Ringxiety: I wonder of my health plan covers this as a disability yet.
Published 20080102 by Olivier Blanchard | E-mail this post
Happy New Year everyone!
I am back in the office after a day of garage cleaning and remodeling - which is a pretty lame way to spend the first day of the year... but whatever. The family is still out of town, it was way too windy and cold for a bike ride, and it seemed like a good idea at the time. To get 2008 started on the right foot (no offense to left-footers), I thought I would share this pretty exciting new psychosocial disorder with you.
Ringxiety, first coined by psychologist David Laramie, is exactly what it sounds like: confusing the sound of a cell phone ringing with a sound similar to it. Since there's no harm done, aside from a bit of annoyance -- especially if a person struggles to locate his phone -- most people seem to regard ringxiety as a curiosity or a fact of wireless life. The exact origin of this hallucination has yet to be exactly pinned down, however.
Some researchers think that ringxiety stems from a constant state of readiness that could develop in cell phone users. Before the advent of wireless phones, no one expected a call while driving in the car, shopping at the grocery store or dancing at a nightclub. With cell phones, though, there's a potential for a call to come through at any moment. Because of this, it's possible that our brains are conditioned to expect a call constantly, and when a person hears a tone that reminds him of his cell phone ringing, he will believe that's the case.
Others believe that ringxiety -- or in this case, phantom ringing -- simply stems from confusion due to the frequency of most stock cell phone ringtones and the location of our ears. Most standard cell ringtones play at a frequency of around 1,000 hertz. Humans are particularly attuned to pick up on sounds at this range, especially if they're single-toned, like many ring tones. But because people have ears on either side of their heads, it's difficult for them to pinpoint the source of a sound, particularly at this frequency -- for example, from a phone or from a bird outside. To some, this explains the phenomenon of phantom ringing. This doesn't hold true for multi-tonal rings, however, such as an MP3 of a popular song.
... Which doesn't explain why I can't get that stupid Umberella song out of my head! But wait, the madness doesn't stop here.
Those who opt to set the phone to "vibrate" rather than "ring" aren't off the hook either. Even stranger than phantom ringing is the phantom vibration phenomenon. This is also a part of the ringxiety that David Laramie studied, although fewer ideas about its origins have been suggested. It's similar to phantom ringing, but phantom vibration is a physical rather than an auditory hallucination.
Are you kidding me? Phantom vibrations?
"Hey, um... are like, your trousers vibrating right now?"
"No... I think it's my phantom phone making an imaginary call to my pants."
But wait, there's more:
(Phantom rings/vibrations are) also similar to another, well-documented phenomenon called phantom limb syndrome. In this medically recognized condition*, amputees -- people who've had limbs removed -- report feeling pain in limbs that are no longer attached to their bodies. Is it possible that people have become as attached to their cell phones as they are to their own arms and legs?
* (as opposed to conditions like, say... Ringxiety.) To answer Josh's question, perhaps not most cellphones, but yes, if I could somehow adopt my crackberry as an organ, I would. (I would settle for making it a limb, but that wouldn't be as fun.)
According to a study published in September of 2007, 66% of cell phone users hear phantom rings. Sixty-six friggin percent!!!
Two thirds of us are therefore certifiably insane.
Worse yet, in just one generation, we have managed to go from good old trusty schyzophrenia (remember the good old days when we still heard voices - even if they came from our car radios or the TV static) to the sorry state of social isolation we're in today: Instead of human voices, we are now hearing cell phone ringtones. That's how detached from other human beings we've become.
(Me, I just hear phantom dog barks and parrot croaks, but that's a whole different story.)
In his study on ringxiety, David Laramie found a link between increased cell phone use and phantom ring/vibration experiences. He found that two-thirds of the people he surveyed for the study said they'd experienced ringxiety. Those who experienced the phenomenon the most -- 67 percent of the survey population -- also used the phone the most. They used up more minutes, had larger phone bills, tended to be younger and also sent more text messages
The fact that the people who spent more time using their phone experienced ringxiety more often comes as little surprise. But there is another aspect of Laramie's study that may be more revealing. He found that people who preferred to text others rather than call tended to be more lonely and socially anxious.
Does that mean the way a person uses his phone can predict his personality type? Possibly. Another study shows that phones may directly affect a person's personality. Specifically, wireless
devices can make us less happy.
In 2005, psychologist Noelle Chesley conducted a study of 1,367 men
who work, have families and use cell phones. She found an increase in stress and a decrease in family satisfaction among both men and women who use cell phones. Chesley believes this is due to what she and other researchers call a blurring of the traditional lines between work and family life.
This blurring occurs when role boundary permeability
takes place. Under this condition, a person's role in one part of their life merges with another role. For example, a woman might get a call at work by one of her kids looking for the TV remote at home. In this case, the woman's role of mother has infiltrated her separate role as employee.
Chesley's findings show that while people with cell phones suffer from increased stress and lowered family satisfaction, e-mail -- a more "passive" form of communication -- does not produce the same results. This suggests that cell phones are more intrusive than other forms of communication, and our happiness suffers as a result of this intrusion.
Labels: mental illness, modern times, ringxiety