Phantom Cell Phone Buzzing: Explained

Have you ever felt your phone vibrate in your pocket or bag, only to check it and find no notifications at all? If you’ve ever fallen for the “phantom” call or text, it may be an indicator of just how attached you are to your phone.

A recent study has found that an overwhelming 80% of college students have experienced the “phantom buzz”, which makes sense if you factor in how frequently college students check their phones. Regardless of demographic information such as age, the average mobile phone user interacts with their device roughly 76 times a day with heavy users averaging 132 interactions. This means that on 76 unique occasions over the course of our day, we’re looking at and/or interacting with our phones.

That’s a lot of Candy Crush!

Regardless of what you specifically use your phone for, there’s no question that our phones have become an integral part of our everyday lives. Even when we’re not using our phones for a specific reason such as texting, making phone calls, jotting down notes, or looking up directions, many of us default to filling our downtime with our phones. If you’re skeptical about this, try waiting in line at the bank or your local Starbucks and see how many people have their eyes glued to their phone.

So what does phone use have to do with phantom buzzing? Doing anything over 76 times a day can easily be qualified as a habit or even an addiction. One of the key feature of addictions is that people can become hyper-sensitive to the things that trigger the “reward” they’re craving. In this case, the reward isn’t a piece of cheese to a mouse or an illicit drug to a drug user, but rather a notification from the individual’s cell phone.

People who are heavy daily cell phone users can crave notifications so much that they interpret their phone rubbing in their pocket or bag as the “buzz” they’ve been eagerly waiting for. This is more or less the same phenomenon as hearing your ringtone from someone else’s phone across the room but taking the time to check your phone anyway.
Those who are highly dependent on their phones and fall into the “high daily use” category are more prone to experiencing phantom buzzes and can even become irritable when they’re in situations where they can’t use their phone.

So how do we cut down on phantom buzzing? Aside from an earthquake-proof phone case (or turning your vibrate settings off), generally checking our phones less often can lead to less phantom buzzes. The less we collectively rely on interactions via apps and mobile devices and focus on our daily lives, the less often we’ll be faked out by our phones jostling about in our pockets.

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