Woe Is Me! “My Friend Won’t Stop Texting Even When I’m Talking to Her”
Woe Is Me! is a series in which The Swaddle team indulges your pity party with advice you’ll probably ignore.
“I have a friend who texts constantly! We’re at dinner, and she’s reaching under the table for her phone. We’re having a serious conversation, and she’s glancing at her phone like an addict. Even while she’s telling a story about herself, she can’t stop the itch to check her messages. How do I put an end to this super rude habit?”
— Tired of Phony Friends
RD: Okay, my mom does this constantly and it’s really annoying. I think it’s called phubbing. Like, OP is being constantly phubbed. I think it’s best to just tell the person, “Hey, this is really annoying, makes me think you’re not listening to me and that I’m talking to a wall.” Any conversation cannot be productive if one person is distracted. I’d say treat this with a strike process — two strikes after this has been communicated to the person. After which, I’d assume the person would have to grovel to hang out and would basically be on trial. And if for some reason this friendship is really important and not hanging out with the person is not an option, I say take some work with you. If they’re somewhere else mentally, you might as well be productive and shut THEM out. Harsh? Well, that’s how it be.
PP: The super rude habit here to end here is your friendship with this person who clearly doesn’t respect your time or presence enough to put her phone down! Life’s too short to go around telling people that life’s too short and they should put their phone down. You’re too (h)old for this. But since you clearly care enough about this person to send this into an advice column (*rolls eyes*), speak to her ONCE. Tell her there’s other stuff you could be doing too, but since you made the (now questionable) decision to spend time with her, Newton’s Third Law says she must do the same. If she mends her ways, you have a friend! If she doesn’t, meh. C’est la vie, in the 21st century.
AJ: My most natural response to this would be to phub her back! To a point where she realizes the gaping silence and puts her phone away. Phub her till she stops phubbing. I’ve seen it work! The minute you start using your phone, they get back to their storytelling. Fool-proof.
ADT: As someone who’s emotionally attached to their phone to the point where it’s almost a bodily organ, I sympathize with your friend — but I also get where you’re coming from. I think what would work best is to call their behavior out in a light, easy way — like ask them what they’re looking at, or make a joke about their addiction to their phone — just pull their leg about it! They’re very likely to get super insecure and put their phone away, or at least be conscious that they’re being rude when they’re on the phone around you.
RD: ADT I have done what you propose, and can I just say, people’s skins are thicker than that and it. does. not. work. I have been told I’m being too sensitive and reassured that they’re still listening to me. Which … I mean come on, I know they aren’t. And I have delightful things to say, I might add.
AM: This is what I do when I go out with family and friends who are really my friends: collect all their phones and put them upside down on one corner of the table. And it has allowed us to spend some really good quality time. Time and again. The only time I give the phones back is when they want to take food photos or groupies, but then, I always take it back. People hate me for it, but they don’t deserve my time or talking if they’re elsewhere or in someone else’s world. It’s not something you can do with everyone, but if this is a habit, the friend needs to know that it’s disrespectful and that you’ve noticed it.
SM: Glad that you’re phoning a friend about your phone-y friend! Okay, now that that terrible joke (can’t believe I’m referencing KBC) is out of the way, I feel like this phone-using habit is an issue because your friend doesn’t value your time or presence and is low-key taking you for granted. Even for people who are attached to their phones to the point of it being a bodily organ (shout-out to ADT), they do make choices about who they can do this with. Like, would she do this on a first date or at a really important business meeting? Taking time out for your friends and ensuring you’re 100% there when you’re with them is emotional labor — and if you’re doing this for her, she should definitely do this for you. You should bring this up with her in a non-anxiety-inducing way, maybe reference something you used to do in the past, which annoyed her. This tactic has helped me when I’ve brought up an annoying habit with a friend.
LG: Okay, can I make a suggestion? Maybe this is not the friend to go to with serious problems, for serious conversations. Maybe this is the friend to go to when you want zone out, but not alone. Let me explain: One of my favorite things in life is to read a book while friends/loved ones are in the same room and/or nearby chatting and moving around. I have a dear friend with whom I regularly zombie-scroll on our phones, individually and in silence, occasionally sharing whatever has struck our attention but mostly just relaxing together. (Although, it’s important to note that that friend would and has put down the phone to listen to my problems many times, and vice versa.) So yes, your friend is being rude if she can’t finish a serious conversation without checking her phone. But maybe there’s also an opportunity here to scratch the itch of companionable zoning out?
SG: If this person is a good friend then he/she will understand if you tell them that it is super rude to keep looking at your phone all the time and how much it makes you want to just stop talking or sharing anything with that friend (at least that’s what happens with me). So, my family has a rule that whenever all of us sit together for the meals, NO PHONES ALLOWED! Maybe just tell her (in a nice way) that this is not cool. “You might as well just be at home and hangout with your phone than with me.”
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