date
Liam Norris / Cultura / Getty Images

While mobile devices are extremely useful, they can also pose serious psychological problems. Phubbing is often driven by obsessive-compulsive tendencies and can feed narcissism and skewed views of oneself. Not to mention: phubbing erodes trust and respect between friends and spouses.

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Cell Phones Make You Less Connected?

Phubbing is psychologically unhealthy

Screenshot/McCann Melbourne

When you spend time together with your child, your spouse, your friend, or your relative, but you are busy scrolling through your text messages, you are sending a poisonous message: "My phone deserves more respect than you."

Because of your personal fear of being disconnected, your phubbing is actually poisoning your personal relationships. You may have returned that text message promptly, but you've also sabotaged your connection with the person sitting beside you.

Addiction to cell phone usage is a growing mental health issue as many of us fall victim to the allure of high-speed communications. We need to be careful: staying digitally connected is good, but not at the cost of becoming socially dysfunctional because our smartphones constantly buzz.