What is Phubbing?

The story behind phone snubbing

Phubbing is internet slang that means: Phone Snubbing

Phubbing is the frustrating and taxing way in which some people can ignore or even interrupt a conversation to look at their phone. It's the practice of showing more interest in whatever it is that's on the smartphone than what you or someone else are saying.

Many people are guilty of it, but where did phubbing come from? And what are some good ways to combat it?

A couple at a restaurant ignoring each other while they use their phones.
 anyaburket / Getty Images

Phubbing Meaning Explained

Phubbing, or snubbing someone to look at your phone, isn't a new phenomenon. It's been around since mobile phones became commonplace and text messages lead to a whole new era of simple conversation––and distraction. But it's in the wake of smartphones, with their myriad of apps, services, and notifications, that the phrase Phubbing was born, highlighting once and for all that ignoring someone in the room to focus on your phone is a very real phenomenon.

This internet jargon, though not technically a texting abbreviation, was originally coined during an advertising campaign for the Macquarie Dictionary in 2012. The McAnn advertising agency's account director, Adrian Mills, reportedly came up with the neologism and it was subsequently used in promotion for the dictionary. It was used on Facebook campaigns and on a dedicated website, and a short film was created in 2014 to document the creation of the turn of phrase.

How Phubbing is Used

Phubbing is almost always used in a derogatory sense to describe, after the fact, the negative behavior that someone you know has taken part in.

Examples of Phubbing in Use

Example 1: I was trying to talk to my mom, but she was totally phubbing me the entire time. I couldn't get her attention at all!

Example 2: Dan was phubbing me so hard the other day. I'll do it to him the next time he tries to tell me something.

It could also be used in the moment to call attention to the fact that you're being ignored by a person. If they were to look at their phone and start scrolling while you were talking, you might stop and remark:

Example 1: Are you even listening? You're phubbing me.

Example 2: Don't phub me. What's so important on your phone you had to look at it right now?

How to Avoiding Phubbing

Phubbing isn't just rude, it can also be damaging to your relationships. A 2015 Baylor University study found that romantic relationships could be negatively affected by phubbing, and that it could even contribute to the development of depression.

Phubbing is something that few people actively plan to participate in. Most people know it's rude to look at your phone in the middle of a conversation, or to ignore someone when they're speaking by scrolling or responding to messages, but many can't help it. It's a nervous tick that sees them reach for something familiar and non-demanding when they don't know what to say. It can also be out of boredom, though that's even less of an excuse to take part in it.

A good way to avoid phubbing someone yourself, is to make sure you leave your phone in your pocket or otherwise out of reach. That way, even if you have the urge to pick it up, you'll have to make a conscious effort to do so.

You can help others avoid subjecting you to phubbing by talking with them about how you value face-to-face communication with them, and that you would rather they wait until you were finished talking to look at their phone. Leading by example is a good way to do this, as no one is likely to listen to your pleas if you're as guilty as they are. But if you work on it together, then you and your friends and family can move forward to a phubbing-free future together.