Phantom Phone Vibrations Signals a Rewiring of Our Emotional Consciousness

How often do you experience phantom phone vibrations? If it’s once a few weeks or even once a week – you’re just like the rest of us, which brings up the question of what on earth is going on with your cellular minded brains?

A few years ago experiencing phantom phone vibrations would be rare, but they are becoming a common occurrence. Now, they are being tied to our emotional dependence on our phones. Do you get a sense of joy when you get a text? How about a notification about new likes on Facebook? These emotional spikes are associated with your phone’s vibration, hence, your irritability when you get a phantom vibration. Perhaps you’re not even bothered by the fact that you ‘experience’ a phantom vibration. In a 2012 study by Researchers at Indiana University and Purdue University, 90% of college students reported experiencing phantom phone vibrations, but few worried about their possible psychological effects: 

Those higher in conscientiousness experienced phantom vibrations less frequently, and those who had strong reactions to text messages (higher in the emotional reaction subscale of text message dependence) were more bothered by phantom vibrations. These findings suggest that targeting individuals’ emotional reactions to text messages might be helpful in combating the negative consequences of both text message dependency and phantom vibrations. However, because few young adults were bothered by these phantom vibrations or made attempts to stop them, interventions aimed at this population may be unnecessary.

Research pshychologist, Larry Rosen, tells NPR: 

We’re seeing a lot of what looks like compulsive behavior, obsessive behavior. People who are constantly picking up their phone look like they have an obsession. They don’t look much different from someone who’s constantly washing their hands. I’m not saying that it is an obsession, but I’m saying that it could turn into one, very easily.

Whether phantom vibrations are  unhealthy is unclear, but it does appear that they are creating a psychological nervousness that is unsettling. While the future of smartphones have us brimming with optimism, it might be worthwhile to reassess our brain’s reactions to that dependence.


Photo: Deadjean’s Upcycled Phonecase