According to the researchers, nine of 10 people suffer from Phantom Vibration Syndrome where they mistakenly think their mobile phone is vibrating in their pocket.
Phantom vibration, that phenomenon where you think your phone is vibrating but it's not, has been around only since the mobile age. Nearly 90 percent of college undergrads in a 2012 study said they felt phantom vibrations. The number was just as high for a survey of hospital workers, who reported feeling phantom vibrations on either a weekly or monthly basis.
"Something in your brain is being triggered that's different than what was triggered just a few short years ago," says Dr. Larry Rosen, a research psychologist who studies how technology affects our minds. "If you'd ask me 10 years ago, or maybe even five years ago if I felt an itch beneath where the pocket of my jeans was and asked me what I would do, I'd reach down and scratch it because it was probably a little itch caused by the neurons firing," he says. Now, of course, the tingle triggers him to reach for his phone. Rosen says it's an example of how our devices are changing how our brains process information.
"We're seeing a lot of what looks like compulsive behavior, obsessive behavior. People who are constantly picking up their phones look like they have an obsession. They don't look much different from someone who's constantly washing their hands. I'm not saying that it is an obsession, but I'm saying that it could turn into one, very easily," Rosen says.
While 9 out of 10 participants in the study of college students said the vibration feeling bothered them only a little or not at all, Rosen still recommends backing away from our phones every once in a while to keep our anxiety levels down.
"One of the things I'm really adamant about in spite of being very pro-technology is just weaning ourselves off of the technology for short periods," Rosen says. "And by short periods, I mean, maybe just 30 minutes or an hour."