It has become the norm that we live on our electronic gadgets, we often see people sitting together at a table or next to each other on a bench and both are lost in their separate phone conversations. This is known as ‘phubbing’ (snubbing another person in favour of our mobile phones).
Phubbing affects our relationship with friends and loved ones. When someone’s eyes wander we feel unheard, disrespected, unloved. This can lead to a loss of sense of worth and depression.
Just having a phone out and present during a conversation (say, on the table between you) interferes with your sense of connection to the other person, the feelings of closeness experienced, and the quality of the conversation. Conversations with no smartphones present are rated as significantly higher-quality than those with smartphones around.
When we are on our phones, we are not looking at other people and not reading their facial expressions (tears in their eyes or smiles). We don’t hear their tone of voice (anxious or afraid?) or notice their body posture (sad or excited and enthusiastic?).
Why do people get into the phubbing habit in the first place? Not surprisingly, fear of missing out and lack of self-control lead to phubbing. However, it is also a sign of addiction—to social media, to the cell phone, and to the Internet. Internet addiction has similar brain correlates to physiological forms like addiction to heroine and other recreational drugs.
Perhaps even worse than disconnecting from others, however, Internet addiction and phubbing disconnect us from ourselves. Plunged into a virtual world, we hunch over a screen, strain our eyes unnecessarily, and tune out completely from our own needs—for sleep, exercise, even food.
A disturbing study indicates that for every minute we spend online for leisure, we’re not just compromising our relationships, we are also losing precious self-care time (e.g., sleep, household activities) and productivity. So, the next time you’re with another human and you feel tempted to pull out your phone—stop. Put it away. Look them in the eyes, and listen to what they have to say. Do it for them, do it for yourself, do it to make the world a better place.
Use this Lent to take a fast from electronic gadgets and to have fun with your friends.
Organise a games night instead of a movie night. Challenge your friends to turn off their cell phones and be present with the company.
Borrow a set of 30 seconds or a game of monopoly and get some snacks. Afterwards reflect with your friends how it felt like not to be on the electronics.