The dark art of phubbing | The Salvation Army

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The dark art of phubbing

Ingrid Barratt on the international pandemic that is phone snubbing.
a man with his phone ignoring his girlfriend
Posted October 1, 2013

Phubbing is an international pandemic. It’s not a disease, an alternative lifestyle or even a private boys’ school tradition. Phubbing is the dark art of phone snubbing.

You know that feeling when you’re out with a friend for coffee and their eyes constantly glance toward their phone (disguised under a newspaper). You’re mid-sentence into your latest relationship drama, and they start giggling at a tweet from Kanye West. That’s phubbing. You’ve been phubbed.

The statistics are scary. A campaign to stop phubbing claims that ‘if phubbing were a plague, it would decimate six Chinas’ and in an average restaurant there will be 36 cases of phubbing per dinner session. Okay, the stats are dodgy, but that rarely stops us journalists.

Take this quick test to see whether you’re a phubber:

You’re on your way to work and realise you’ve left your phone at home. Do you:
a) Run back home and check Facebook as soon as you get there, like a long lost lover.
b) Keep going, fighting the growing sense of doom and anxiety.
c) Call 111. Aaarggh … but you can’t, you don’t have your phone! Aaarggh. Gurgle.

If you answered a, b, or c to any of these questions, you have most likely phubbed in your lifetime.

Mark Zuckerberg and his minions stumbled on a universal truth when they created the ‘like’ button on Facebook: we all want to be liked. As humans, we have a desire to be known, and for our lives to feel significant and seen. We are actually created to be liked. But changing times and technology have turned this into an addiction.

Community has always been at the heart of the human story. From the moment Adam saw Eve, he broke into spoken-word and called her ‘flesh of my flesh’. God is described as walking with them in the garden. Sometime later, a brave young woman named God ‘El Roi’, which means ‘the God who sees me’ (see Genesis 16:13).

When we choose a relationship with Jesus, we enter into an unbroken connection with Heaven. If I’m going to meet someone for coffee, I may say a silent prayer that our time together will be blessed … and perhaps that I’ll also find a car park. I don’t know whether God gives us car parks or not, but when I get one, I’ll send up a quick thanks. As I walk to meet my friend, I’ll probably talk to God about some of my worries and … ohhhh, that’s a cute dress in the window. It’s God-tweeting. Gweeting—you heard it here first, pass it on.

Okay Gweeting won’t catch on. (Hopefully it won’t catch on!) The truth is much more beautiful: it’s you and God constantly acknowledging each other’s presence, where you know you are seen and significant.

When we allow God to fulfil our very real need for acceptance, we become less dependent on what other people think. Connection with others is still good and positive
­—and something we all need­—but we become less addicted to popularity. We might even get radical and turn our phones off for a while!

Your God sees you. That’s real. Everything else is just a lot of phubbery.

By Ingrid Barratt (abridged from War Cry 5 October 2013, p3) 

*Go to for more info on the not-entirely-serious-but-with-a-real-message campaign.