Phubbing: the enticing cyber-trap

Phubbing: the enticing cyber-trap
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A young assistant professor walks into a hall at a top college in Kerala where a seminar on 'The concepts of cyber psychology' is on. The entry needs special mention as he abruptly shuffles in, never bothering to take his eyes off the phone. Mechanically, he drags a chair and positions himself almost at the centre of the audience, making himself visible to all those around. All the while, his eyes and hands wandered through the mystic trance of the cyberworld. While this author, handling the session, mentioned the various psycho-social problems stemming from cell phone and social media addiction, this man was exemplifying it before the students.

Welcome to phubbing

Welcome to the world of phubbing, a term coined as part of a campaign by Macquarie Dictionary to describe the habit and practice of ignoring one's companion or companions to pay attention to someone who is thousands of miles away. Most probably, this could be a friend you have never met or never exists in reality. It was coined as a 'need of the time word.'

Cell phone addiction is the cause for different behavioural problems and disorders, particularly in adolescents.

Various fears

The psycho-social impact of cell phone addiction has warranted new pathological terms, such as:

Phubbing: the enticing cyber-trap

Nomophobia (No-Mobile-Phobia): the fear of being without a cell phone, disconnected or off the Internet; textaphrenia: thinking a message had arrived when it has not; textiety: the anxious feeling of not receiving or sending text messages; ringxiety or phanton vibration syndrome: the perception that one's mobile phone is vibrating or ringing when it is not ringing; Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO): the false sensation of having received a text message or call that leads to constantly checking the device.

Sociological impact

Until recently, the three main reasons for divorce were sex, children, and financial problems. Now, cellphone has undoubtedly become the main cause of the skyrocketing divorce rates.

Couples have no time to enjoy the proximity and presence of their partners as they are busy checking likes and comments on Instagram and Facebook. While they are keen on grooming their digital identity with photo-shopped images and glossy and charming words, their real life relations get too compromised.

The characteristic cuddling, fondling and cosying up of young couples are unfortunately being replaced by endless scrolling on the phone.

Are you in love with the phone?

The results of a survey conducted by Durex, a health and well-being company, are shocking. Five per cent of people checked their Facebook during sex, 12 per cent had answered a phone call, and 10 per cent had read a text. While a text or a call could be given the leniency of 'could be an urgent live threatening call,' how could a post with ten useless hashtags of eating out deviate someone from sex?

As many as 70 per cent of women revealed that smartphones were negatively affecting their primary relationship.

Roberts, professor of marketing at Baylor University, asked 175 men and women questions about their partners’ smartphone use. Nearly 46 per cent of respondents reported being phone snubbed (phubbed) by their partner.

David Greenfield, a University of Connecticut psychiatry professor and founder of the Center for Internet and Technology Addiction, has designed a self administering test to monitor your cell phone addiction.

Cell phone the loved one

The perceived anonymity, security, privacy, the non-delayed gratification attained by instant messaging services and the mesmerizing world of social media, unparalleled and extravagant love and care being promised by chat friends etc. lure people to the cyberworld.

The cyberworld promises a plethora of opportunity which the real world cannot think of - uninterrupted, unlimited connectivity, opportunity for safe and unlimited friendship, sexual opportunity and dating avenues, knowledge, entertainment and everything under the sun.

It is so sad the people dine at home looking at their phone.

We miss a lot when we do not talk looking into other's eyes. We fail to understand the hidden emotions and unspoken cues. We are evolved as human beings not as bots. When we rely too much on machines, we ultimately miss the 'human part.'

Next time when a friend keeps ignoring you, failing to keep eye contact, scrolling through his cell phone, say it loud - Stop phubbing. Let the word phubbing ring through, indicating an uncultured, barbarian act.

(The author is a behavioural psychologist and a cyber psychology consultant)

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