Phubbing: The virtual third wheel that ruins relationships

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November 3, 2015

12:12 AM

It’s easy to see walking around campus how attached people are to their devices — just glance around between classes. Chances are you do the same and often find youself about to walk into someone because you can’t tear your eyes away from the latest uploads. The next time you’re on the terrace or grabbing a bite to eat at Sadler, take note of how many people are using their phones while simultaneously trying to hold a conversation. Or, see how many people are using social media for conversation material. In this age it’s almost too easy to forget how to just be alone with another individual.

There is a constant impulse to keep up with what people are doing online, whether it’s your next-door neighbor, that cute guy in your class or the girl who has become your sworn enemy.

All of us are guilty of doing it at some point. We have even been the victims of it, too. It has just become commonplace as an escape from the awkward silence that falls during that dreaded lull in conversation, or even just developed as a bad habit. The use of our phones as virtual third wheels, adequately termed phone snubbing or “phubbing,” has worked its way into everyone’s lives.

Phubbing has become a recent problem in today’s technology-obsessed world. Between texting, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and a never-ending list of other social media sites and apps, there is just so much that can absorb your attention. There is a constant impulse to keep up with what people are doing online, whether it’s your next-door neighbor, that cute guy in your class or the girl who has become your sworn enemy.

Although being able to keep in touch with people is a great benefit of cell phones, it can also be a major factor in ruining a relationship. It is not just harmful to your romantic relationships, but also to your close friendships, casual acquaintances, business partnerships and family relationships. Whether you have known the person for years or just met them, phubbing them is going to damage your relationships in the long run.

When you are paying more attention to the person on the other side of your phone, how do you think the person you are hanging out with is feeling? Most people will probably feel a little hurt if you are more interested in a lit-up screen than them.

Spending time with someone has now become so impersonalized, that you might as well consider your phone your most loyal friend; after all, it is always by your side when you need it, just like a best friend is supposed to be.

You may not even be conscious that you are habitually checking your phone. It has become a rude habit that impedes real interaction between you and everyone around you. When the conversation becomes dull or grinds to a halt completely, it is easy to log in to social media or send a quick text to escape the oppressive, awkward silence. But even when the conversation is lively and interesting, you still unlock your phone often to check recent social media updates or reply to texts. It has become a nasty habit that needs to be broken.

Spending time with someone has now become so impersonalized, that you might as well consider your phone your most loyal friend; after all, it is always by your side when you need it, just like a best friend is supposed to be. Let us be the first ones to reach out and re-personalize relationships by removing the virtual third wheel. Next time you go to grab Aromas with your best friend or go to dinner with your significant other, take the time to actually talk to the person who you are choosing to spend a part of your day with. Put away the phone and talk about each other’s day. You would be surprised how interesting someone can be in person. People are a lot more dynamic in real life than in 150 characters, whether they use emojis or not.

Email Hannah Strouth at [email protected]

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About Author

  • Hannah Strouth

Hannah Strouth '19 is a business and English double major from Nickelsville, VA.