Menu Relationship issues
Is your FOMO turning you into a phubber?

Is your FOMO turning you into a phubber? Is your phubbing becoming pphubbing? And what does it have to do with your phone and your relationship?

Thanks to smartphones and social media, we have unprecedented access to our social circles. Our friends and partners are only ever a glance away, waiting in our handbags, pockets, unicycle saddlebags, or wherever you’re keeping your phone these days. Unlike our ancestors who lived in caves and used dial-up, we need never miss another chance to let our loved ones know we are thinking of them.

But, as you have probably experienced, all this convenience can lead to a fear of missing out (FOMO) which can, in turn, lead to phone-snubbing people in real life. This is called phubbing and if you phub your partner, it’s called pphubbing. Yep, there’s an extra ‘p’.

Fear of missing out vs actually missing out

Do you always wait until you’re alone before checking your phone and replying to messages? Can you ignore the constant vibrations of a chatty group of friends, or do you need to whip out your phone and throw in your two cents even when you’re supposed to be spending quality time with your partner?

In a relationship, it’s important to give each other your full attention, but FOMO can play on your mind, nagging at you to check your phone and see what’s new. It can take a lot of self-control and confidence to resist this urge [1].

It feels innocent enough to throw out a quick message before returning to your real-life conversation but if you’ve ever been on the receiving end, you’ll know what it feels like to get pphubbed. How often have you looked up to see your partner’s thumbs rapidly firing off a message to a WhatsApp group that you’re not in? If you’re super-confident, it might not be a big deal – you can wait for your partner to re-join the conversation – but if you’re still finding your place in the relationship or if you’re not sure where you stand, it can really sting.

Being pphubbed can affect how happy you feel in your relationship [2]. A partner who is routinely pphubbed may, consciously or otherwise, start to reciprocate the behaviour, pphubbing you back until it becomes normal for the two of you to be sitting together having separate conversations with people who aren’t even in the room [1]. Before you know it, you’re on a pphub crawl and you can’t even remember how it started.

Making connections

This doesn’t mean you should delete all your social media apps and fling your phone into the sea. For a start, lithium batteries should be disposed of safely and you can always sell or recycle unwanted technology. Also, your phone can make communicating with your partner easier, letting you say things that might not be easy to say in person.

What you communicate to each other over the phone may vary from messages of love to checking if you need anything from the shop. And these more practical messages, while they may seem trivial, can help you stay connected, improving your communication and intimacy [3].

Having a good relationship isn’t always about improving things. Much of the time, it can be enough just to maintain the things that are already working. Some easy ways to strengthen your relationship by expressing your feelings over the phone include:

  • Telling your partner how good they make you feel.
  • Being open about what you need and want from the relationship.
  • Reassuring your partner of the commitment you have made to them [4].

You needn’t overthink this but do try to communicate about the important things as well as the little things [4].

Keeping an eye on your social media use

Social media can help you feel more connected, allowing you to reach out to people and develop relationships. It can help you figure out who you are and who you want to be, and it can be a vital means of support if you’re feeling lonely or anxious [5].

But it can also lead you into situations that don’t feel good. If you’re worried you’re spending too much time online, or if your online life is getting difficult, consider taking a break. Step up your privacy settings, block any users who are causing you problems and walk away for a while. It can sometimes help to deactivate your accounts or delete the apps from your phone until you feel a bit better. A rest can make all the difference to how you approach your phone in future. If you’re really worried, talk to someone you trust [5], or ask the community here on Click.

Use your phone for whatever social support you need and take advantage of the helpful things is gives you access to, but don’t let FOMO turn you into a phubber – and certainly not a pphubber! Nobody is going to forget you if you don’t respond to their messages right away, but they may start to resent you if you disappear into your phone when they’re sitting right opposite you.


[1] Chotpitayasunondh, Varoth, and Karen M. Douglas. 2016. ‘How “phubbing” Becomes the Norm: The Antecedents and Consequences of Snubbing via Smartphone’. Computers in Human Behavior 63 (October):9–18.

[2] Roberts, James A., and Meredith E. David. 2016. ‘My Life Has Become a Major Distraction from My Cell Phone: Partner Phubbing and Relationship Satisfaction among Romantic Partners’. Computers in Human Behavior 54 (January):134–41.

[3] Boyle, Andrea M., and Lucia F. O’Sullivan. 2016. ‘Staying Connected: Computer-Mediated and Face-to-Face Communication in College Students’ Dating Relationships’. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking 19 (5):299–307.

[4] Rus, Holly M., and Jitske Tiemensma. 2017. ‘“It”s Complicated.’ A Systematic Review of Associations between Social Network Site Use and Romantic Relationships’. Computers in Human Behavior 75 (October): 684–703.

[5] Frith (2017). Social media and children’s mental health: a review of the evidence. Education Policy institute.

Comments 0