Millions of Brits are using their smartphones as a way to avoid awkward situations, a study found.
According to research three in five blushing mobile users have attempted to disappear behind device when an embarrassing situation has arisen.
It also emerged in a typical year mobile phones will save the average user from 187 socially-difficult circumstances.
That tots up to more than 12 hours a year where our phones are used as embarrassment buffers.
Greg Tatton-Brown from Online Casino Casumo.com (www.casumo.com/en-gb), which commissioned the study, said: “Our mobile phones are more than an organisational tool or an enhancer to our social lives. We also reach out for them when in need of some online entertainment or distraction.
“More than ever our devices provide us with a barrier from the real world when we need it.
“As well as occupying us when we are bored or keeping us connected to one another, our phones offer us a world to escape into – or at least provide us with a reasonable excuse to duck out of tough social situations.”
Brits are most likely to reach for their phones while riding public transport to avoid eye contact with other commuters, and 17 per cent will make it clear they are on their phone when riding in a taxi so the driver won’t try to strike up a conversation.
Thirty four per cent will feel the temptation to lower their eyes to their phone when riding a crowded lift to break the tension, and a fifth check their notifications while patiently waiting to use a public toilet.
Three in five smartphone users would consider breaking out their mobile in the middle of a heated argument in order to take a breather from the situation, and one in two would resort to a scroll if a first date wasn’t going quite as planned.
For two in five anxious Brits checking their phone is the first thing they’d do to sidestep awkwardness.
When instinctively searching for a way to avoid an uncomfortable situation, Brits are most likely to default to checking their emails, followed by their text messages and Facebook notifications.
One in seven will fire up a mobile game to look busy and 15 per cent will open their web browser, even if they can’t think of anything to search.
Failing that nearly a third opt for staring blankly into the middle distance to pretend the whole state of affairs isn’t happening at all, and a quarter look down at their feet.
Twenty seven per cent of particularly antisocial mobile users have worn their mobile’s earphones – even when music wasn’t playing – in order to dissuade people from interacting with them.
And one in four have pretended to check their phone when the device was turned off or out of battery.
To up the cringe factor another notch, almost one in seven have been called out on their mobile-gazing behaviour by the person they were trying to avoid.
Almost nine in 10 Brits think the ubiquity of mobile phones has led to a decrease in face to face social interaction, and seven in 10 think we have become too dependent on our phones as a crutch in social situations.
Greg Tatton-Brown added: “Before mobile phones were everywhere we had to be much more creative if we wanted to dodge the awkward gaze of a stranger or a cringe-worthy conversation with the ex.
”Now we simply grab our phones, read an email or play a game and appear entertained.
“In some ways this is a wonderful thing, and the smart devices have spared us countless hours of social discomfort.
“But it’s important to take a break from screens from time to time and get back to real life; otherwise the social interactions we actually enjoy might pass us by.”