Do you experience phantom vibrations?

Taylor Martin
 from  Concord, NC
| January 16, 2012

One thing that has certainly changed in recent years is the number and type of notifications I get on my phone. Five years ago, the majority of my notifications were new text messages. Today, I get a number of notifications from text messages, emails, Twitter, Facebook, Path and a plethora of other applications I've acquired over the years.

What this has created, as Alexia Tsotsis of TechCrunch stated yesterday, is a nation of phone starers. My friends, myself and literally everyone I know can be caught staring at their phone several times every few minutes. Even my grandmother, who I recently gave an iPhone, can be caught sneaking a peek at her phone every now and then. It's a compulsive habit that's terribly difficult to break.

On average, I would guess that I check my phone at least once every two or three minutes. Regardless of any new notifications, I will take that time to check Twitter, Facebook and any other important networks.

Coming from GeekSugar, a recent study performed by the University of Worchester suggests that the constantly-connected world we live in is stress-inducing and makes many of us feel as if we simply cannot disconnect. But the more interesting factoid found by the study was that volunteers that participated in the study admit that they check their phone once, twice, even three times for notifications that never happened. These false notifications are more commonly known as phantom vibrations.

Phantom vibrations are nothing new. I remember hearing a report on it from my favorite local news station when I was in high school, and it is something that has plagued me since my early cell phone days. When I texted like a madman, I would compulsively check my phone for any notifications that I may have missed. But I certainly recall "feeling" a vibration on my thigh when my phone was pocketed, and checking my phone, only to find that there were no new notifications.

What's worse is how it has increased over time. I now carry two phones, minimum, and I am much more connected. More networks, more connections and more accounts all around means more notifications, more vibrations and more false checks on my part. And turning vibrate off and relying on notifications doesn't help. If I use ringtones instead of vibrate, I "think" I hear a chime and still check for new messages, unsure whether the phone actually made a sound.

Likewise, I have also been in a crowded room where someone has chose the same ringtone as I have; I could distinctly tell the ringtone came from across the room and did not come from my phone, but I felt compelled to check my own phone anyway ... just in case. There have also been several times I can recall where I had my phone in hand and it has inexplicably vibrated.

It's funny, odd and interesting to see the ways that these pocket-sized computers have affected our lives and changed our behavior. For me, it has gotten to the point where I feel the need to disconnect and turn off my notifications almost on a nightly basis. When I am done working, I usually switch my phones to silent, turn them face-down and attempt to forget about them. It doesn't usually work, but it's an effort nonetheless.

Tell me, ladies and gents. Do any of you suffer from phantom vibrations and the compulsive need to check your phone every couple minutes? Does your phone ever actually vibrate, even when there are no new notifications? Does it ever get to be too much and force you to disconnect or switch your phone to silent?