You know them….I’m sure you do….everyone knows at least two or three of them these days….they’re people who have (apparently) had their mobile phones surgically attached to their hands. These are the people who can’t possibly live half a second without looking at their phone for whatever lame reason. I’m not talking about business people who get a lot of phone calls or e-mails, I’m not talking about parents who carry their phones everywhere in case their kids call, I’m not even talking about tourists who now take their phones with them to take photos instead of a proper camera. I’m talking about the people who couldn’t possibly have any reason to be staring at that tiny screen that’s more important than paying attention to the person they’re with. Welcome….”phubbing!” Phubbing was coined about 2-3 years ago as “the act of holding a mobile phone in a social setting of 2 or more people and interacting with that mobile phone and not the people in the setting.” Now think, I’m sure you’ve been phubbed a few times before. The horrible thing is that the phubber doesn’t think they’re doing anything wrong.
I know quite a few people that have more intimate relationships with their mobile phones than with anything remotely human. Their fingers stroke the keypad of their phone much more than they stroke the hair of a beautiful girl or boy. These people don’t interact with people socially. They may go out with people, and even say hello once in a while, but the INTERACTION is not there. These people can’t stop checking their phones long enough to have any type of conversation. They feel the need to constantly check their Facebook, or to Google search the recipe for what they’ve just eaten, or to write an immediate Yelp or TripAdvisor review. These people ignore those around them in favor of their little, plastic, beeping addiction. I have been phubbed too many times to let it go on. I actually ask the other person to put their phone away if I feel I’m being ignored. Once in a while to check a newly received text message or to check the score of a game you’re missing is alright. But phubbers aren’t happy with once in a while. They’re addicted!
It’s gone so far that there are whole tables of families in restaurants that don’t speak. I have witnessed all the family member on their phones at the same time, in silence, while waiting for the food. I suppose it’s a good thing for the rest of us because it keeps the restaurant more quiet, but these people are losing human interaction. I have a friend who recently lamented that she misses regular letters. E-mail has become the norm, and it’s too impersonal. She misses the personal level of regular letters. I have to agree with her. I miss the personal nature of actually having a conversation with the person I’m dining with, or in the car with, or at the mall with. When families lose their communication to tiny WhatsApp updates and emoticon answers, then they’ve lost the “family” aspect.
In doing my research for this blog, I read an article that said that restaurants report an average of 36 phubbing incidents for every dinner session (http://stopphubbing.com/). This is equal to spending 570 days alone, but in the presence of other people. How ridiculous is that? If phubbing were a plague, it would decimate 6 Chinas. These are interesting (if not questionable) statistics, but, even if they’re set up for a little humor, they’re talking about a true epidemic. What if the only way we communicate in the future is through status updates and emoticons? What if we lose the art of conversation to the art of touch-screen typing?
I would like to ask the phubbers out there why they do it. Why do you make plans with someone only to find someone/something more interesting on your phone? Why is the company you’ve chosen to keep not good enough? What are you doing on your phone? Sometimes you don’t even know what they’re doing, and they take forever to do it and then never tell you what’s going on. These are rude people who don’t know they’re being rude! I say TELL THEM! If they’re ignoring you and they expect you to just sit there while they do something that (to them) is more interesting than talking to you, TELL THEM OFF!! Grab the phone and throw it in a fountain!
I leave you with one of the running gags (related) from that insanely funny British sitcom Miranda: