Phantom Buzz: The ghost in your pocket

Walking on the street, you feel this vibrating sensation in your pocket, you immediately grab your phone, but then the vibration has stopped, maybe it was just a ping. You pulled out your phone only to realize it wasn’t. What then could it be?

Phantom buzz, a vivid evidence of digital encroachment on our lives is a false feeling of phone vibrations. There are a lot of theories suggesting the causes of these false feeling. The more prominent ones being:

1. Cell phones producing electrical signals that transmit the feeling of vibration directly to a person’s nerves in a similar way to how phone signals interfere with radio signals.

2. Mental anticipation of alerts which is a matter of psychological conditioning — we are so used to our phones vibrating that our brains make it feel like it is happening when we “want,” not when it actually does.

3. Misinterpretation of unrelated sounds, a form of social contagion common to mobile phone users who attach a lot of emotional importance to their text messages pinpointing out the extroverts who check their phones a lot because keeping in touch with friends is a big part of their lives; and neurotics who worry a lot about the status of their relationships, so while they may not get as many text messages, they care a lot about what the messages say.

Phantom buzz causes no harm, nevertheless, it can be stopped either by changing your device profile from vibration mode to ringer mode or by suppressing the compulsive behaviour to always pick your phone. It is recommendable to keep away from your phones, say 30 – 60 minutes to keep anxiety level down.

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