Speculation as to what this digital age is doing to us on a biological level abounds, as many fear that we won’t know for sure until its too late. However, it appears that being a cyborg goes beyond enhancing degraded and essential bodily functions, and enters into the realm of gadget addiction as well. In other words, when members of the digerati joke about phantom vibrations from absent gadgets, there may be something to it after all. As the Associate Press reports via MSNBC:

Many mobile phone addicts and BlackBerry junkies report feeling vibrations when there are none, or feeling as if they’re wearing a cell phone when they’re not.
Some users compare the feeling to a phantom limb, which Merriam-Webster’s medical dictionary defines as “an often painful sensation of the presence of a limb that has been amputated.”
Research in the area is scant, but theories abound about the phenomenon, which has been termed “ringxiety” or “fauxcellarm.”

Anecdotal evidence suggests “people feel the phone is part of them” and “they’re not whole” without their phones, since the phones connect them to the world, said B.J. Fogg, director of research and design at Stanford University’s Persuasive Technology Lab.

This, of course, all begs the question as whether the effects are merely psychosomatic or manifestly neurological. It seems, however, that even if the side-effects of our wired existence are just in our head, that doesn’t mean that they’re not detrimental to our overall well-being. As one Men’s Health feature article relates:

[..] “Our brains field more data than ever before,” says Dr. Hallowell, “and with no acknowledgment of it.” Indeed, though most of us act as if nothing big has changed in our lives, Dr. Hallowell says we’re actually in the midst of a historic shift not seen since Gutenberg fired up the first printing press.

The problem […] is that our Gutenberg-era brains may not actually be capable of handling all this Bill Gates–era info. Meanwhile, Dr. Hallowell himself — one of the country’s foremost authorities on attention deficit disorder — says that in his private practice he’s seen a spike in people reporting ADD-like symptoms: difficulty focusing, inability to complete a project, irritability, anxiety. […]

Like so many other human weaknesses and afflictions, our desire to stay connected to the world is probably rooted in our vanity. It’s an earnest compulsion to validate the flattering suspicion we harbour of how important we are by remaining connected to a roster of contacts that we rarely meet in real life. Well, at least that’s what it’s like for me.

As I write this, the clock is pushing midnight and my family has long turned in for the night. I’m neglecting the mobile I left in my gym bag, but only because the people whose acquaintance truly matter to me would never bother to reach out via such an archaic medium. No, instead I’m surfing the net, combing RSS feeds, hammering out emails, Twittering, and doing whatever else it is that mislead youths drunk on the American Dream spend their alone time doing these days.

Four years ago, I was most definitely up at this hour. But if I wasn’t cramming or slaving over a term paper, I’d be buying that girl who was impressed with my belligerent assessment of domestic policy one more round in hopes that she might invite me back to her apartment to show me the excerpt in that book that she’d just paraphrased in hopes of refuting my view point.

The fact of the matter is, though, that I can’t remember the last time I connected with a real person that way. Now, when I do get out, it’s to meet up with virtual strangers, that I met on the internet, to talk about the internet instead of how the world is going to complete doo-doo because we’re too high on our own delusions of grandeur to give a shit about anyone who can’t send us some link-love or traffic.

What’s worse is that we’re all completely aware of it, but it’s somehow more interesting as a conversation piece than as a action item, because action items are supposed to make money and there’s no revenue in curbing our own appetites for amusement. This is, after all, the growth economy, and if it wasn’t, I’d have neither the resources nor the leisure time to muse about the degradation of my very own human condition as I am doing now.

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