Phantom Cellphone Vibration Syndrome Is Real, Damn It

Talk about a first-world, (half) white person problem to have. This past week I developed a sporadic vibration in my left thigh where my cellphone usually resides when it rests in my pocket. I will feel a phantom vibration every few minutes that mimics my phone's notification buzz. It got worse at Free Press Summer Fest. I wasn't expecting any texts, and my phone is not defective.

This is obviously my brain jacking with me and my crippling addiction to social media, because after all, if I don't check my Twitter and Facebook accounts every five minutes, I will die. Of course, that's only partially true. I am not alone, though, in suffering this most annoying and trivial of ailments. Cellphone vibration syndrome is a real thing. I have seen it called ringxiety and fauxcellarm, too.

"It's weird. I'm convinced there's something evil growing in the meat of my left thigh under my pocket," says Charlie Ebersbaker, a Houston-area CVS sufferer. At first when this vile affliction began, I assumed it was just a twitch I had acquired from too much caffeine, but a quick Google search -- the solution to every modern problem -- filled me in.

A recent book entitled iDisorder, by Larry Rosen, professor of psychology at California State University, delves into these purely 21st century maladies. CVS can come in many forms, from that phantom vibration most of us feel, to hearing your ringer go off when it is not, to a constant compulsion to check or touch your phone, seconds after you may have just done so.

He also attributes it to narcissism, anxiety, voyeurism and an inherently compulsive personality, though I have none of those predilections, nor does anyone who is active on social media.

We are all normal people who just like to share our lives with our friends and family and nothing is wrong with checking in on Facebook at the grocery store. Or live-tweeting our gym time. Or taking pictures of our food on Instagram and using just the right filter to capture the essence of your plate of tacos.


Some people are trying to combat their CVS by using the ringer only and weaning themselves off of relying on the vibration.

"The 'Phantom Ring' started for me several years ago with a Palm Treo. I've turned the vibe off and rely on the ring," says Sam on Twitter. Jarod, a local radio producer, will feel a vibration on his thigh even while he's looking at his phone on his desk.

How do we even fix this? Do we all need to detach ourselves for a few days or weeks (FUCK OFF) from our phones until the twitching stops entirely, or is this evolution and will humans one day adapt a sort of telepathy with their gadgets? A natural kind and not a manufactured one from Apple or Microsoft?

This all begs me to question whether or not this is a "new" thing. Did our great-grandparents constantly hear their doorbell or telephone ring while sitting at home? Did our ancestors hear the tap-tap-tap of the telegraph only to check and see nothing? What about the Native Americans?

"I swear I just saw a smoke signal? Did you see it, too, Running Deer, or am I going crazy?"

Follow Houston Press on Facebook and on Twitter @HairBallsNews or @HoustonPress.

KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Craig Hlavaty
Contact: Craig Hlavaty