An international campaign has now declared war on the practice, known as “phubbing” — phone snubbing. Image Credit: Supplied

London: It is one of the great bugbears of modern living: people checking emails and replying to texts while ignoring the friends they are with.

An international campaign has now declared war on the practice, known as “phubbing” — phone snubbing.

The Stop Phubbing campaign began in Australia and has now spread to Britain and America — two of the countries most affected. The campaign has produced posters to be displayed by businesses, warning customers not to phub, as well as place cards designed to be laid out at weddings as a reminder not to text during the celebrations.

Alex Haigh, 23, from Melbourne, who is leading the campaign, told The Sunday Times: “A group of friends and I were chatting when someone raised how annoying being ignored by people on mobiles was. “It’s the people who do it all the time that we are targeting. It’s a paradox: you disconnect with those around you in favour of those pretty much anywhere else, which often infuriates your friends unless they’re phubbing too, in which case you may as well have stayed at home.”

Haigh said he supported people who took a stand against phubbers, such as the Sainsbury’s checkout assistant in London who last month refused to serve a shopper using her mobile phone. The campaign comes as a YouGov poll found that 44 per cent of people in Britain spend more than half an hour a day looking at their phones. About a third of those polled admitted they would answer their phone in the middle of a conversation.

More than half of people checked social-networking sites such as Facebook or Twitter every day, with 16 per cent checking more than 10 times a day. Phil Reed, professor of psychology at Swansea University and an expert in internet addiction disorder, said many phubbers showed signs of addiction, such as withdrawal, if they were denied constant access to their phones.

He compared the phubbing phenomenon to starting a conversation with one person and then ignoring them as soon as someone else joined in. “We call it a social connection, but it’s not,” he said.

Further research by McCann, an advertising firm, found that 37 per cent of young people believe not answering a message is a far graver faux pas than phubbing friends. However, phubbers’ behaviour may be explained by the fact most people don’t realise they are doing it. Rodney Collins, the regional director of McCann’s Truth Central unit, which carried out the research, said: “People do not appreciate the influence mobiles have had on their lives.”