Everyone gets caught in a social situation they'd rather not be in from time to time, whether it's being talked at by a taxi driver or getting left at a pub table with the one person from a group of colleagues you don't really know.
However, a new study has suggested we are cunningly getting out of these awkward moments – by using our mobile phones as crutches.
Online Casino Casumo.com carried out the research and discovered that three out of five Britons has tried to hide behind a smartphone or similar device when something embarrassing has cropped up, which is surprisingly often.
Indeed, the average user does this approximately 187 times a year, potentially saving a lot of red faces (or just eye contact, at least).
The most likely time for people to look at their phones instead of others was on busy public transport, presumably in order to avoid that situation where you end up repeatedly looking at the same commuter because they're in your eyeline.
Nearly a third of those polled had checked their phone to avoid awkwardness in a crowded lift, while 17 per cent had resorted to doing so during a cab ride to prevent conversation taking place.
It wasn't just situations involving strangers, though: incredibly, three out of five mobile users admitted to getting theirs out during an argument, while half said they wouldn't be averse to scrolling through their notifications if a first date ended up a bit quiet.
A crafty 27 per cent of the respondents said they stick their phone's earphones in even if music isn't playing to get them out of having to strike up a conversation, while a quarter have even pretended to take a look at their phone when the device was out of battery or switched off to avoid social interaction.
Casumo.com's Greg Tatton-Brown said we are using our phones as embarrassment buffers.
“Our mobile phones are more than an organisational tool or an enhancer to our social lives. More than ever, our devices provide us with a barrier from the real world when we need it … or at least provide us with a reasonable excuse to duck out of tough social situations,” he added.
The tactic doesn't always work, though. Embarrassingly, nearly one in seven people had been pulled up on their rudeness by the person they were trying to avoid after they had retreated onto their phone.
And perhaps even the mobile users who employ this ruse know in their heart of hearts that it's poor etiquette, as seven in ten of those polled said they think we are now too dependent on devices as a crutch in social situations.
One person who would undoubtedly agree is Dr James Robers, author of Too Much of a Good Thing: Are You Addicted to Your Smartphone?
He told Digital Trends magazine that some people are now becoming “conversational cowards” who lack the willingness to have difficult discussions and as such, eventually lose the skills of reading others and relating to their peers.
“When some people start to feel insecure, they instantly look to their lifeline, their smartphone. They don't realise that sometimes pregnant pauses and uncomfortable lulls in conversation are something to work through,” the expert added.