Surprisingly, married people are less likely to practice phubbing

Phubbing. Depending on who you ask, it’s either the scourge of modern society or not actually that big of a deal. It is associated with all kinds of problems, from loneliness to relationship problems. But a recent study yielded a surprising result: Contrary to every portrayal of family life you’ve ever seen on 21st century television, married people are apparently less likely to phub others than single people. Who knows?

If you’re reading that with increasing confusion about what exactly phubbing is, it’s partly our fault. We told you we put it to bed, but psychologists shall keep making interesting comments about it. So a quick explanation: phubbing is a portmanteau of the words “phone” and “snubbing,” used to describe the act of ignoring the other people around you in favor of scrolling on your device. Although the word itself was originally coined as part of a clever marketing campaign, the behavior it describes is so commonplace that it sort of… stuck.

Recent statistics from the GSMA show that 4.3 billion people worldwide now own a smartphone, making up the majority of the world’s population. Wherever there are smartphones, there are phubbers, and scientists are increasingly interested in the impact these small devices can have on even our most intimate human relationships.

First author Carla Abi Doumit, from Holy Spirit University of Kaslik in Lebanon, and colleagues surveyed 461 young Lebanese adults between the ages of 18 and 29 to learn about their phubbing habits. They hypothesized that those who scored high on the personality trait extraversion would be less prone to phubbing, while those who previously experienced boredom and loneliness would be more likely to phubbing.

The results were a bit of a mixed bag. There was no clear link between extroversion and phubbing, but where people were both extroverted and prone to boredom, they showed less tendency to phubbing. “This indicates that they might fill their boredom with socializing instead of using their phone,” the authors suggested in their paper.

They also found that people who scored high on the traits of openness, which often means people with high levels of curiosity and a willingness to try new things, were less likely to engage in phubbing.

Overall, however, boredom tendency was, as expected, a positive indicator of phubbing. We’ve all been there: we’ve sat through an hour-long meeting when you’d rather be somewhere else, and your only chance for a little escapism is a quick scroll through your phone… what’s the harm, right?

But one thing the authors didn’t expect to find was a correlation with relationship status. Married people in the study group were less likely to have phub than single people. The authors attribute this to the fact that married people are less lonely and have more responsibilities and worries to fill their time, although there is no conclusive literature on this subject yet.

But given that previous research has found that phubbing your partner is a predictor of poor marital satisfaction, it’s probably a good thing that this study population at least seemed happy to keep their phones away from marital happiness.

The study had some limitations. The sample was all young, mostly female, and highly educated individuals, so the results may not be generalizable to a broader population. Any study that relies on questionnaire responses is subject to the possibility of bias. The authors also emphasize that it is not possible to infer cause-and-effect relationships from their data: “Moreover, the cross-sectional study design does not allow causality-related conclusions.”

“For these reasons, our results may not be robust and should be interpreted with caution,” they say, but they highlight the need for further research, and for professionals working in psychiatric medicine to take a patient’s smartphone habits into account when trying to tackle social isolation.

Even if you don’t feel like phubbing is having a catastrophic effect on your marriage, many of us could probably benefit from reassessing our relationship with our phones. No Phub Fridays, anyone?

The study was published in the journal Healthcare.

[H/T: PsyPost]

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