Cell Phone ‘Phubbing’ May Cause Depression And Ruin Your Relationships

Research out of Baylor University in Texas shows that “phubbing,” or snubbing someone in favor of playing with your cell phone, can cause depression and destroy relationships.

If you’ve never heard the word “phubbing” before, that’s okay. Until recently, it didn’t exist. Researchers at Baylor University coined the term as a portmanteau of the words “phone” and “snub” to refer to a specific pattern of cell phone usage.

In a recent study published by James A. Roberts and Meredith David, a professor and assistant professor at Baylor University, a total of 453 adults were surveyed regarding their cell phone usage. The purpose of the study was to determine the effects of something they referred to as “partner phone snubbing,” or “pharner phubbing.”

phubbing romantic partners
Phubbing seems like a small thing, but the phubbed partner doesn't always see it that way.

According to Baylor University, the study defines partner phubbing as, “the extent to which people use or are distracted by their cellphones while in the company of their relationship partners.”

Somewhat unsurprisingly, the study found that ignoring your romantic partner in favor of staring at a cell phone can have a bad effect on the relationship. In fact, this type of behavior can result in the other person feeling less satisfied with the relationship, or even cause them to become depressed.

According to Meredith David, momentarily ignoring someone due to being distracted by a cell phone often seems like no big deal, but it can have a cumulative effect.

“Specifically, momentary distractions by one’s cellphone during time spent with a significant other likely lowers the significant other’s satisfaction with their relationship, and could lead to enhanced feelings of depression and lower well-being of that individual.”

Do you phub, or has someone phubbed you? In a piece written for The Huffington Post, phubbing study co-author James A. Roberts posed these tough questions.

According to Roberts, a photo of Beyonce and Jay-Z he once saw epitomizes the concept of phubbing. In the photo, Roberts writes, you see Jay-Z checking out his cell phone while Beyonce stands, ignored, in the background.

In the piece he wrote for The Huffington Post, Roberts starts by asking whether the reader has ever phubbed someone, and whether the reader has ever been phubbed. But the second one is a trick question, according to Roberts, as everyone has been phubbed at one time or another.

The bulk of the piece consists of a phubbing quiz intended to show whether or not you are a phubber.

For instance, if you pull out and check your phone while enjoying dinner with others, you might be a phubber. Or if you pull out your cell phone to check it every time it beeps, even when you’re in the middle of a conversation, says Roberts, you might be a phubber.

phubbing family at dinner
Cell phones use has skyrocketed to the point where most people don't even give phubbing a second thought.

If this sounds like the start of a next generation Jeff Foxworthy routine, it isn’t. Roberts tries to inject a little levity into the quiz, suggesting that you might just have no friends if you never phub anyone, but his study shows that phubbing can have some very serious consequences.

According to the study, 22.6 percent of respondents indicated that they had been phubbed and that the phubbing caused conflicts. However, 36.6 percent indicated that they were “depressed at least some of the time.”

Further work may be required to determine whether there is a causal relationship between phubbing and depression, but it only stands to reason that feeling as if your partner values their cell phone more than you could leave a person feeling a little blue.

Do you believe that phubbing someone with a cell phone can really cause depression, or is not really as big a deal as the Baylor study makes it out to be?

[Photos courtesy jlcwalker, Artotem, FaceMePLS / CC BY 2.0)