THE BIG IDEA: Phantom Mobile Phone Vibrations

Let’s talk about phantoms. Now I’m not talking about what goes bump in the night or what you see on the SyFy Channel with the Ghost Hunters. This phantom lives in your cellphone? Have you heard about phantom vibrations?


Turns out psychologists have studied it. People that always keep their cellphone in their pocket will, on occasion, start feeling a vibration as though their cellphone is ringing. This phantom vibration

This eccentricity is common enough that people have talked about it openly, and it has even warranted serious study. It tends to happen when you are anticipating an important phone call—it could be results on a test, it could be a callback for a job, it could be whatever is demanding your attention—and you get this page from your mobile phone, but you don’t. It’s the phantom ring, and a lot of people feel it. This almost sounds like the phantom feeling that amputees have; but instead of feeling a limb that is no longer there, you are adjusting to a lifestyle change.

What do I mean by that?

This call from the Other Side takes about a month to happen. Especially if you are new to having a mobile phone or a smartphone within reach. Once you adjust your daily routines around having an iPhone or Android always present, psychologists have deduced that if you are anticipating an important phone call, muscle twitches inadvertently occur, making you think “Okay, that must be the call I was expecting…” when in fact there is no vibration from your phone, no incoming call you’re anticipating. This phenomenon is a real statement about the digital culture we have created and are continuing to reimagine and redefine for ourselves and for our children. We are so attached to our communication devices that now we are reprogramming our brains, whether consciously or not, to respond to stimuli. In this case, the phantom ringtone.

There is another lifestyle change to consider, too. I read of another guy, a farmer, and part of his livestock was cows. Now he was new to technology but not so new that he didn’t figure out how to set his phone on vibrate so his ring wouldn’t startle the cows. It turned out this farmer had a habit of not only leaving his phone on vibrate he would also leave it sitting on the table. When the phone would vibrate, it sounded like a faint cow mooing in the distance. He started hearing phantom cows mooing in the distance. So there is another example of the phantom vibration but this one is seated in reality, kind of. I find the phantom ringtone and how society is adjusting to technology fascinating…


Phantom cows? I’ll have to think about that one for a bit.



shurtz.jpgA research physicist who has become an entrepreneur and educational leader, and an expert on competency-based education, critical thinking in the classroom, curriculum development, and education management, Dr. Richard Shurtz is the president and chief executive officer of Stratford University. He has published over 30 technical publications, holds 15 patents, and is host of the weekly radio show, Tech Talk. A noted expert on competency-based education, Dr. Shurtz has conducted numerous workshops and seminars for educators in Jamaica, Egypt, India, and China, and has established academic partnerships in China, India, Sri Lanka, Kurdistan, Malaysia, and Canada.

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