October 25, 2007
The phantom vibration menace

When I read this story, I had to check to make sure I wasn't reading The Onion.

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.

The first time it happened to Jonathan Zaback, a manager at the public relations company Burson-Marsteller, he was out with friends and showing off his new BlackBerry Curve.

"While they were looking at it, I felt this vibration on my side. I reached down to grab it and realized there was no BlackBerry there."

Zaback, who said he keeps his BlackBerry by his bed while he sleeps, checks it if he gets up in the night and wakes to an alarm on the BlackBerry each day, said this didn't worry him.

"As long as it doesn't mean a tumor is growing on my leg because of my BlackBerry, I'm fine with it," he said. "Some people have biological clocks. I might have a biological BlackBerry."


"Even when I don't have the BlackBerry physically on my person, I do find myself adjusting my posture when I sit to accommodate it," said Dawn Mena, an independent technology consultant based in Thousand oaks, Calif. "I also laugh at myself as I reach to unclip it -- I swear it's there -- and find out I don't even have it on."

Theories abound about the phenomenon, 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.

"We'd rather make a mistake than miss a call," he said. "Our brain is going to be scanning and scanning and scanning to see if we have to respond socially to someone."

In certain circles, phantom vibrations are a point of pride.

"Of course I get them," said Fred Wilson, a managing partner of Union Square Ventures, an early-stage venture capital firm based in New York. "I've been getting them for over 10 years since I started with the pager-style BlackBerry."

Snark is failing me, so I'm just going to point you to an actual Onion article about BlackBerries and leave it at that.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on October 25, 2007 to Technology, science, and math

I know very little about blackberries -- the one the State issued me was stolen before I'd had it a week.


I can vouch for something similar that happens when (as a military LE specialist) you get so used to wearing a sidearm that ... not having it feels weird.

Posted by: The_Other_Sarah on October 25, 2007 6:06 PM