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Screen Snubbing Hurts. For Happier Relationships And Better Mental Health- Here’s How To Stop It

When was the last time you were in a great conversation that got interrupted by the other person breaking connection and looking down at their phone or computer? The better question is: When was the last time that ``DIDN'T" happen?.... 

You're not alone. A recent study* showed that 48% of people snub via their device 203 times a day! 

That's why I like to call this now common occurrence, Screen Snubbing. The bad habit of looking away from other people in order to pay attention to your screen. 

Screen Snubbing can happen over a meal, while waiting in line at the movies or a concert, on a date or in an important meeting.  In can happen at the office and it can happen at home.

Think about the last meeting you were in a meeting- perhaps it was even a Zoom conference call.  There you were, engaged, perhaps answering a question or telling a great story when you felt it, you saw it.

Someone looked away, their gaze wandering and then clearly focusing on something else.  Were they looking at someones text or watching another video?  Could you tell they were typing?  If you were with them in person, you knew for sure.  Something on their laptop, their desktop computer or their phone was more important or maybe just more interesting than you.

Just because screen snubbing has become a part of our everyday lives, doesn't mean it's right.  In fact, Screen Snubbing has deep reaching consequences. It can hurt relationships and your mental health. Here's what the research shows:


  • Screen Snubbing Doesn't Feel Nice

  • Being Screen Snubbed Can Cause Anxiety And Depression

  • Being Screen Snubbed Can Cause One To Focus On The Negative

  • Screen Snubbing Causes Conflict and Unhappiness in Relationships

  • The More You Screen Snub, The More Normal It Seems


"C'mon Babe It's Just Rude.   Look At Me, Not Your Phone."

Tracey A Dennis, Professor and Researcher has come to the conclusion that breaking conversation or connection and looking away at screens is gnawing away at the connection in our relationships. She's working with a team now for  study that's yet to be released,  but already she's found that participants  in Phubbing (the term for Phone Snubbing) experiments felt that the person screen snubbing them was rude- but also she notes

" . . .they also showed less happiness, more anxiety and heightened attention to negative rather than positive information in an assessment immediately following the experiment."

Choosing Your Screen Over Me Makes Me Anxious and Depressed

Many of us can probably relate to how it feels to be engaged with someone and have them look away at a screen.  All the sudden the good conversation and connection feels false.  It makes sense that the folks in the experiment began to focus on negative, rather that positive information. 

But they're adults.  Can you imagine how kids feel? You'll see Professor Dennis here in this truly heart breaking visual of her experiments of what happens to kids when their parents Screen Snub them.

I love that Dennis is doing this research- but oh, it's SO painful to watch!

This is just a glimpse of the larger study, Dennis says that "Children became distressed and despondent when they could not connect with their parents. If parents reported spending high levels of time on screens at home, children showed less emotional resilience and greater difficulty reconnecting with parents once the two-minute period was over."

Screen Snubbed Partners Just Aren't As Happy In Their Relationships

Raise your hands if you've felt this way when your partner was with you, but it felt like they were somewhere else or with someone else as they smiled or laughed as they looked at a screen.

In a study of screens and intimate relationships, the term "technoference" was used and women said it was ruining their relationships. They researchers found that the everyday screen intrusions interrupted the flow of conversation.

Ya think?  Nothing worse then having that all important "talk" only to have your hubby look away at the screen.  And it goes both ways, sometimes we like the "escape hatch" masquerading as a screen when we don't want to talk.

And here's a tidbit that will get you thinking or wondering- In a recent survey of 1,000 healthy adults, 17% admitted to checking their screens during sex. What!?

Yes, which is just one more reason the results of this study  are not surprising.

Screen interruptions or Screen Snubbing if you will, was was associated  with higher conflict and lower relationships satisfaction.143 married or cohabiting women, were asked how tech was effecting their relationships.  A stunning majority reported that phones, computers and other technology devices were significantly disruptive in their relationships.

And it’s not just women who don’t appreciate the dis of a screen snub, A newer study** of 245 married couples came to the same conclusion: marital and relationship dissatisfaction. And that in turn led to depression.  Is whatever is on that screen that important? 


Sadly, The More You Snub And Get Snubbed, The More You're Okay With It.

A study looking at screen addiction ***issues found that more screen addiction behavior, the more there was snubbing and being snubbed.

And even more interesting is that the the study found the more snubbing going on, the more normal it was perceived.


Had Enough Screen Snubbing, Phubbing and Technoference?  Here’s How To Stop It: 

Get Those Screens Out Of Sight

    • This on is pretty obvious - but when you sit down for a coffee with a friend or start a meeting, put your devices in your bag, close that laptop during a presentation or better yet keep all devices in another room this will help keep you from automatically reaching for it or checking notifications. It's been scientifically proven that just having your phone in sight- even when it's in another room- is so distracting. it actually consumes finite brain space- Think of it like it's a person calling out your name!  Put it on Airplane mode to give your body a healthy break from EMF too! 
    The Mental Health Box is a beautiful antidote to the stress and anxiety our technology can create. This lovely curated selection of our favorite products makes a healthy giving gift for you or someone you love.

    Come Up With A Code Word

    • Find you and your BFF or SO screen snubbing each other a lot? Hold each other accountable by coming up with a silly code word you can say when you catch the other one snubbing; like "sunshine" or "peaches" or "Love" or "Put that down or I'll throw it in the trash." Get your kids involved in this too to help build their awareness of screen versus real connectivity. 

    Buy A Watch!

      • Buy a watch! Don't let "checking the time" become an excuse to pull you away from your conversation and into the vortex of notifications. Get an old school watch instead, an Apple Watch will only perpetuate the problem. Here's another reason I don't recommend them and  suggest opting for an alternative.

      Make Your Screen Time "On Purpose"

      • When it's time to write that email, make the phone call, scroll, text, research the wonderful world wide web or finish that report- DO IT.  Don't let people or your device distract you.  I'm nutty about turning off notifications when I need to be engaged- even with my laptop or phone. When you've given your screen a fair share of your time, it's easier to unplug for unconnected time.
      stylus and screen time

      Be Here (There) Now

      • Mindfulness is the practice of being intentional about what you're thinking and what you're doing.  The glorious joys of interacting with your children- whether it's riding in the car or playing on the floor together are multiplied when your experience them fully.  Same goes for time with your partner and hey, even time with your co-workers or clients or the checker at the grocery store.  Be Present.

      --Even back when screens weren't an option, I learned the power of presence--from a real rock star.

      This is a fun story that makes me smile every time I tell it.  Back in the 90's before cell phones, I was invited to a fundraiser for a professional organization of physicians.  We were sat waaay in the back corner of a huge tent full of nicely dressed attendees.  The special entertainment that night was none other than Rod Stewart!  He came out on stage grabbed the microphone and out came that patent pending voice.  I was so into it.  I couldn't stop smiling.  There I was, swaying to the sweet sound of Rod Stewart, clapping of course, with a huge smile on my face. I noticed most of the crowd in front of me was not as enthusiastic and some were even getting up and going--where? Leaving? To the restroom?  The song ended to mild applause from the group.  It seemed like they were just tired from the loong night of speeches and such.  The chatting amongst the tables got louder.  Rod motioned  offstage and a guy came with a wireless microphone and guess what?!  He jumped off the stage and ran through the tables to the back of the room--to MY table! He pulled up a chair and sang to ME the rest of the mini concert.  He even grabbed a glass of water from the table, held it up and toasted me and kissed me on the cheek.

      Being totally engaged in the moment does not go unnoticed. 

      Try it next time you're in any social situation.  Even waiting in line.  When you're with a rock star, whatever.  You just never know.


      Screen Addiction/phubbing study*

      screen addictions study ***

      Marital satisfaction study**


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