Jentrie Hales, community advocate, @techhealthyfam

phubbing Modern couple at home. Man and woman concentrated on messaging with smartphones, ignoring each other and spending time on social media.

Getting phubbed. We have all been there. Maybe it was when you just came home with exciting news that you could not wait to share, you thought you had the full attention of your person, but low and behold, they were nose deep in their device doing the, “Uh-huh, great sweetie.” It was at that moment that you knew very well that they were not listening to you. My first three feelings when this happens:

  1. Rejection: My news is less important than your Facebook feed.
  2. Annoyance: Why am I wasting my time trying to share this with you?
  3. Disconnection: This simple action tells me that what is important to me is not as important to you.

Anyone with me?

You can see different types of phubbing in group settings. If you walk into any restaurant, you may see one or two partners not engaging, but heads down in their devices,. You see this magnified in schools at lunchtime with scores of kids, feeling more comfortable playing online games than talking with their peers. You may see it in the grocery store while people wait in line. Wherever and wherever there is an ounce of downtime, pulling out your phone to do anything else except be bored seems to be the complete norm.


According to Oxford Dictionary, phubbing is “the practice of ignoring one’s companions in order to pay attention to one’s phone or mobile device.” Phubbing was first coined in May 2012, so it is a relatively new term. However, in a recent study it was determined that almost 32% of people report being phubbed two to three times a day, while another 17% report they are the ones doing the pmhubbing.

It has been established that pmhubbing happens regularly, but the big question is why? I have come up with two things I believe contribute to the problem:

Technology is addictive. 

It is addictive for both the young and old. According to Common Sense Media, the average time for a teenager to be using a device for entertainment purposes is seven hours and 22 minutes a day. For adults that number is around five hours a day. App developers and owners are out to make profits and design their apps to change behaviors and make users want to keep using them. Their best tactics are learned from developers of Las Vegas casinos.

We have gotten wonderfully comfortable being comfortable. 

It is simply easier to disengage. When we do this, we do not have to feel uncomfortable feelings like awkwardness, embarrassment, or boredom. On the flip side, pmhubbing causes people to miss out on the very important act of building real connections. As humans, connection is in our DNA. We need it to survive mentally as well as physically. Researcher Brene Brown said, “A deep sense of love and belonging is an irresistible need of all people. We are biologically, cognitively, physically, and spiritually wired to love, to be loved, and to belong. When those needs are not met, we don’t function as we were meant to. We break. We fall apart. We numb. We hurt others. We get sick.”

The addicting aspect, along with the comfort and ease of pulling out a phone whenever we are uncomfortable breeds disconnection. 

So, whether you are the phubber or the “phubbee,” here are three things that you can do to promote more respect and awareness in your life: 

  1. Create “No Phone Zones” where you and your family can plan on putting away the devices for some time and promote those meaningful interactions that you all need. 
  2. Practice being more mindful of your surroundings. When you have downtime, practice noticing the people around you more. 
  3. Make the impulse to pull your device out harder. Leave your phone in your car, purse, or backpack when you are around friends or family. 

Jentrie Hales is a community advocate with five years’ experience empowering parents and children in different settings. She has been invited into classrooms, youth groups, and parent groups throughout the Cache Valley to speak about healthy relationships with tech, and professionally mentors families that feel overwhelmed managing the tech in their home. 

Follow her on Instagram @techhealthyfam or email her at