Leah Dupre, Kennedy Matz, Cody Caldon, Sophie Arnold

Getting to know the problem

With modern day technology and constant connectivity, the act of “phubbing” or phone-snubbing has become more and more common. Phubbing, a term used to describe the act of choosing to check one’s phone over paying attention to friends, partners, or family, is something which most people find rude, but are still guilty of. According to a recent study from Computers in Human Behavior, “ 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” (qtd. in Beck). Although these people are acting from impulse, others in the group may see this behavior as rude. It creates an effect where “if one person in a group is using their phone, that opens the door for others, who may start to think it’s socially acceptable just because they keep seeing people do it” (Beck). This is not only common in friendships, but romantic relationships as well, with much more adverse outcomes. Statistics collected by Baylor University researchers reveal that “46% of people in romantic relationships have been ‘phubbed.’” and “22% say the behavior has caused strain in their relationship” (Salaky). While the habit of phubbing has become so second-nature that it is a norm, it is still a harmful wedge that can divide and split relationships.

Our group wishes to find a solution to reverse “phubbings” path to becoming socially acceptable. We hope to do this by designing a phone feature that creates social pressure to ignore your phone while spending time with others.

User Research

To get a better idea of the condition of phone use within our own social circles, our group conducted a survey which was sent to fellow UC students to complete.

Our team used the survey generator Survey Monkey to help us collect data on how the general population of our age group felt towards cell phone usage. We started off with introductory questions and got more specific towards our ideal product as it went on. We wanted to gage how often millennials use their phones throughout the day and the emotions connected with phone usage. From our findings we were able to see that our peers spent 4+ hours devoted to phone usage per day, and often felt feelings of anxiety and withdrawal when apart from their device for any length of time. It was easy to come to the conclusion that people our age are addicted to their phones more than not. Many despite previous findings however, felt rude to some degree when on their phone in front of friends and family. But only half of our peers feel it’s rude when their friends and family are on their phone in front of them.

We feel the phone has become so ingrained into our society that we often feel and see it as an extension of oneself. So from everything discovered, how could we create something within mobile phone culture that would prompt people to be more present with each other?

Potential Concept Solutions

Company Mode

Our idea for company mode is to include a new button into the pull-up control panel of the iphone, where airplane mode and do not disturb mode are located. When the company mode button is selected, and company mode is on, notifications from social media apps such as facebook, twitter, and instagram are disabled. Imessage notifications would be disabled as well, but calls would not be, since most people receive urgent or important information over the phone. When using your phone in company mode, it allows you to open social media apps, but a message box will pop up and ask, “Are you sure you want to open this app? (large font) / Using social media while with company can be considered rude (smaller font).” This way, users are more likely to recognize their subconscious behavior and stop phubbing the people they are with.

The program would utilize location services so that when in close proximity with someone who is in company mode the user’s phone will create an alert on the home screen that asks “Would you like to turn on company mode.” If you select yes, it will be turned on. A way to incorporate social pressure would be to allow the user to see which phones nearby are on company mode. It would be similar to airdrop, where a list of names such as “Leah’s Iphone” would pop up to indicate who is using it. This creates the social pressure to conform to others in the group rather than be an outcast who may be seen as “rude” for using their phone while nobody else is.

User Testing Method

How we will test: We created a paper prototype of the instruction manual that would show up after iOS 12 is downloaded. The instruction manual would consist of images and notes to give the user a better idea of the functions company mode offers. After allowing them time to review the instruction manual we would ask them a series of follow up questions to ensure they understood how it worked.

Did you feel you understood the directions?

Do you feel you understood the purpose of this function?

Would you use this app in the future?

Do you feel you would be pressured into using it if your peers around you were as well?

Do you feel this is necessary?

So because this is a paper prototype we realize not every single one of these questions could be answered with full confidence from our peers. But we asked them to put themselves into this scenario and after interacting with the paper to answer as truthfully as they felt they could. These are our results:

Person A:

Question 1- Yes, I feel it was concise and to the point.

2- Yeah, it was to get people off their phones and paying attention to their friends.

3- Yeah probably, I really like the concept that it is a middle man between “do not disturb” and having one’s phone as normal.

4- No, I don’t feel I am easily peer pressured and my friends around me are pretty understanding of one another.

5- Maybe, I think this would help some more than others.

Person B:

Question 1- Yeah it was pretty simple to understand. I feel it is very similar to how Apple structured their drop down menu in the current update, and I have no issues with that.

2- Yeah, to increase awareness of phone usage among friends and family.

3- Yeah, even as of right now when I am around people that are important to me I tend to switch my phone to Do Not Disturb just because I want to be able to focus my attention on the present not the digital world.

4- Yeah, I feel people around me might judge me if they saw I wasn’t using it. I do not want people to think i am rude.

5- Yeah, I think in this day and age people are too focused on their phones and need to learn when enough is enough.

Person C:

Question 1- I understand the directions, they are pretty self explanatory.

2- I understand the purpose of it, yeah.

3- No probably not, I feel I have enough self control to know when not to use social media. I am pretty independent from my phone.

4- I think there would be more pressure to use company mode if the pop up alert showed how many people were using it at the time.

5- It could be very useful for some people.

Test subject Person B

If we were to conduct a test other than the paper prototype test: A prototype app that is downloaded with certain test subjects that are ideally a group of previously known companions. We would observe who uses it, who does not, and the amount of time it is used for. The app will also be customizable to the user to state if they want a range of just social media notifications to be turned off, or all notifications. We would test this in different groups of companions to get an idea of a better well rounded average


Our groups main take away from the project was that it is very hard to find a solution for something people are addicted to. Something so ingrained into society and themselves, and developing something with essentially the same technology to draw them out from. As in, how do you use a phone to prevent and aid in phone addiction. People say the first step to overcoming addiction, is to accept you have a problem. We weren’t trying to cure people with this, but help people come to the realization that they have a problem worth addressing. Our concepts give them the opportunity to overcome this issue themselves by bringing it to the forefront of their attention.


Our ideas were inspired by the new IOS 11 “do not disturb while driving” feature, which disables notifications whenever it detects that you are driving.

Works Cited

Beck, Julie. “Ignoring People for Phones Is the New Normal.” The Atlantic, 14 June 2016, www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2016/06/ignoring-people-for-phones-is-the-new-normal-phubbing-study/486845/.

Salaky, Kristin. “The Average Person Checks Their Phone 150 Times Every Day — and Its Destroying Romantic Relationships.” Business Insider, 13 June 2017, www.businessinsider.com/what-is-phubbing-how-looking-at-your-phone-affects-your-relationship-2017-6.

Industrial Designer.