ATHENS, Ga. — With smartphones and social media being a constant presence in the lives of so many people, it’s safe to say most people have at some point snubbed a friend to look at their phone instead. Researchers from the University of Georgia say people generally view the act of “phubbing” as rude, yet plenty of phone users still do it. So what’s driving people to ignore the friends they’re face-to-face with in favor of staring at a digital screen? A new study finds mental health and certain personality traits play a big role in social rudeness.
The team notes that phubbing can seriously damage relationships with friends and even loved ones. During their study of what drives people to do this, they discovered that there is a strong connection between depression and anxiety and people phubbing. Overall, depressed individuals were more likely to phub friends often. Socially anxious people, who may prefer online interactions to face-to-face contact, also appear to phub more often.
In addition to mental health conditions, the team says personality traits like neuroticism can influence phone users to neglect their friends during in-person gatherings.
“And of course, some people who have high social anxiety or depression are more likely to be addicted to their smartphone,” says lead author Juhyung Sun, who completed her master’s degree in communication studies at UGA, in a university release.