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Family Talk: Who are you phubbing?

Does your cellphone sometimes distract you from the ones you love? [THINKSTOCK PHOTO]

Does your cellphone sometimes distract you from the ones you love? [THINKSTOCK PHOTO]

I gotta admit I didn't even know the word existed. “Phubbing?” What was that? After reading a Washington Post article about it, I suddenly realized I did know about it, even if I didn't know the word.

“Phubbing” is one of those contraction words, combining “phone” and “snub.” According to the article, phubbing is “the practice of snubbing others in favor of our mobile phones.” If you have a mobile phone of any type, you've probably done it or had it done to you.

You can see the irony of this, right? A device that was created to enhance communication is actually disrupting communication. And the place this has the deepest relational impact is in the family.

I made another discovery while reading this article. There's a journal called Computers in Human Behavior, and its January 2016 edition contained a report entitled “My life has become a major distraction from my cellphone: Partner phubbing and relationship satisfaction among romantic partners.” According to a scientific study of 145 couples, phubbing was found to have a negative impact on relationship satisfaction. (No surprise there) And phubbing also was found to impact life satisfaction and depression (That makes sense, too). There are other studies cited in the Post article, and they all lead to the same conclusion: Phubbing can mess up your romantic and family relationships.

Think of it this way. If your phone was a person of the opposite sex, and you paid too much attention to that person to the exclusion of your family, spouse or partner, how would that go over?

Adolescents and teens do this all the time, of course, to their parents. I see it all the time at restaurants. No family conversation. Just everyone working their cellphones, phubbing each other.

After reading the article I quickly came to the conclusion that phubbers should be convicted of the offense of “failure to devote full time and attention to family.” Those phubbers are trouble. Those phubbers are distracting themselves into relational destruction. Those phubbers need to wake up and smell the coffee! Those phubbers ...

Then I heard an internal voice say, “Guilty as charged, Your Honor.”

I must confess, I have phubbed people. Especially my wife. When we get home from work and we reunite to exchange a summary of our day, I sometimes have my phone in my lap. If she wanders to the other side of the kitchen during our talk, I sneak a peek at the Yankees score, or check my all important email or check for news updates. Then I hear the silence of her standing on the other side of the kitchen, stopped in midsentence, as she realizes I'm not fully listening. I'm phubbing.

So fellow phubbers, do we need a 12-step program, or a recovery retreat? Probably not. What we need is a recipe for success in overcoming phubbing:

• 1 cup of awareness of the other person and what we're doing.

• 2 heaping teaspoons of discipline, to put our phones away.

• 3 big scoops of attentive listening and looking.

• Stir together gently and apply generously to the relationships in your life.

Together we can find a cure for the outbreak of phubbing. It starts with putting the phone away.

Jim Priest is CEO of Sunbeam Family Services and can be reached at jpriest@sunbeamfamilyservices.org.

Jim Priest

Jim Priest is the CEO of Sunbeam Family Services, a 108-year-old nonprofit that provides a range of social services to support Oklahoma's most vulnerable people, including early childhood education, counseling, foster care and senior services. Jim... Read more ›

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