/ Technology

Phones before friends? It’s phubbing annoying

Man using phone in restaurant

Lots of us do it. And not just in the privacy of our own homes. We do it on dates, we do it in pubs in front of our friends, we even do it at weddings. What are we all doing? Phubbing…

Phubbing!? Yes, otherwise known as the ‘act of snubbing someone in a social setting by looking at your phone instead of paying attention’. Coined by Alex Haigh from Melbourne, phubbing has caught on around the world and he wants to stop it in its tracks.

His campaign to ‘Stop Phubbing‘ seeks to put an end to social snubbery, as frustrated folk are ignored by their friends checking Facebook or Twitter on their phones. And talking of Twitter, this new phrase has taken off. Here Sallyo tweets her support:

Phub off, switch your phone off

Stack of iPhones in restaurantI’m guilty of phubbing. Whether I’m checking my emails or reading Reddit, you may not be getting my undivided attention. In fact, you’ll often find me reading your Which? Convo comments while I’m out and about…

And as much as I love reading your comments, it is slightly depressing that my phone can sometimes get more attention than the human beings in my immediate vicinity.

At one birthday dinner, we confiscated all of our smartphones and placed them in the centre of the table while we enjoyed each others’ company. You can see the stack of iPhones in this picture (being the only Android phone owner there, I took the photo). Perhaps such voluntary confiscation is the only way to keep our grubby hands from phubbing?

So, do you get annoyed by phubbing? Have you ever confronted someone who was ignoring you in favour of their phone? And if you’re phubbing right now while reading this post, I feel honoured, but why not pop your phone in your pocket and talk to the person next to you?

Morag says:
6 August 2013

“Example of #phubbing at lunchtime: girl ordering a takeaway sandwich. NO eye contact, checking her phone as she gave the order”

Excuse me?! Maybe this person has Asperger’s? Did you think about that before making judgemental comments. #disabilitydescrimination

Dave says:
6 August 2013

It’s not discrimination unless she didn’t get the sandwich. The girl was rude – whether her rudeness has an explanation in disability or not.


Hello Morag, that Twitter example may not have been the best as phubbing is mainly about people you know (friends and family) using their phone instead of engaging with you. No offence was meant, so I’ve changed the example tweet.

Morag says:
7 August 2013

As I replied on Twitter, I’ve been supporting the ASD community for 25 years (including my DH and 6 kids) and most ASDers use their phones like this as it’s the only way they can cope with being in a public place and/or social setting including with friends and family. It’s a way of shutting out sensory overload and avoid engaging in social communication and stressful situations. It’s a coping strategy for a disability. Labelling people as RUDE in these circumstances is disability discrimination.

Purely from experience, I would say this would account for a lot of “phubbing”.


I have no doubt that your explanation is right in some circumstances, Morag, but there are many who don’t think enough about others. Examples include people who do not switch off their mobiles when attending events and those who have a phone conversation in front of others rather than going out of the room. When I was a child, my mother insisted that the TV was switched off if anyone visited the house, to give up my seat to adults in buses and many other ways of showing respect. Through working in education, I have met and helped many with disabilities, but also encountered many who know very little about etiquette and consideration for others.


Why just people you know? The lunchtime sandwich example fits perfectly well with the definition of ‘phubbing’.


PS This last post was in reply to Patrick’s comment.


There is no way of telling whether the girl in the example was just rude or she had Asperger’s Syndrome (AS).

I have AS and I find it very hard to look at people when I am talking to them (with the exception of my very closest relatives). To those who do not understand, I may come across as rude, even though, in common with other people with AS, I have no intention of being impolite.

I agree about sensory overload and the stress caused by social settings. But I also know that I could not cope with ordering a sandwich AND checking my phone at the same time. I would have to do one thing at a time; multitasking is, for me, very difficult and highly stressful.

Therefore, was the girl just looking at her phone (not checking or doing something on it)? That would be a clear way of telling between possible AS and downright rudeness.

As none of us were there, the verdict remains open.