Our psychology correspondent, Lucinda Freud, reports on the flipside of mobile phone convenience ….
Technology is reinventing our lives and creating new conveniences for our everyday tasks and, not surprisingly on the flipside, it is creating new tics and afflictions that are bedeviling us.
Top of the list of technology conveniences is the always-on mobile phone. It alerts us in real-time with every event that happens through the day: phone calls, social updates, email arrivals, national emergencies, psychologist appointments, etc. With a familiar ring or vibrate in the pocket, we can whip out the device and we are on-line and up-to-date.
On the flip side, people are reporting on mass with a strange new symptom: the phantom vibration or known by its medical name Phantom Phone Vibration Syndrome (PPVS).
One sufferer Penny*, aged 15, says “like, it is totally weird. I was walking home during my French lesson when I was excited to feel my phone vibrate knowing that it was Naomi ringing to say she had dumped her boyfriend. Only like when I reached out to my left pocket where the vibration was coming from, I realized my phone was not there at all but in my bag. Like weird.”
Peter*, aged 43, reports. “it is driving me crazy. I am a busy manager with the constant worry of conflicting appointments. I find myself frequently patting my suit pockets madly checking whether it is a muscle spasm or the phone actually vibrating. A colleague asked me whether I had fleas!”
As researcher Patience Hurry points out: “PPVS is a natural merging of the virtual, the physical and the psychological. As humans, we are adapting to carrying smart devices wherever we go.”
She adds, “The sub-conscious is constantly scanning the environment for events expected and unexpected. In the physical world, the subconscious triggers us to scan a doorway for dangers and opportunities. In the virtual world the same subconscious triggers us to check the phone by creating a muscle tick to replicate the feeling of a phone vibration. Most people report phantom vibrations on the left side of the body as the right side of the brain is responsible for trigger inducement.”
* Names have been changed to disguise the fact that the person doesn’t really exist while giving the article a more personal touch.