PHUBBING: snubbing (ignoring) someone on the phone

phubbingParticipating in social media which employs a cellphone requires some personal decisions on the part of users.  It is not a simple thing to establish a relationship with others over the cellphone without first determining just how that phone will impact upon one’s life.

Obviously, there are some people who allow the cellphone to dominate their life.  If the phone rings, you answer it.  No matter where you are in a conversation with a live person, or in a situation in which you are required to be attentive.   Nothing is more infuriating to a store clerk than to be ringing up a sale and to have the customer answer a phone and interrupt the process.  The same is true for someone with whom you are having an important conversation, only to have the other person click on to their cellphone in the middle of a sentence.

It almost seems as if the conversation on the cell phone supercedes anything else in the world.  There is nothing more important than answering the damned phone.  Some people will apologize blankly and turn their back to take the call.  Others will simply punch in the green telephone glyff and begin talking.

If someone is expecting an important call, it is appropriate to say to the other person, “I know it’s impolite, but I’m expecting a call which I must take when it comes through.  I apologize in advance, but it’s too important not to take it.”   That way, you have made allowance for the interruption, and the other person knows it is not a personal snub.  But this advance warning should be used only when it is actually a very important call.  Overuse of the apology can become an unwelcome trait.

Sometimes, the call interrupts something other than a conversation.  A student, writer, or other person may be right in the middle of a very important task.  The flow of thoughts is very important and the recipient of the call knows that the thought will be lost if the call is taken.   The option, then, is not to take the call.   Let it keep ringing.   Ignore the sound of the ring.   Some people have a device on their phone which they can choose in advance that sets up a written note on the screen of the caller, telling them that you can’t be disturbed right now, and that they can leave a message on Voicemail…or call back…or that the receiver of the call will call them back.  The ritual for this, however, is to be sure that  the call-back is done in a reasonable amount of time.  To just forget to call back is rude.  Unless of course, there is no intention of calling back.  That is an intentional snub, or… as this blog post wants to identify…the person on the other end of the phone call has been phubbed.

Phubbing is a new word, one of those emerging from new technology, which joins together the words phone and snubbing.   To intentionally dismiss the caller with no intention of returning the call, is to phubb them.   Some of us restrict that act to commercial calls from unsolicited companies.  We think that we have solved that problem by enrolling in a program to block unsolicited sales calls.  But the reality is that phone telemarketers have ways to get around the system.   If the receiver has a visual system to identify the caller, it is easy to just ignore the call.   There is no need to promise to call back.   You have no intention of doing such a thing.  You just phubb them and forget about it.  (We do that all the time, especially when we are in the middle of a meal.)

Because the word phubbing is related to the word “snub,” there is a sense of intentional nastiness.   I suppose it’s better than picking up the phone and saying, “Go to Hell.  I’m not interested.”    However, phubbing may lead the telemarketer to put the phone number on a “call-back” list, and you will eventually have to bear the experience of answering the call in order to let them know you’re not interested.


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