I think using your smartphone when you’re with other people is rude, but I still do it all the time. I try to apologize when I do—“Sorry, I just need to text this person/send this email/check this map real quick”—but lately I’ve felt even more rude asking someone else to stop using their phone. It seems needy and unkind to shame them for not giving me their full attention at every moment. When the whole gang is having an iPhone break, the path of least resistance is just to get my phone out, too, and thumb through Instagram.
Focusing on your phone in a social setting is known as “phubbing”—a portmanteau of “phone” and “snubbing.” (Hey, I didn’t make it up.) A new study published in Computers in Human Behavior looks at what motivates people to phub, and how it seems to have become just a normal part of life.
A group of 276 participants took several questionnaires that measured their experiences of phubbing and being phubbed, as well as scales for internet addiction, smartphone addiction, self-control, and fear of missing out. These all bore out in the expected ways; the people most likely to be glued to a screen while surrounded by friends were low in self-control, high in FOMO, and higher on the scales for internet and smartphone addiction. (It’s still questionable whether one can really be “addicted” to the internet, but these scales basically measure whether a person uses it compulsively, and whether it interferes with their life.)