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7 Reasons Why People Around You Could Be Phubbing

I think it's not only an annoyance but a disorder!

19/02/2017 7:33 PM IST | Updated 27/02/2017 2:01 PM IST
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Technology has quietly changed our lives, both for good and bad. Yes, technology has improved productivity, helped to digitally reconnect with friends, but it has also resulted in behaviours which are disengaging.

One such awful behaviour is phubbing, defined as: "To ignore (a person or one's surroundings) when in a social situation by busying oneself with a phone or other mobile device."

We don't realise the impact of this deadly habit. It has the power to derail relationships, disengage teams, reduce productivity, peeve customers and cause errors.

Phubbing manifests in many forms. For example, when you are discussing an important matter with your boss, he is busy texting on his mobile phone. You are speaking at a conference but find your audience glued to their tablets or iPhones. You are talking to your daughter about a school in the US and she's engrossed checking her Facebook feed. The security person in your building is busy with his phone while visitors quietly pass by. You are walking around a book shop when the salesperson tells you about a new bestseller but you seem are focused on your mobile device. Your son talks to you about his day at school but you only pretend to listen to him because you're buying something from your mobile browser. You are having dinner out with your family but all of you are messaging on your phones rather than talking to one another.

We don't realise the impact of this deadly habit. It has the power to derail relationships, disengage teams, reduce productivity, peeve customers and cause errors.

I have always been fascinated by why people behave the way they do. The behaviour I'm going to delve into today is phubbing.

1. Staying with our thoughts is difficult

We as humans find it difficult to be with our thoughts. A study even found that humans prefer an electric shock to being left alone with their thoughts! This happened even when they were just left with themselves for six minutes. Not surprisingly, we rush for mobile phone every time our mind is free.

2. Our deep desired to stay connected

Humans have this desire to stay in touch with others. In the 2016 sci-fi movie Passengers, Jim Preston (played by Chris Pratt) wakes up and finds himself all alone aboard star-ship Avalon and struggles with loneliness despite having every comfort. He then notices beautiful Aurora Lane (played by Jennifer Lawrence) in her pod and wakes her up. A great example of a human being's urge to stay connected.

FOMO could be behind a lot of phubbing behaviour—people don't want to be left out of all the action that's taking place elsewhere.

People like to communicate constantly via their mobile devices because it makes them feel connected—this is a source of comfort; they feel psychologically reassured that their friends are never afar. One way to feel connected without direct communication is also to go through the social media accounts of friends and family members, hence the love of scrolling through Facebook, Twitter and the like.

3. Addiction to the internet

Some people are so addicted to the internet that they are virtually incapable of getting off it. Naturally, this frequently makes them guilty of phubbing. This is not a normal behaviour but a disorder which called PIU (Problematic Internet Use). They feel restless and uneasy unless they are online—for whichever purpose it may be.

4. Fear of missing out

FOMO could be behind a lot of phubbing behaviour—people don't want to be left out of all the action that's taking place elsewhere. They are afraid they will somehow lose out. Hence, they will visit social networking sites, check emails or browse WhatsApp messages. To them it's crucial to keep their fingers on the pulse and to make their presence felt.

5. Avoiding an uncomfortable situation

People indulge in phubbing when they are in an uncomfortable situation. They are talking to someone and the other person pops a difficult question which they want to avoid. To avoid confronting this situation, the person looks at the mobile phone as a prop for defence—he can pretend something urgent has cropped up but in actuality he's just stalling! Looking at the phone is also a good way to avoid making eye contact, which can make you feel vulnerable if you're in some sort of precarious situation.

6. Lack of self-control

Phubbing is sometimes an outcome of being helpless in the face of certain impulses. Some people find it harder to regulate their urge to act—so if they hear a ping on the phone—even if it's just an app update notification—they will feel compelled to check their device. It's a reflexive action—it happens without much thought. They do it even if they are in the middle of a crucial presentation or at a romantic dinner. They are just not able to control themselves.

7. Fear of losing control

Some people become phubbers because they are trying to control events and people that are not physically near them. They may have a need to micro-manage others or to be constantly involved in discussions so they do not miss any details. It's their way to maintain their grasp on a situation. As for the situation in their physical proximity? That's another story!

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Some people believe that phubbing is a normal behaviour and one should not worry about it. They think it's a just a side effect of belonging to a connected world. I disagree with this view. It's a disorder and one has to make a conscious effort to eliminate it before it impacts your relationships, workplace performance and productivity in general.

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