Phubbing, aka the act of ignoring the person you're with and staring at your phone instead, is a uniquely 2019 problem. Be honest, you've phubbed before. And maybe even regularly! Most of us are guilty of it. Personally, I've stared slack-jawed at my phone while my mom told me important news about a sick relative and also during dinners with friends I actually like. It's sick!
Harsh but true: When you stare at your phone instead of into the face of the other person, you're signaling to them they're not worthy of your time.
"When you value your phone over someone who’s in person, the person that’s in front of you will feel unwanted and may not want to keep hanging out with you," says Katie Ziskind of Wisdom Within Counseling.
If they're not worthy of your time, then maybe you should ditch them. If they are worthy of your time, it's best to ditch the device. Otherwise, you might want to be prepared for them to bounce.
That's not dramatic, that's real life! And while the person might not be able to pinpoint exactly why they don't want to hang out with you anymore, it's likely that phubbing is somewhere in their subconscious.
"If you’re on your phone all the time, you may not have very many friends because no one wants to hang out with someone who is disconnected emotionally," shares Ziskind. "Because you’re not paying attention to important people in your life and loved ones, they may stop thinking of you as important." Ouch.
Phubbing can get between you and your partner—and it can feel bad for both of you. "Most of us tend to think that our cell phone habits aren't a big deal, but the reality is that our phones are causing a ton of tension in our relationships," says Vanessa Marin, sex therapist. "Phubbing hurts your partner's feelings, makes them feel ignored and unimportant, and prevents the two of you from having quality time and creating more intimacy."
Yeah, lots of people would rather face time with FaceTime than with the living, breathing person next to them. "Some of the worst examples happen in the bedroom," says Marin. "One partner will be trying to initiate sex, and the other partner will be lost in their cell phone. Even if you were just trying to have a quick snuggle or good-night kiss before falling asleep, being phubbed by your partner is really painful.
You can stop the insanity—but it won't be easy. "I know that no one wants to hear this, but we all have to be much more thoughtful about our cell phone habits," says Marin. She recommends all couples have designated phone-free time, where you put your phones away completely, and just focus on each other.
"You can also cue each other to stop phubbing," she says. "For example, if you want your partner's attention but they're staring at their phone, ask them, 'Hey, can I have your attention for a sec?' Wait until they've fully put their phone away to start talking to them."
Sometimes stopping phubbing isn't as easy as just going cold turkey—and asking for help is nothing to be ashamed of.
"If you feel like you’re addicted to your phone, I recommend seeking counseling because there are probably underlying emotions that you’re avoiding," says Ziskind.
"[W]hen you avoid reality, you don’t actually deal with what’s going on inside your mind, body, and emotions."
Follow Laura on Twitter.
Laura Beck is a Los Angeles-based TV writer and frequent contributor to Cosmopolitan.com — her work has appeared in the New York Times, New Yorker, Jezebel, and the Village Voice.