This week was St. Valentine's Day – a tradition that started in Rome, or maybe elsewhere, with a romantic but sad story, or several stories, at least one of which came to an end on Feb. 14, 269 AD.
Hundreds of years later, around the 14th-15th centuries, the memories about St. Valentine, or St. Valentines and even one Valentine, grew into a celebration of romance and love that not that long ago spread across the globe. (Look it up, if you are curious about the story, or stories; it's pretty peculiar, and I find something new every time I Google it.)
Ahead of today's international lovers' festival, I came across an interesting article. It was dedicated to a contemporary habit, which probably no St. Valentine, or even a dozen of them, could have fixed. It's called phubbing.
The term was new to me, as it probably is to most people since the phenomenon is definitely an attribute of the 21st century. Phubbing comes from two words – phone snubbing. It is an act of ignoring a partner in favour of using a smartphone. The phone can be used to surf social media or the internet or for work, to look up the news or play solitaire, to text someone who's not present or to check emails. It usually covers anything but speaking on the phone. (I'm assuming spending a night talking on the phone in the presence of another person at a restaurant, for example, is just too rude to use anything but swear words for it.)
The term phubbing was created in 2012, but unlike the phenomenon, it didn't become as widespread over the past 10 years. However, the effects phubbing has on our relations are getting more and more researched.
The article I came across said that an online survey conducted in Turkey and described by Psychological Reports found that people who experience phubbing are less satisfied in their relationships and evaluate its quality as lower.
Phones became an integral part of our lives, which pretty much turns us into cyborgs (by definition, individuals whose physical abilities are extended beyond natural human limitations by mechanical elements connected to the body; read – smartphones glued to our hands).
We use them to communicate, shop, bank, find gifts or inspiration, plan holidays, take pictures and confidently navigate through the world and life. We use them for work and recreation. We use them a lot, and often don't notice the price tag benefits they give us come with.
I know that if I forget my phone somewhere, I feel really uncomfortable. Some people actually develop fears of leaving phones behind, running out of a battery, or just feel addicted to their smartphones. On top of it, phones strongly affect how we communicate. While they help us stay connected no matter where we are, they also drive us apart when we are close by.
Not only does turning focus away from the surroundings make face-to-face interaction shallower, but it also hurts the other person.
Research connects phubbing to depression and family conflicts. It results in higher levels of dissatisfaction in romantic relationships. And while the conducted study showed that it wasn't directly affecting the level of life satisfaction, indirectly people who are happy in their romantic relationships are usually more satisfied. So apparently the price we pay for connection with our phones might be indeed significant – the connection with our loved ones.
That thought made me pay a bit more attention to my own behaviour as well as to the world around me.
Due to St. Valentine's falling on a Tuesday this year, some places had a lovers' day menu and special events ahead of time. I was away from my hubby, which gave me an opportunity to observe life around me, and I caught a few St. Valentine's celebrations.
Twice I ended up in restaurants, decorated with pink and red and filled with hearts of all sizes, surrounded by couples of all ages. And a lot of them were doing it. And I wish that by "it" I mean cuddling or kissing. (I'm not a big fan of public display of feelings, but hey, it's St. Valentine's Day). But no, they were phubbing.
I felt as if I was one of those ancient Valentines – I wanted to go above and beyond to help people to enjoy their love, but in this case, it might have been illegal. I assume that to become a metaphorical St. Valentine of the 21st century, I'd need to pretend that I'm a hostess, confiscate all smartphones upon entering and give people something relaxing instead, so they could celebrate their love and sincerely enjoy their time with their partners.