Home page Psychology blog Bad Habits Non-Chemical Addictions «Stop scrolling through the phone!» or what we know about phubbing

«Stop scrolling through the phone!» or what we know about phubbing

26.09.2019 Author: Psychologist Pavel Khoroshutin

«On New Year’s Eve we hosted our relatives from another city. It was my wife’s brother, his wife and daughter. My wife and I, as usual, had been preparing for the guests for a long time, straightening things out at our house and cooking a festive dinner. We exchanged congratulations and set down for the meal, and then their family took out their smartphones and started scrolling through them. My wife felt lenient towards this situation, but I was very outraged. I was waiting for guests, I was looking forward to lively conversation, and instead I felt superfluous in my own home».

— Andrey, 50 years old, teacher

In order to start writing this article, the author had to put aside his phone having to postpone checking all new publications in Instagram. But we won’t be talking about how the addiction to smartphones affects professional activities (although there is certainly a threat to it too). Let’s talk about how phubbing – phone addiction – affects the quality of life and relationships with others.

Constant “immersion” in a smartphone while communicating with real people became normal in modern society before the name was invented for this phenomenon. According to research, 53% of women and 21% of men aged 18 to 66 are distracted by smartphones during conversations with a partner at least twice a day. 37% of men and 67% of women feel like they are being regularly ignored by their companion in favor of phubbing. [1]
So why is it so difficult for us to tear ourselves away from smartphones, even being close to our loved ones? In this article, we’ll talk about the causes and consequences of phubbing and how to get rid of addiction.


  1. Phubbing. Is it «new normal»?
  2. What keeps our attention glued to the phone
  3. How phubbing affects quality of life and relationships
  4. What people feel near the phubber?
  5. How to overcome the phone addiction: Psychologist’s Advice
  6. How to get rid of addicion: 7Spsy behavior modification technique

Phubbing. Is it «new normal»?

fabbing how to get rid of

The word “phubbing” first appeared in 2012 in Australia. A congress of writers and literary scholars was organized in order to define “being glued” to the phone while communicating with real interlocutors. As a result of long discussions, they settled on the word phubbing, made up of two words: phone (“phone”) and snubbing (“neglect”). 
After a large Stop Phubbing campaign the new word was introduced worldwide. The campaign was carried out in Australia in order to draw attention to the problem.
In 2013, the word officially entered the Australian National Dictionary. [2]

A person who does phubbing was named “phubber.” And the one who is nearby and experiences unpleasant feelings from that kind of dismissive attitude towards real communication was named “phubbee”.

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Of course we can register the addiction to a smartphone not only during communication with others, but also in other everyday situations. Researchers have identified a number of signs of phubbing. Based on them, we have compiled a phubber checklist.
We suggest reading these statements and marking those that describe your attitude. If you marked more than 3, then you should pay attention to this problem.  

Phubber habits checklist (Phone addiction test)

  • I scroll through stories of friends, stars and unfamiliar people on Instagram (VKontakte feed, Twitter, etc.) when eating lunch.
  • Most of the time my smartphone is in my hands, even while I’m walking.
  • I instantly respond to alert from my phone, even when it distracts me from something I am doing at this moment, or from talking to someone else.
  • During leisure time (outdoors, at parties with friends, at exhibitions and concerts) I pay too much attention to the gadget, trying to make more photos and videos and share them on social networks as soon as possible.
  • I’m afraid to skip something important in the news feed and be “off topic”.
  • Sometimes I continue scrolling the feed, even though I have already seen everything posted several times.
  • I feel panic if I forget the phone at home or cannot find it in my bag at once.

What keeps our attention glued to the phone

Kent University Scientists consider phubbing a psychological addiction, a form of Internet addiction. Stress, depression, fears, anxieties or other psychological problems may cause such kind of addiction, making people subconsciously try to escape to the virtual world using phone.

Smartphone addiction may also be caused by chain reaction. When one person sees that his interlocutor is distracted by a smartphone, he himself begins to behave in the same way. As a result, the constant and aimless use of a mobile phone during communication becomes the norm. [1]

It’s interesting that pensioners are starting to be involved in social networks: 54% of elderly users in Russia use Internet to communicate with virtual friends. And already 4% of this audience actively uses mobile Internet. [6] Unfortunately, this not only saves from loneliness, but in some cases can lead to family discord: when a husband or wife begins to devote all their free time to social networks.

How phubbing affects quality of life and relationships

how to overcome phone addiction

In 2015, the results of a study of the influence of phubbing on romantic relationships were published. 453 people were interviewed. It turned out that partners of 46% of respondents were engaged in phubbing, 22% of respondents confirmed that it leads to conflict, and 36% of them admitted that they experience depression because of it, at least sometimes. [3]
Mobile phone addiction can lead to consequences such as:

  • loss of interest in each other – when two interlocutors or a company are constantly distracted by smartphones or communicating online;
  • scattering of attention- when a person is distracted by a smartphone during important business meetings, ordinary meetings, studies, and misses or quickly forgets some of the important information;
  • decrease in the level of trust – when a friend seeks to share something important, but in return does not receive sincere interest and understanding;
  • physical inactivity – when phone and the Internet addiction leads to a sedentary lifestyle;
  • loss of communication skills – when instead of explaining your point of view or telling some news, a person sends a link or answers shortly: “Google it!”

A special worry is reserved for children and adolescents being addicted to phones. According to research, in Russia 89% of adolescents uses network resources daily. And only occasionally at this time they are engaged in the search for useful information for development and study. [4]

What people feel near the phubber?

«For me friendship is an exchange of energy, opinions and decisions for mutual benefit. When I appoint a meeting with my female friend I expect her as much involved into our communication as I am. But sometimes something interferes in our relations – specifically, her mobile phone. And then my friend’s attention is divided between me and it half-and-half, and sometimes in a more disrespectful proportion. I would even say that she “disconnects” from our communication entirely, because true attention can only be of the first order: both visual and auditory.
I feel redundant, unimportant; I doubt my value in her eyes. And I’m starting to think that it would have been better if I spend this time by myself: go to the park, to a cinema or a theater. As Ostap Bender once said: “I can deal with it by myself!”

— Aglaya, 35 years old, theater actress

I believe everybody can share the feelings described above. When a friend or a loved one neglects live communication we feel jealousy, confusion, irritation, resentment and even anger. The situation looks even more ridiculous when, in response, we seek consolation in communicating online and immerse ourselves in our smartphones too. Smartphone addiction becomes something of a contagious disease.

How to overcome the phone addiction: Psychologist’s Advice

smartphone addiction
  • First ask yourself: “How would I feel if my friend or lover started scrolling though the phone instead of talking to me?”
  • It will be useful to recall why we value each other. You can sit opposite each other and list a few qualities that make you important to each other. Do not be scant with praise!
  • Immerse yourself in nostalgia. Recall your relationship at the very beginning. How did you meet? What were you talking about?
  • Learn to discuss and negotiate. It is important to complain directly to the partner, rather than complaining to virtual friends. Then the relationship will develop.

And recall what you dreamed and planned together; outline the first steps for its implementation. It is important to understand what interests besides social networks you and your loved ones have. In order to do this you’ll need 15 minutes, a sheet of paper and a pen. Answer your questions in writing: “What would you do for pleasure in your free time if all smartphones in the world suddenly stopped working? What do you like to do, besides communicating with virtual friends and scrolling feeds on social networks? ”

Try to include at least 5-10 positions. These are hobbies and activities that could become an excellent substitute for phubbing. Now just add them to your daily schedule.

There are several independent ways how to learn not to be distracted by the phone and overcome dependence on it:

  1. Remove all social media applications from your phone for a while (or at least turn off notifications).
  2. Read books in paper form, refuse electronic books.
  3. Write down your thoughts and plans in a notebook, and not in notes on the phone.
  4. Make it a rule to regularly go for a walk, leaving the phone at home.
  5. When visiting or at a meeting with friends, leave the phone in your bag.
  6. Observe the ethics of communication: if you need to answer an urgent call or message, apologize to the interlocutor.
  7. Do not bring your phone with you to the dining table – there are studies that prove that food seems less tasty to us if you look at your phone, monitor or TV during a meal. [5]
  8. Do not check social networks and do not read messages immediately after waking up, first do all morning procedures and workout.
  9. Make the abandonment of gadgets a game: sitting at a common table in the company, agree to remove all phones to one place and assign “penalties” for those who reach for their phone before dinner ends.
  10. If your interlocutor is immersed in a smartphone, delicately let him know your feelings.
If you find it difficult to follow most of the tips on this list, we recommend that you seek help of a psychologist. Most likely, you need support and clear instructions on how to return to real life.

How to get rid of addiction: 7Spsy behavior modification technique

Any addiction is a learned form of behavior. If the tips presented above seem overly strict and difficult to implement, you should think more seriously about fighting the addiction to the Internet and your phone. Perhaps the right decision would be to turn to a psychologist or to modern methods of behavior correction.
7Spsy behavior modification technique is one of the effective ways to work with changing psychological attitudes. The method is based on the behavior theories of I.P. Pavlov, B.F. Skinner, A.A. Ukhtomsky. The behavior modification program lasts from 2 to 6 weeks. At the same time, the course is remote: you can practice at a convenient time in a comfortable environment.

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You will be supported by a psychologist during the entire course. It will be possible to communicate with them via any convenient way: by telephone, in online chat rooms or by e-mail.

It’s really possible to get rid of addiction and limit pointlessly losing your time with smartphone. Be prepared for hard work on correcting behavior in order to once again recall the pleasure of live communication and the brilliance of real life.


  1. Uchyonye vyyasnili, pochemu fabbing stal normoj obshcheniya (https://apparat.cc/news/phubbing-becomes-the-norm/).
  2. Chto takoe fabbing (https://aif.ru/dontknows/eternal/chto_takoe_fabbing).
  3. Kopanie v telefone priznali normoj (https://www.gazeta.ru/science/2016/06/09_a_8292083.shtml).
  4. Nikakih gadzhetov! Kak preodolet zavisimost detej ot kompyutera (https://www.goodhouse.ru/family_and_children/vospitanije/nikakix-gadzhetov-kak-preodolet-zavisimost-detej-ot-kompyutera/).
  5. Fabbing — bolezn sovremennogo cheloveka (https://zen.yandex.ru/media/poznavatelniy/fabbing-bolezn-sovremennogo-cheloveka-5d09c331a0412200b1332c4e).
  6. Rossijskie pensionery uhodyat v seti (http://www.rospens.ru/research/analytics/rossiyskie-pensionery-ukhodyat-v-seti.htm)