Screen time has become a hot button issue in psychology with researchers fiercely debating its mental effects. If we want to understand the psychological dynamics of technology use, however, a numerical conceptualization of screen time will lead us to gloss over crucial distinctions. To make this point, the present article takes a hermeneutic approach to a negative form of screen time known as ‘phubbing’, which is the practice of snubbing conversational partners in favor of one’s phone. Using interview data, it is demonstrated that whether or not phone use amounts to phubbing, that is, whether or not it tips over and becomes harmful, depends on a host of contextual factors such as relation, content, purpose, timing, and communication. These findings demonstrate that not all screen time is created equal: what is harmful and inappropriate in one context is benign in another, and vice versa. Simply put, screen time is not a numerical entity whose causal effects we can measure and explain, but a meaningful activity that we must try to understand.