When the Phubber Hits the Road: Reclaiming the Lost Art of Conversation
Has this ever happened to you?
● You’re out for lunch and see phones on the tables - couples are checking their notifications as they eat
● You’re walking down the grocery store aisle and hear someone talking to an invisible person - through an earpiece
● You notice an audience member checking email during a speech
We tap and swipe our phones an average 2600 times per day, yet we’re having fewer quality conversations.
When I was growing up, the only social problems we had with phones were teenage girls holding up the family lines for hours at a time, or my mother answering the phone for my little brother and calling out:
“B-e-n, there’s a phone call for you … and it’s a g-i-i-i-i-rl.”
Those were good times ... if you were a big sister.
Now, a marketing firm has coined a new term: phubbing. It combines the “ph” from phone and the “ubbing” of snubbing. And it means paying more attentions to our phones than to the people right in front of us.
A study in China has shown phubbing leads to lower satisfaction in couples and a possible increase in depression.
Another study in the UK found simply placing a mobile phone in a room where two people were having a conversation resulted in lowered ratings for closeness, empathy, and trust.
It gets worse. Young people no longer ask each other out on dates. Seventeen Magazine recently published a post promoting dating apps. Teens can now find their perfect match by swiping right or left - with priority given to those in a handy range. Quick and easy.
And me? I have a modest 8000 social media followers I hardly know. I’ve been encouraged by a specialist to connect with as many as 100 new contacts per day. I write ads, emails, and reports for profiles of the perfect sales prospects - then gather statistics to see how well they worked.
It’s a modern paradox: as we become more connected, we’re losing the art of conversation.
How can we create better conversations in a busy, distracted world?
One day, an answer came to me in a pillar of fire.
Seriously. It was an actual pillar of fire.
I was looking out the front window and saw it. Flames were shooting up - up - up from the family van toward the overhang of our roof.
My brave husband sprang into action right away. He grabbed the kitchen fire extinguisher and headed out to the driveway.
“Don’t do it!” I called. The canister was the size of a can of hairspray.
He stood next to the blaze and fiddled with the latch.
I yelled again, “What if it blows?” and called 911.
Then, I did what any responsible adult would do. I panicked, yelled at the kids, and got everyone safely away from the house.
A big fire truck came and put out the blaze with a sea of foamy spray.
We were left with a driveway full of gooey black metallic sludge. A truck soon drove up to tow away the van. No, not the burnt one. The other one. It had died of old age earlier that same week. The door had fallen off and the gaskets had blown.
We began to hit the road.
We started biking, walking, and riding the bus. We walked into the bank instead of using the drive-through. We met friends at the coffee shop across the street. We shopped at the neighborhood stores instead of driving across town. We discovered one employee had a degree in Theology and another was an advocate for disabled adults. We heard their stories.
By slowing down and scaling down, I’ve also started having better conversations online
A sales coach helped me learn to take one more step toward authentically personal conversations in my business. He taught me to reach out with a call ... to send a video … to meet someone in person for coffee. I started a podcast. And I’m beginning to reach out to others in my local business community.
Don’t get burned by technology.
Imagine how our conversations and lives will change if we learn to slow down, put away the phones, and take more time to listen to the people in front of us right now - both in person and online.
Take one more step ...
Look around. Your next great conversation is waiting to happen.
P.S. I’m proud to say, I’m not a phubber. In fact, just last New Year’s, the whole family sat together around the dinner table in friendly conversation … getting Siri and Google Assistant to gossip about Alexa.
Judy Olbrych, B2B Copywriter and Communications Strategist, increases ROI for international brands with high-conversion copy. Read more at www.judyolbrych.com
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