The other day during lunch, I commented to my table mates about a couple sitting nearby.
The two had their heads bowed, their eyes concentrating on their phone screens and their thumbs madly tapping out text messages. They were having lunch together, separately.
“I can’t stand it when people go to lunch and then spend the whole time staring at their phones,” I said softly, so the offenders wouldn’t hear.
“That’s called phubbing,” our son replied.
“Kind of like snubbing, only with phones,” he said.
The two, oblivious to much of anything going on around them, kept on texting for quite awhile. They conversed briefly, then the man got a phone call and later texted some more.
Aside from the rudeness of the whole scenario was the fact that they didn’t fit what I thought was the profile of a rampant texter. They weren’t teens, twenty-somethings or even thirty-somethings. I’d guess they were in their late 50s or older.
That night, I went to the computer and searched for “phubbing.” I got more than 100,000 hits.
Phubbing was defined on several sites as “the act of snubbing someone in a social setting by looking at your phone instead of paying attention.”
A number of sites decried it for its rudeness and offered examples.
BuzzFeed UK, a British site, offered “25 reasons we all need to stop phubbing each other.” It showed captioned photos as examples, mostly drawn from the celebrity and sports world, although one was of a bride and groom, each texting at the altar.
Another site talked about the increasing incidence of pedestrians being mowed down, not by texting drivers – although that remains a concern – but because the pedestrian, his or her face buried in a phone screen, stepped out into traffic.
Still another site offered the “Jane Austen guide to mobile phone manners,” a sort of “what would Jane do?” approach.
Several of the sites mentioned stopphubbing.com, an anti-phubbing site set up by a 23-year-old Australian man. Incidentally, the site apparently has gone viral.
After several attempts to log onto the site to check it out, I gave up. Too much traffic, I guess.
I will admit to making and taking the occasional phone call while sitting at lunch or in another social setting. Mostly that has been to confirm that someone else is on his or her way to the engagement, or to check on a siren screaming somewhere.
The latter is one of the dangers of the news business – we need to know if something is big enough to make us leave lunch behind and go chase a fire truck.
I have a “dumb phone,” not a smartphone. My phone was cheap. It makes and receives calls, although I’m told I could text with it if I wanted to. I do get an occasional text, mostly related to work.
I’ve never been guilty of texting to the exclusion of my lunch partner, because I don’t know how to text. It’s not something on my must-do list.
I can’t check emails, log onto Twitter or Facebook, watch cat videos or check stock quotes on my phone, nor do I want to.
Sometimes ignorance – and an uninterrupted lunch – is bliss.
Dee Camp is a reporter at The Chronicle. She can be reached via email at email@example.com.