Digital Life 12.9.2013 06:00 am

Are you guilty of phubbing?

credit: AFP

credit: AFP

Today it’s not uncommon to find a group of friends out for dinner with the majority of guests fixated on their phones.

In 2005, I underwent an operation to remove a breast lump. The lump was benign, but it was still a huge ordeal. The operation went well and I was dismissed from hospital the same day.

As I stood up to clothe myself and be rid of those ridiculous butt revealing gowns, I began to feel light-headed. A simple murmur of “I’m going to faint”, drew my mother to my side, where she assisted me in climbing back onto the bed. It was at this point, when her phone beeped, catching her attention and leaving me to pass out and fall flat on my face. I walked around for two weeks with a black eye – not an easy thing to explain to colleagues. Let’s just say it looked rather suspicious with my boyfriend by my side. ..

This incident remains a standing joke in the family, but it took place before social networks existed and people’s phones became the be all and end all of human communication. It was, however, an indication of the impact that these digital devices would have on our lives.

Today it’s not uncommon to find a group of friends out for dinner with the majority of guests fixated on their phones.

Technology has become a huge part of our daily lives – so much so, that people have no sense of social etiquette. We spend time together, but we don’t actually talk to each other.




Recently, an Australian student, Alex Haigh, coined the term “phubbing”, defined as the act of “snubbing someone in a social setting by looking at your phone.”

While the word sounds more like something from a Dr Seuss book, it is however the amalgamation of the words “snubbing” and “phone”, and forms part of an online campaign to get people to take notice of what they’re doing and stop phubbing.

Ironically, the campaign is based online. This makes one wonder who is really in control – the technology or us? Most people cannot spend an hour without checking their phones, never mind an entire day. According to the Stop Phubbing website, “An average restaurant will see 36 cases of phubbing per dinner session.”

A study by the University of Essex showed that phubbing has negative impacts on social development, in that it “inhibits relationship formation by reducing individuals’ engagement and attention for others.”



During an interview with Gulf News, Haigh stated that “as soon as you name a behaviour, you can call people out on it. Telling someone to ‘stop phubbing’ is more powerful than telling someone they’re ignoring you. Phubbing assigns meaning and gives the word depth.”

Have we reached a point where people aren’t able to communicate without the use of technology? If so, consider this disturbing stat from the Stop Phubbing website – “If phubbing were a plague, it would decimate six Chinas.”

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