We’ve all seen couples, friends and families having dinner out and each person at the table is texting, tweeting or on the internet and no one is making eye contact or speaking to each other. This is referred to as “phubbing” – the act of snubbing someone in a social setting by looking at your phone instead of paying attention. We have reached another moment in time when technology inspires human actions that need a name!
When I witness people “phubbing,” my first reaction is one of harsh criticism, but then I realize I’m guilty of that anti-social activity. I may “phub” someone, but never for long.
Once at a nice Sunday brunch in the French Quarter there were four people at the table next to me. It appeared to be a couple and the parents of either the husband or the wife. I don’t recall ever seeing them look at or talk to each other. All four were constantly looking at their phones and communicating with someone other than each other. Sunday brunch would be considered the perfect time to relax and spend time talking and catching up with each other, but these four people were indicative of so many couples and families today – they were next to one another, but obviously communicating.
The process of evolving into a society of isolated individuals has been greatly accelerated by the new technology of instant and constant personal communications - the smartphone. We can talk to someone in another part of the world or across the table from us and never speak or make eye contact.
I have always accepted the reality that society is constantly changing, but we should all take note of the changes that may prove to be fundamental changes in society – like our basic communication skills.
There are surveys showing that especially among young people, ending a relationship, even a marriage, through a text is acceptable. And I have to admit that even I have ended a relationship by a text. It’s convenient, it’s quick, there’s no chance of confrontation and it’s a coward’s way out! At least, that’s from my perspective. If you are part of a generation that depended on face-to-face communications, it’s difficult to respect the text message or Facebook message as a way to communicate any of life’s important decisions, but for other generations, that may be perfectly acceptable.
There is no question that iPhone and smartphone technology has added to America’s collective ADHD. And not just younger generations are guilty. Adults can be hypocritical when they criticize their children for not focusing on others, when they are guilty of the same anti-social activity.
We can all embrace the incredible advantages of new technology, but also maintain the important art of face-to-face communication. In the same way that kids today may never need to work out a math problem on paper, isn’t it important for them to know the multiplication tables? It’s important for couples, families, friends and co-workers to never lose the unique human ability to share thoughts and feelings in a personal way that’s free from the tools and toys of modern society.
On Sunday mornings, I walk to church, which is literally around the corner from my apartment, and I do not bring my phone with me. But when I walk out of church, I do what I do when I walk out of any building – I reach for my phone. At that moment, when I realize I do not have my phone with me as I walk home, I feel a sudden sense of calm that I cannot call or text anyone and no one can call or text me. It makes me realize I should make a greater effort to go places without my phone – or at least turn my phone off and create a “no-phone zone.” Parents might want to consider establishing “no-phone zones” for their children at family settings and outings and that’s a good idea for couples, too. Without the distraction of the phone, people are forced to communicate with each other.
A new national campaign has gone viral. It’s the “Stop Phubbing” campaign, which was started by a 23-year-old in Australia. Wouldn’t we all be better off if we stopped “phubbing” each other so often? And the rate of “casual phubbing” continues to rise!
After the show the other day I was having lunch with a friend and as soon as we sat down at the table to order – I “phubbed” her. And she responded immediately by “phubbing” me! But, when the waitress came, we did stop “phubbing” and spent the rest of our time at lunch talking to each other. However, we didn’t “phub” again until later that afternoon!