Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Phantom of the Cell Phone

This is a scheduled post because we are currently at the beach. While we are on vacation, I have picked out a few of my previous blog entries to repost. Thanks for stopping by and I'll see you soon!


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....


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Jen said...

I'm not very attached to my cell phone at all. I constantly forget to charge it. I swear I can go weeks with it completely off. It drives my husband crazy that he can't get in touch with me. I would love to have a phone with internet access like an iPhone or blackberry, but I just can't justify the cost.

Anonymous said...

I had that with a regular phone, I think because of my job and the phone ringing all day. I'm one of the few people in the world who could live without a cell phone. It always seems people call at the worst times and I don't answer...I never talk on my cell phone when I'm in a store or with someone, it's just rude I think. Sometimes I wonder why I even have one! :-)

septembermom said...

This is interesting. I keep my phone buried so deep in my bag that I'm lucky if I even hear it ringing. I'll ask my sister who seems to be permanently attached to her cell phone. That is an annoying "phantom" for sure.

Holly Ann said...

I have such an animated mind... the whole time i am reading this its as if i am watching a documetary on "the world's most haunted places"... does that make sense?...

anyhoo... i have definitely experienced the phantom ring...

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Sara said...

I do this all the time. In fact, I think I look at my phone more when I think it's vibrating than when it actually is.

That can't be a good sign, right?