Phubbing: the art of contemporary selfishness

Our unofficial sociologist Kate Turner exposes “phubbing” – a spreading social virus in which those infected choose their phones over you.


“Okay, deep breaths Katie…deep freakin’ breaths!”, I yammer to myself in an endless loop. I’m breathing like this because I’m scared of what’s next. I’m scared that I’m going to grab my friend’s phone out of his hand and dunk it in his tub of coffee. I’m feeling rage I’ve never felt before, and it’s all because of phubbing.

I can’t be the only one that finds this bloody rude. If you’re going to invite me out for drinks, then you adjust your gaze from your phone to me and you’ll see me glaring at you…motherphubber.

I wasn’t kidding about the rage thing. This has to be one of my biggest pet peeves; nothing more annoying than being replaced by a phone.

Aaagh!!! Alright, with that off my chest I’m now calm/er.

Listen, I’m constantly on my phone when alone, but I can’t handle my own company; I’m a thinker and that’s not good for anyone. But when I’m with others, I’m fully with you.

It has become such an ordeal, it has earned is own place in the lexicon: “phubbing”.

And it’s true…this is an ordeal; well, in my view, anyway.

It should have been etched in the Bible, like a prophecy, so that we could have at least prepared ourselves. That one day in a few thousand years, there will be a hand held device that will rule our every waking day, our lives will be run by it; and the majority will be lead astray by a false electronic prophet, the heathens! Save for a rare few that will resist, empowering them with a will that makes them want to go ahead and punch everyone else in their phubbing faces to break the curse that binds them apart.

Alright, I’m going to go ahead and get in-depth on this monstrous matter.

Mobile phones; we use them to kill time.

But have you ever had dinner with friends, to have them just stare at their phone instead of at you, while you just sit there, looking aimlessly around ’til they return it to the table? You think yay, finally, we can get our chit-chat on, but then they get an alert sound and pick it back up, and you’re back to studying the walls of the restaurant, watching the “trial basis” waiter steal the salt and pepper shakers from all the tables. Then you get an alert on your phone; it’s a reply comment on Facebook from your friend – the one who is sitting across from you…

We seriously don’t know how to interact in a personal way anymore.

This is a major buzz kill for me. I get excited to hang out with my friends, but these days, five minutes in I’m thinking about how fun it will be to go home and be alone because, weirdly, being alone at home feels less lonely than feeling alone when with friends.

We use phones to avoid having interactions with others:

Walking down the street and you see someone walking your way, you get nervous about passing them because it’s been so long since you’ve talked or smiled at someone face to face. As they get closer, you reach for your phone, the mask to make it appear that you’re busy. Really you’re just swiping across apps until they walk past (then you’re free to continue listening to your music full blast to zone out the sound of societal grating).

We really rely on it don’t we? We rely on it to make things better if we feel awkward or if we have run out of things to say, or even if we’re just plain bored.

I mean, everything is available to you on your phone.

The worst is when you leave home for work, only to realise on the train that you’ve left your phone behind. How are you going to get through the day? You feel lost, naked, afraid and vulnerable. You don’t know what to do. You go for your lunch break with work colleagues, and you just sit there staring at them all on their phones, wondering what to do. You try to think back before smart phones existed and remember you used to move your mouth and sounds would come out. What was it called…? And the other person would respond in the same way. You think, “should I test it…?”

“Hello,” you’ll say…others around the cafeteria will look up at you.

“WTF, was someone speaking out loud?” they’ll think; some of them will film you on their phones because it has become so rare to hear this phenomenon in real life; no one will know how to talk back and you’ll get cold feet; fleeing from the scene, you’ll swear that you’ll never forget your phone again!

I know…that was some dark imagery right there. But seriously, that’s where we’re headed.

So listen up you motherphubbers; take the time to act like you give a damn about the people around you. The other people or entertainment on your phone you so happily ignore everyone else for can wait an hour or so.

For if you don’t, you may well find the people you once called your best friends…have gone ahead and left you. They’ve found other resisters of phubbing, and live together as a community on a small island safe in the knowledge that the smartphone never existed.

And you and your phone just sit alone at home like a phubbed up mess; bleak ain’t it.

Well, it’s not too late. Just put the phone down!

For phubs sake!


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