Thursday, January 8, 2009

The Phantom of the Cell Phone

Phantom cell phone ringing and/or vibrating....have you ever heard of such a thing? A few weeks ago, on my AOL home page, I saw a link to an article about just this phenomenon. I clicked over and began reading. What it refers to is this - a person thinks they hear their cell phone ring (or feel it vibrate, such as if it were in their pocket). But, when they retrieve their phone to answer it, it was never actually ringing (or vibrating). I searched "phantom cell phone ringing" on the internet and discovered numerous articles and stories on this topic. Check out these excerpts from this Associated Press story found on

Many mobile phone addicts and BlackBerry junkies report feeling vibrations when there are none, or feeling as if they're wearing a cell phone when they're not.

Some users compare the feeling to a phantom limb, which Merriam-Webster's medical dictionary defines as "an often painful sensation of the presence of a limb that has been amputated."

Research in the area is scant, but theories abound about the phenomenon, which has been termed "ringxiety" or "fauxcellarm."

Anecdotal evidence suggests "people feel the phone is part of them" and "they're not whole" without their phones, since the phones connect them to the world, said B.J. Fogg, director of research and design at Stanford University's Persuasive Technology Lab.

Maybe it's just because the subject has been fresh in my mind. But, I have come to the conclusion that I am definitely afflicted by this sensation. My cell phone is with me nearly 100% of the time, usually in my pocket, or on my bedside table at night. I can't tell you how many times I have felt that little vibration on my leg, pulled my phone out of my pocket, and nothing. I've even felt the vibrating sensation when my cell phone wasn't in my pocket at all. I have a basic cell phone that I use for making calls and sending an occasional text message. I don't use my phone for email or the internet at all. But, I am someone who feels lost when my cell phone is not with me. I guess I am one of those aforementioned "mobile phone addicts." I found this statement (from a story by Joe Orso found here via Columbia News Service) very interesting:

Spokespeople from Cellular and T-Mobile said they have never heard of the phenomenon, but Christine Rosen, senior editor of “The New Atlantis,” a journal of technology and society, speculated that phantom cell phone vibrations, or PCVs, are psychosomatic.

“Cell phone users talk about the reassurance of being constantly connected,” Rosen said. “It signals to everyone around you that you’re part of another community. So you’re not just a stranger in a public space, but you’re a person who’s in demand and who can demand the attention of someone else.”

That is so true. We all want to feel like we warrant the attention of others, don't we? And, doesn't if feel good to show others that we are part of something? Is that one of the reasons many of us have become so dependent on our cell phones and other mobile devices? What about you? Have you ever experienced phantom cell phone ringing? How attached are you to your cell phone? I'm looking forward to hearing your thoughts....



Karen said...

Hi Kari,
I found your blog through Diane's place.

I'm so glad to see that someone's documented what I once thought was just me going crazy! Yes, I've felt the phantom buzzing in my pocket where my cell phone used to be. Isn't that weird?

"5 Things" you want to do are awesome! I loved the one about sewing (see my answer to Diane's question today). I sewed for most of my life and one of my goals for 2009 is to get back into it. You will love it!

Love your blog -- I'll be back:-)

Kari (GrannySkywalker) said...

I almost rid myself of my cell phone at about 1:00 this morning. I got a Vu phone recently and it's totally cool. Except the battery doesn't last very long and I don't have enough sense to check it on a regular basis. And it usually decides to die off in the middle of the night. The little "alarm" tone it plays to signal that it's going dead is LOUD AND ANNOYING. I've been woken up several times, thinking the smoke alarm is going off or something. The first time it happened, Randey and I both woke up and sat there like idiots, asking each other in tense little voices "what the heck is THAT?". Thank God it wasn't the smoke alarm. We'd have all burned up while Randey and I sat there "discussing" it. lol