Beware: the seemingly harmless act of using one’s cellphone at dinnertime could be wreaking havoc on one’s relationship.
Published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior, a study by researchers from the Hankamer School of Business of Baylor University found that cellphones—particularly the act of “phubbing” or phone snubbing—could damage romantic relationships and make people depressed.
To learn the relational effects of “phubbing” or the extent to which people use or are preoccupied by their mobile phone in the company of partners, the team conducted two separate surveys on 453 American adults in the United States.
“When someone perceived that their partner phubbed them, this created conflict and led to lower levels of reported relationship satisfaction,” said study author and marketing professor James Roberts, Ph.D.
Roberts added that the lower levels of relationship satisfaction led to lower life satisfaction rates and ultimately to higher levels of depression.
The study showed that 46.3 percent reported being phubbed by their partner, while 22.6 percent said the act caused relationship conflict. Depression was reported by 36.6 percent, while only 32 percent expressed being very satisfied with their relationship.
The team developed the “Partner Phubbing Scale,” which they believe is significant for demonstrating that phubbing is “conceptually and empirically different” from attitude toward cellphones, partner’s phone use, phone conflict and phone addiction.
The first survey comprising 308 adults helped them develop the nine-item scale of typical smartphone behaviors that participants identified as snubbing indicators. The scale includes statements like “My partner places his or her cellphone where they can see it when we are together” and “My partner glances at his/her cellphone when talking to me.”
In the second survey with 145 respondents, the team used the scale on couples and measured areas such as relationship and life satisfaction, depression, and “anxious attachment” or those experienced by people who feel less secure with their partner.
Co-author and assistant marketing professor Meredith David, Ph.D., said the findings suggest that the more one party interrupts couple time together through cellphone use, the less likely the other person will be satisfied in the relationship. This could lead to enhanced depressive feelings and lower well being of that individual, warned David.
How then should one make sure not to “phub” or get phubbed? David advised being more mindful of how much time is being spent using one’s phone. Learn the interruptions caused by phones and how they can be harmful to the relationship, said David.
This research is also part of Roberts’ new book, Too Much of a Good Thing: Are You Addicted to Your Smartphone?