You cannot avoid all the fuss about “Phubbing” lately. Phubbing is a term coined by 23-year-old Melbourne University student Alex Haigh, to describe the action of “snubbing” people in real life by using your mobile phone in front of them, rather than engaging with them. What a great word he has coined, it even sounds fun to say. A viral campaign is madly spreading showing just how annoying and rude some people find the use of mobile phones. When you read the web page, it is actually quite humorous and the faux “stats” are very clever (obviously made in jest – consider 92% of repeat Phubbers go on to become Politicians! ).
We are very passionate about bringing respect and etiquette into the main playing field, however when something like this goes viral there can be some accidental fallout and unfortunate consequences so we need to be wary. Although many will see the fun in this, some might just take it a bit too seriously.
On the plus side, Alex is so right in encouraging people to actually communicate face to face, and what I really love is that it is highlighting some really important issues that we need to consider. We have blogged before on the issues of smart phones and teens who seem to prefer to text to talking, but is this just a natural movement? Once people only broke up face to face, then the telephone came and some chose to break up that way – now rather than make the call, they text the message. It’s seems harsh and sad, and correct etiquette would be to speak to the person, but there are times when being face to face could actually put someone in danger and this must also be considered. We live in a complex world of heightened emotions and reactions, magnified by the speed and spread of technology.
In my book Futureproof your kids I discuss the behaviours that we are modelling to our children in our use of phones and other technology, and I advocate putting the phone down and away during meal times and in the supermarket and restaurants. Our children need to learn life skills not just how to use a phone!
In Japan for example, where mobile phone culture (keitai culture) has been an issue for some time, there have long been regulations around use of mobile phones on public transport. Personally I hate it if I get a call on a train because you have to talk out loud, it doesn’t feel very private. On the other hand people sitting beside you can be chatting away very loudly while you are trying to read and we are hardly going to tell them not to talk are we?. However the time on transport is time when one can continue to work, therefore I see no problem with texting a response, or researching information when I’m on the train.
When it comes to Café’s and Restaurants, many of these are actually increasing their patronage because of mobile technology. The benefit of quickly spreading reviews, sharing offers and deals and having their marketing done for them, by their customers through photos and posts of fun times, and great food being shared on instagram and facebook cannot be ignored. I think if people want to take a few photos and share them with friends, there is generally no harm in that, but I also believe the phones should be put away after the initial “checking in” phase and if a call needs to be taken, then get up and move away from the table. We must also be aware that most people don’t carry a separate camera now, they have their phone, so they take and share a photo of a birthday celebration and send it immediately to share with other loved ones who are not present and there is no harm it that. The harm is when we actually stop engaging with one another and the table falls quiet with only the soft sounds of keys being pressed takes over.
The concern I have for this particular issue going a bit pear shaped, is where the campaign goes on a quest to “name and shame” phubbers, with a place to upload photos. The site itself appears to only have a few photos (I did not test it to see if I could upload) which says to me they are put there for fun and to provoke thought. Some really do make your eyes pop however. Kissing and texting at the same time.. now that is really disrespectful – how disengaged from the moment – that is quite tragic.
There is a possibility however, that some may really take this to town and end up humiliating or bullying people using phones. The campaign says SHAME A PHUBBER… it goes on to say, don’t hold back, “be brutal”. Even if the site itself is not posting images, others might start shaming on various platforms around the world. In an environment where we are fighting so hard against bullying, this appears to be an incongruity. We must temper this with not making generalisations about why someone might be texting or on their phone at a particular moment. For example, sharing a photo of a newborn with grandparents who live far away, calling at a restaurant because you have just been proposed to – there are always reasons and many of them are things of joy which are also part of life and we should celebrate.
There are also those who for many reasons have difficulty in engaging face to face, but for whom texting has opened a world which was previously unknown to them. These are all important reasons for us to take care with the spread of this clever campaign. Three cheers for raising awareness but hold back with the name and shaming – let’s not let it get out of hand.
Here is the link to the Stopphubbing site. Enjoy the read. Come back and share your opinions!
There are some great articles hitting the web around Phubbing. Here are a few worth a read:
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