A group of 276 participants took several questionnaires that measured their experiences of phubbing and being phubbed, as well as scales for internet addiction, smartphone addiction, self-control, and fear of missing out (FOMO). These all bore out in the expected ways: the people most likely to be glued to a screen while surrounded by friends were low in self-control, high in FOMO, and higher on the scales for internet and smartphone addiction. (It’s still questionable whether one can really be “addicted” to the internet, but these scales basically measure whether a person uses it compulsively, and whether it interferes with their life.)
The most interesting thing this study found was that people who reported phubbing more often were also more likely to be phubbed themselves. The authors, from the University of Kent, suggest several possible reasons for this. One is a simple retaliation—if you’re trying to talk to someone, and they’re on their phone, well, two can play at that game.