What Is Phubbing And How It Ruins Relationship

Break up And Loss | |
Updated On: February 2, 2024
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In a world buzzing with technology, we’ve all seen it — a couple sitting at a dinner table, phones in hand, engrossed in screens, and zero conversation. Don’t you think we indulge in our phones more than we do in face-to-face conversations with our partners? This phenomenon, termed “phubbing,” isn’t merely a modern inconvenience in a social setting, it has become an internalized part of human behavior that begs us to examine the very fabric of our relationships. You may wonder, “What is phubbing and how does it affect our relationships?”

Phubbing, or phone snubbing, is the act of snubbing someone by paying more attention to one’s phone than the person one is with, and has, in many ways, affected interpersonal relationships. Are we sacrificing the depth of our relationships for the allure of constant connectivity? Does the social media and digital world enhance or hinder our ability to truly engage with our partners? Let’s find out.

What Is Phubbing In A Relationship?

What is phubbing? Phubbing sounds like an amusing term but it can actually have lasting (and damaging) consequences in relationships. Much has been said and discussed about phones ruining relationships, but the exact impact of technology on dating is complex. We will explore the peculiar dynamics of social media and relationships to better understand the subject.

To be able to gauge it with some accuracy, let’s first address the question: what is phubbing in a relationship? The term, which means phone snubbing, is the combination of the two words — ‘phone’ and ‘snubbing’. You ‘phub’ your partner when you are engrossed in your phone while they are talking to you (or at least trying to do so). You ignore their presence and prioritize your social media or texts instead. 

It negatively affects your relationships and makes your partner feel rejected or ignored. Understanding these ramifications of having your face buried in a screen while your SO tries to connect with you is very important to prevent such relationship-sabotaging phubbing behaviors. Let’s delve into the modern tragedy where cell phones ruin relationships to understand their impact on our intimate relationships.

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Impact of phubbing on relationships

Now that we have some understanding of what is phubbing in relationships, let’s dig deeper into how it ruins them. A Reddit user shares, “Honestly, I feel this. I often look over at my partner and wish his phone would just disappear. It’s lonely over here.” Many of our readers resonate with this feeling of loneliness as the addiction to phones keeps getting serious with each passing day. Research on this subject points in the same direction. 

What is phubbing psychology? According to a study, “Phubbing’s impact on relationship satisfaction is mediated by conflict over cell phone use. One’s attachment style was found to moderate the cell phone conflict in the relationship. Those with anxious attachment styles reported higher levels of cell phone conflict than those with less anxious attachment styles. Importantly, phubbing was found to indirectly impact depression through relationship satisfaction and ultimately life satisfaction.”

Related Reading: Technology And Relationships: Is Love Getting Better With Tech?

11 Ways Phubbing Ruins Relationships

Now that you’re aware of what is phubbing behavior, answers to questions like, “Is phubbing rude?” or “Is phubbing disrespectful?” become apparent. Without a shred of doubt, it is rude and disrespectful to phub someone, especially your romantic partner. It sends out the message your phone relationship is more important than your partner. That’s why developing a keen awareness about how phubbing impacts relationships is crucial as it sheds light on the erosion of meaningful connections in today’s digital age.

The constant distraction of smartphones has seeped into the very fabric of our relationships, silently unraveling the threads that bind us. Identifying these impacts is essential to recognize the gravity of this phenomenon and its potential to detrimentally alter our lives. Let’s explore the 11 ways phubbing relationships have ruined the romance that needs to be there:

Related Reading: How To Be Romantic On Phone – 15 Tips To Get That Right

1. The quality of communication diminishes

Phones and relationships rarely mix well, often resulting in conflict. Amidst a candlelit dinner, I found myself stealing glances at my phone, ensnared by its notifications. As my partner shared their day, I nodded mechanically, my mind tethered to the digital world. Despite attempts to engage, our conversation dwindled into fragmented exchanges. Later, I sensed the subtle shift — a quiet withdrawal in my partner’s eyes, a sigh hanging in the air. My phone had taken the place of open communication and the realization left me sinking.

When two people are together, they should pay full attention to the moment and spend time with each other rather than wasting it on their phones. Phubbing had hijacked our evening, eroding the depth of our interaction. It wasn’t just a missed conversation; it was a rupture in our intimacy. That night revealed how diminished communication quality corrodes relationships, leaving a stark reminder: true connection thrives in moments free from digital distractions.

2. It starts affecting trust

The answer to how it affects trust in relationships lies in the explanation of what is phubbing psychology. As discussed earlier, psychologically, it can lead to depression and diminish relationship satisfaction. The subconscious message conveyed when phubbing your partner is that they or the interaction at hand is not valuable enough to warrant undivided attention. This can breed insecurity and doubt, leading people to question the significance of their presence in their partner’s life.

Moreover, when important discussions or moments are consistently interrupted by phone usage, it becomes challenging to build a sense of reliability and dependability within the relationship. It’s a vicious cycle. The assurance that one can count on their partner’s undivided attention during crucial moments starts to wane.

Related Reading: Social Media And Relationships: Have We Isolated Ourselves To Find Company?

3. Creates a lack of intimacy

Phubbing behaviors ruin the intimacy between the partners. When individuals prioritize their devices over their partners, it creates a wedge between them, hindering the depth of intimacy that is vital for a healthy relationship. The partners start to feel less connected and that is where things start to go downhill. Let’s explore the impact of phubbing on emotional and physical intimacy individually:

  • Emotional intimacy: Phubbing disrupts the emotional connection between partners. Sharing thoughts, feelings, and experiences is crucial for emotional intimacy, but when attention is constantly diverted to screens, partners feel unheard and emotionally distant. This lack of emotional connection can lead to feelings of loneliness and dissatisfaction within the relationship
  • Physical intimacy: Intimate moments are among the core needs of a relationship and they require a level of presence and focus that phubbing disrupts. Whether it’s a romantic dinner or a quiet evening together, constant phone distractions can make partners feel neglected or unimportant. This distraction during intimate moments can significantly diminish the desire for physical closeness, impacting the overall satisfaction and closeness in a relationship

4. Connection out, conflicts in

In today’s world, it’s not uncommon to find instances where people report that a phone is causing a hindrance in their relationship. On what is phubbing behavior and how it affects relationships, a Reddit user writes, “Her phone is never out of her hand and it drives me crazy. I get annoyed with her and it usually ends up in arguments with her asking me why I’m so quiet and me responding, “Because you’ve been staring at your phone for the past 10 minutes!!!”

How would you react in such a situation? When one or both parties are constantly distracted by their phones during discussions or moments that require attention, misunderstandings can easily arise. These distractions hinder effective communication, leading to misinterpretations or incomplete exchanges. Consequently, unresolved issues or miscommunications can snowball into larger conflicts, fueled by the frustration of not being heard or understood due to the divided attention caused by phubbing.

phones ruining relationships
What’s more important, a virtual global connection or an emotional connection with your partner?

5. It creates an emotional disconnect

When one or both partners consistently engage more with their devices than with each other, it creates a profound emotional gap. Despite physically being present, the lack of genuine engagement or attention makes others feel emotionally isolated. Over time, this emotional disconnect can significantly strain the bond between individuals, weakening the foundation of the relationship.

Related Reading: 11 Warning Signs Of Lack Of Emotional Connection In Relationships

6. It causes one partner to feel completely neglected

Is phubbing disrespectful? The answer is, yes. When phubbing is persistent, the partner on the receiving end starts perceiving themselves as secondary to their partner’s digital distractions. The partner phubbing seems disengaged, distant, and disinterested. This behavior can make someone feel unimportant and overlooked, leading to emotional distress within the relationship. Scenarios where a partner might feel ignored or neglected due to phubbing include:

  • During an important conversation, the partner continuously glances at their phone, signaling disinterest
  • Spending date nights where the partner is engrossed in their device rather than focusing on quality time
  • Sharing exciting news, only to have the partner’s attention diverted by notifications
  • Seeking comfort on a tough day, but the partner’s focus remains on the screen
  • Attempting to discuss relationship concerns yet the partner remains absorbed in their phone
  • Celebrating milestones or achievements without the partner’s undivided attention diminishes the significance of the moment

7. Impacts mental health negatively

What is phone snubbing and how does it impact relationships? To find the answers to these questions, it is important to understand on it relates to mental health. Phubbing and anxiety often go hand in hand. Now, how are they connected? According to a study, those subjected to phubbing often report feelings of loneliness, anxiety, and depression. The constant sense of being ignored or isolated due to digital distraction takes a toll on emotional well-being. It erodes the sense of connection, leading to low self-esteem, increased levels of depression, and decreased satisfaction in relationships. 

Furthermore, according to another study, such behavior not only leads to anxiety but also negatively impacts self-worth and instigates hostility. These effects highlight the profound connection between phubbing and anxiety. The impact on mental health, in turn, translates into emotional distress and dissatisfaction within relationships. These adverse effects are not just limited to the person at the receiving end. The partner phubbing the other also feels the same sense of isolation and loneliness in the relationship.

Related Reading: Mental Health Issues On The Rise – Identifying And Seeking Help

8. Phubbing can reduce empathy levels

Empathy, the ability to understand and share the feelings of another, is a cornerstone of healthy relationships. However, when individuals are constantly absorbed in their devices, their capacity for empathy diminishes. When you’re engrossed in your phone, your reactions to others may come off as forced rather than genuine and can easily be an indicator of a lack of empathy. Here’s how phubbing affects empathy:

  • Phubbing divides attention between the screen and the person in front, making it challenging to fully engage in the other person’s emotions or experiences
  • If the listener is preoccupied with their phone, they might fail to grasp the emotional depth of the conversation
  • Empathy often relies on picking up non-verbal cues — facial expressions, body language, and tone of voice. Phubbing disrupts the ability to interpret these cues accurately
  • It’s harder to step into someone else’s shoes and comprehend their viewpoint when one’s absorbed in the digital world
  • Phubbing individuals might miss the cues that call for support, comfort, or acknowledgment, leading to inadequate responses or even dismissiveness
  • Being constantly pulled away by digital devices may exhaust one’s emotional reserves, making it harder to empathize even when not using the device
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9. Phone > Working on strengthening the relationship

By choosing the screen over the person in front of us, we sacrifice the potential for authentic connections. The phone relationship becomes more important than the most initmate real-life connection you can have. These missed moments, often dismissed as trivial in the immediate context, contribute significantly to the emotional bank of relationships. They represent the building blocks of intimacy and trust, elements crucial for the longevity and depth of any meaningful connection.

These missed opportunities gradually accumulate, forming gaps in the fabric of relationships. Over time, these gaps widen, leaving behind a void where meaningful interactions should have thrived. If you’ve been wondering, what is phubbing behavior’s impact on human connections, it boils down to this: the absence of presence leads to a lack of shared emotional experiences.

Related Reading: 25 Tips For A Successful And Strong First Relationship

10. It impacts the phubber too

According to a study, excessive smartphone usage has been linked to low mood, anxiety, and stress in users, and these emotional states undoubtedly cast a shadow on the quality of relationships. When individuals engage in phubbing, constantly prioritizing their phones over personal interactions, the negative impact intensifies. 

The phubber experiences a disconnection from real-time experiences, contributing to feelings of isolation and heightened stress. This emotional strain can lead to a reduced capacity for genuine connection, as the focus on the virtual world impedes the nurturing of meaningful healthy relationships. Inadvertently, phubbing becomes a self-sabotaging behavior, eroding the emotional well-being of the phubber and subsequently affecting the dynamics of their relationships.

11. It can cause difficulty in building relationships

Meaningful conversations and effective communication require practice and attention. Phubbing limits individuals’ capacity to engage in deep, thoughtful discussions or express themselves eloquently. The habit of constant distraction may result in stilted, superficial communication, affecting the quality of interactions.

Related Reading: Am I Ready For A Relationship? 13 Signs You’re Ready To Embrace Love

How To Stop Phubbing Your Partner

The negative impact of phubbing is quite evident now, we’re sure. That is not the hard part. What matters is if you are a partner phubbing the other, what do you do about it? The first step is to accept. Acceptance will open your eyes to the damage that this habit has been causing and from there, you can look toward making things better.

Recognizing the habit of phubbing is crucial to salvage meaningful connections in a tech-driven world. Identifying this behavior allows individuals to reclaim their presence, nurture genuine interactions, and build stronger relationships. Here are a few ways you can stop phubbing your partner:

  • Designate tech-free zones: Establish specific areas or times where phones are off-limits, promoting undistracted, quality time together
  • Create rituals: Establish rituals like daily walks or device-free dinners to reconnect and strengthen your bond without distractions
  • Active listening: Practice attentive listening without distractions, making eye contact, and engaging actively in conversations. Being a good listener will help strengthen the relationship by enabling you to understand your partner better
  • Set boundaries: Communicate openly with your partner about the impact of phubbing and mutually establish boundaries to minimize digital interruptions
  • Practice empathy: Understand how phubbing affects your partner and actively work on empathizing with their feelings and perspectives

Key Pointers

  • What is phone snubbing? Phone snubbing or phubbing is the act of being engrossed in your phone while someone is talking to you
  • It diminishes the quality of communication and erodes trust within relationships
  • It disrupts emotional and physical intimacy, creating an emotional disconnect and leaving partners feeling neglected
  • Its impacts extend to mental health, affecting life satisfaction and leading to feelings of loneliness and depression
  • To stop phubbing, establishing tech-free zones, creating rituals for undistracted bonding, active listening, setting boundaries, and practicing empathy are crucial steps toward reclaiming genuine connections

I hope, you now have clarity on “what is phubbing”. It’s a familiar scene and happens in our everyday life, right? Friends catching up, a family dinner, or even a romantic date, are all interrupted by the omnipresent glow of our devices and of course, social media. Let’s pause to reflect on the cost of constant connectivity. Let’s prioritize the depth of our relationships over the allure of our screens. By recognizing and addressing the impact of phubbing, we can rekindle the flame of genuine connection and nurture relationships that thrive beyond the confines of our devices.


1. Why is phubbing bad?

Phubbing, or phone snubbing, is inherently disrespectful and rude. It means that you prioritize your phone over the person sitting in front of you. The message you convey is that social media takes precedence over what someone has to say.

2. Why is phubbing toxic for your relationship?

If not used mindfully, phones ruin relationships because of their addictive quality. Phubbing gives off an impression that you don’t care, or aren’t listening to your partner. This leads to communication problems in the relationship and many hurt feelings too.

3. What is phone snubbing?

Phone snubbing is the act of being focused on your phone while an actual person is trying to communicate with you. You are too involved with the screen to pay attention to what is being said in person.

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