How Smartphones Ruin Relationships

How Smartphones Ruin Relationships

Are you a phubber? And if so, did you know it might undermine some of your most important relationships?

It’s easy to dismiss phubbing – short for “snubbing someone in favor of a mobile phone” – as just a slight distraction from listening or snuggling or just enjoying time with your nearest and dearest. And almost everyone seems to phub these days, so it’s just a harmless habit, right?

Very wrong, according to just-released research by James A. Roberts and Meredith David of Baylor University.

“What we discovered was that when someone perceived that their partner phubbed them, this created conflict and led to lower levels of reported relationship satisfaction,” Roberts said. “These lower levels of relationship satisfaction, in turn, led to lower levels of life satisfaction and, ultimately, higher levels of depression.”

Their study, “My life has become a major distraction from my cell phone: Partner phubbing and relationship satisfaction among romantic partners,” is published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior.

The Baylor survey included 453 U.S.-based adults in the two separate studies from which they drew data – not a huge sample size, but it does jibe with results from earlier surveys on the phenomenon and advances those findings.

Study findings

  • 46.3 percent of the respondents reported being phubbed by their partner.
  • 22.6 percent said this phubbing caused conflict in their relationships.
  • 36.6 percent reported feeling depressed at least some of the time.

Overall, only 32 percent of respondents stated that they were very satisfied with their relationship, the study shows.

“When you think about the results, they are astounding,” Roberts said. “Something as common as cellphone use can undermine the bedrock of our happiness – our relationships with our romantic partners.”

Considering that phubbing has negatively impacted personal relationships for years – yes, even before iPhone and Android added its latest high-powered apps and video power – it seems that the trend will continue to grow.

A 2013 report by cyber security company Lookout found that more than half of us don’t go more than an hour without checking our phones. The numbers are higher among people ages 18-34.

Our addiction is real: 54 percent of us check our phones while in bed, and 40 percent look at them while in the bathroom. Shunning mealtime manners, 30 percent of respondents in the 2013 study admitted to checking their phones during meals. Shunning safety, 24 percent checked their phones while driving. Nine percent said they checked their phones while in religious services. Clearly some of us have an up-close-and-personal relationship with our phones.

Think that’s grim? Consider these additional behaviors that those who participated in the Baylor researchers’ surveys identified as phubbing:

  • My partner places his or her cellphone where they can see it when we are together.
  • My partner keeps his or her cellphone in their hand when he or she is with me.
  • My partner glances at his/her cellphone when talking to me.
  • If there is a lull in our conversation, my partner will check his or her cellphone.

But not everyone finds phubbing a major flub in personal relationships.

About 32 percent of respondents to the Baylor survey stated that they were very satisfied with their relationship.

So what’s the best way to determine if phubbing is sinking your relationships, and how do you wean yourself off the cellphone?

How to stop the phubbing

Phubbers and those who are on the receiving end of phubbing should have frank discussions with those close to them, Manhattan-based licensed clinical psychologist Joseph Cilona told Yahoo Health. Discuss your feelings and establish boundaries that you’ll follow during future cellphone use.

Download a tracking application such as Moment that will monitor your daily phone use, Roberts suggested to Yahoo Health.

  • Want some immediate gratification for staying off the phone? Consider Forest, a new application available at the App Store and Google Play that plants a virtual seed that grows into a tree if you stay off the phone for 30 minutes. Cheat, though, with a quick Facebook post or Tweet, and your sapling withers and dies.
  • Turn off social media notifications. Do you really need to know every time some posts to your Facebook page or sends you a Tweet? Probably not. Turn off those alerts.
  • Familiarize yourself with the Do Not Disturb function on your phone. You can use a feature that automatically blocks alerts and rings during certain times or only allows the phone to notify you if the calls or messages are sent from those you specify.
  • Set “power hours.” Those are designated times to check email and other social media. Compressing response-related work into short periods of time each day – say one to two hours – was one of the habits of the most-productive people, according to researcher and author Scott Belsky, writing on Mashable. Belsky compiled his extensive interview into the book “Making Ideas Happen: Overcoming The Obstacles Between Vision & Reality.” His focus was keeping the phone from interrupting productivity, but it can also be applied to preventing interruptions during important times and conversations with loved ones.

What is your relationship with your smartphone and how does it affect your other relationships? Share with us in comments below or on our Facebook page.

Trending Stories


1,999 Active Deals

More Deals