How ignoring people for smartphones became the norm

It’s common now to see people snubbing social companions to concentrate on their smartphone. But what causes this behaviour – known as ‘phubbing’ – and how did it come to be regarded as normal?

Research from psychologists at the University suggests people’s internet addiction is leading them increasingly to ‘phub’ – and experience being ‘phubbed’ – in social situations. This, in turn, leads them to view this phubbing behaviour as normal.

The research, by Varoth Chotpitayasunondh and Professor Karen Douglas from the University’s School of Psychology, identified a number of factors that were linked to smartphone addiction. These were internet addiction, a fear of missing out and a lack of self-control.

This smartphone addiction, in turn, was directly linked to people demonstrating phubbing behaviour. The researchers further found that it was this experience of phubbing – and of being phubbed themselves – that made people more likely to think that phubbing was ‘normal’ behaviour.

The research, thought to be the first to consider both the causes and consequences of this modern-day phenomena, is likely to lead to further investigations of the impact of phubbing on the quality of social interaction.

It is published as How “phubbing” becomes the norm: The antecedents and consequences of snubbing via smartphone in the journal Computers in Human Behaviour.