Service of Here We Go Again: Phone Snubbing

August 30th, 2021

Categories: Emails, Etiquette, Manners, Mobile Phones, Phones, Restaurant, Texting

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

At lunch with three friends last week my phone pinged a few times signaling the arrival of a text. One pal repeatedly asked if it was my phone. It was, but I didn’t look. We were eating.

Dan Ariely just covered the subject of “Why We Ignore Friends to Look at Our Phones” in his Wall Street Journal advice column “Ask Ariely.” The subject falls in my “Plus ça Change, Plus C’est la Même Chose” series. When mobile phones were new, some diners chatted incessantly even when facing a date or friend across a restaurant table, often disturbing neighboring diners while disrespecting their dinner companion.

Ariely responded to reader Alan who asked him why people “engage in such rude behavior,” that the columnist called phone snubbing or “phubbing” which he claimed could impact “the level of satisfaction in a friendship.” He attributed it not to lack of interest in the dialogue as much as to the personality of the phubber.

Ariely reported: “In a 2021 study of young adults, the authors found that depressed and socially anxious people are more likely to phub their friends. This is likely explained by the fact that people with social anxiety find online communication less uncomfortable than in-person conversations.”

He continued, “On the other hand, phubbing is less common among people who score high on ‘agreeableness,’ which psychologists define as striving to avoid conflict. Agreeable people make an effort to be polite and friendly in order to maintain social harmony.”

His suggestions for those who can’t stop looking at their phones is to disengage text and email message notices or to put the phone on airplane mode. That switches off the phone’s connection to Wi-Fi and cellular networks.

There are exceptions when being a phubber is legit but I think you should announce your reason when you sit down. If you’re expecting to hear from a client, customer, sick friend or relative or colleague about a deadline-driven project say so.

Do you care if your dining companion keeps checking his/her phone? Do you apologize if/when you do it?

Image by Anastasia Gepp from Pixabay

6 Responses to “Service of Here We Go Again: Phone Snubbing”

  1. Anonymous Said:

    Yes I care if someone I’m out with checks their phone. I put mine in my purse so I can’t see it light up and I turn off the sound. My husband is the opposite. Apparently he was brought up with no manners. Nothing short of a potential alien invasion, death or sickness is so important it can’t wait. That’s just my opinion. Excusing of course doctors, lawyers, nurses and undercover spies!

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I wonder if phubbers will keep checking their phones at a concert, movie or play–when we begin attending them.

  3. BC Said:

    A few years ago, my dinner partner (son in law of a friend) started texting right after we met at the table. I waited until I had finished a glass of wine, and called him on it. Said I was so sorry I was such a bad dinner partner, as he was busy on his cell phone. He blushed,put away the cell, and spent the rest of the nite talking to me.

    Turns out, at the time , he was an officer with Pfizer. So what?

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Wow. What a story and good for you.

    There’s an app or program that a friend engages when she’s driving that responds to a text to tell the sender that’s what she’s doing and that she’ll get back once she’s parked. There should be similar ones for executives or anyone whose boss wants to hear back from them ASAP to say that they are off line and will return messages in ______fill in the blank–an hour or three or in the morning.

  5. Hussein Ahman-Uttah Said:

    I wonder how useful it would be to avoid mixing with that type of person in the future?

    It was always easy to avoid such people in the past, how much use do we think that type of person will be to us if we constantly bang our heads against the brick wall of social interaction with people who can’t socially interact?

    Let’s try just excusing ourselves from their company, – directly, – when they commence this behavior and see what happens. It can send a strong message to get up from a dinner table and excuse ones self and walk out!

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Wow. If you were important to that person, it would have impact though I suspect some might think, “Oh, Jeanne doesn’t feel well!” and not connect the departure with their proclivity to text!

Leave a Reply