Seems like America may have a pphubbing problem.
New research from Baylor University has found that “pphubbing” — or, “partner phone snubbing” — is ruining relationships. Researchers said that partners feel a greater disconnect when their partner snubs them for their phone.
More than 46 percent of partners said they were pphubbed by their partner, with 22.6 percent saying that the pphubbing caused issues for their relationship, according to the study.
In fact, 36.6 percent of survey participants said they felt depressed some of the time they were pphubbed.
“What we discovered was that when someone perceived that their partner phubbed them, this created conflict and led to lower levels of reported relationship satisfaction,” one of the researchers, James A. Roberts, said in a statement. “These lower levels of relationship satisfaction, in turn, led to lower levels of life satisfaction and, ultimately, higher levels of depression.”
To find this, researchers conducted two surveys with 453 adults about how often their partners used their cellphones and how often they felt their partners were distracted by their phones when the two partners spent time together.
The first survey asked questions about where partners placed their phone when they were together, how often they looked at the phone and if they checked it during a “lull in our conversation,” according to the study.
The second survey measured how much pphubbing was done by the couples.
The researchers found that too much time spent on the phone will create conflict among couples.
“In everyday interactions with significant others, people often assume that momentary distractions by their cell phones are not a big deal,” researcher Meredith David said. “However, our findings suggest that the more often a couple’s time spent together is interrupted by one individual attending to his/her cellphone, the less likely it is that the other individual is satisfied in the overall relationship.”
The pphubbing trend has been around since at least 2013. In fact, Time magazine reported that year that Australian graduate student Alex Haigh created a “Stop Phubbing” campaign to inspire people to look away from their phones and engage in true conversations.
“It has exploded,” Haigh told the Melbourne Herald Sun in 2013. “It’s one of those things that regardless of where you are, everyone has experienced it.“
That’s still the case two years later. Several pieces of research have pointed towards how smartphones and cellphones can hurt a relationship. For example, a 2014 study published in the International Journal of Neuropsychotherapy found that when one partner uses smartphones more than their partner, the other partner feels ignored and less secure about the relationship.
Similarly, a 2014 study published in the journal Psychology of Popular Media Culture found that "technoference" has often led to more relationship conflicts. The study said that couples with partners who use too much technology often report "lower relationship satisfaction, more depressive symptoms, and lower life satisfaction."
There may be no easy fix for this issue because so many Americans are dependent on their smartphones. Ninety percent of Americans own some sort of cellphone, while 64 percent own a smartphone, according to the Pew Research Center. Seven percent of owners told Pew that they are "smartphone dependent."
Most smartphone users will use their device for texting, phone calls and Internet use, according to Pew. That’s far from the only thing people can use their smartphones for. Americans also use their smartphones to check email and social networks, take photos and videos, and play games or music, according to Pew.
Experts suggest that couples work to put down their smartphones so they can avoid many of the conflicts associated with too much use.
Sarah Coyne, psychologist at Brigham Young University and researcher for the "technoference" study, told NPR there are ways to put down the smartphone without getting rid of technology all together, like creating rules about when it’s OK to have the devices out.
"It's not silly for couples to make rules about technology," Coyne said.
NPR said couples can have conversations about when it's appropriate to have their devices out.
Coyne just tries to avoid the temptation altogether.
"Put [the phone] out of my reach, like on top of the refrigerator,” Coyne told NPR, “just so that it releases the temptation."
Head over to Roberts’ recent article for The Huffington Post that offers questions to help you determine if you’re pphubbing your partner.
For more on putting away your smartphone:
Herb Scribner is a writer for Deseret News National. Send him an email at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @herbscribner.