What’s the sitch with the consequences of cellphone-vibration-induced quadricep hypersensitivity?
An old friend and I were walking along the second most populated street in town. It was past dusk on a weekend night, when happy hour groups dwindled to those with no other plans, and serious adventure seekers gathered under smoky awnings in preparation for a late night. We slowly dodged fellow side-walkers, just a small part of the seething crowd headed in opposite directions. Our conversation meandered like our path down the block, sometimes pausing to let a moment pass, other times quickening as a point of interest came into view.
“Excuse me for one second, I’m getting a call,” my friend said.
“No problem at all,” I replied.
Staring at his phone, his carefree grin twisted to a confused expression, followed by anger, followed by something close to the facial position one might reach if half of the face had stumbled across a grizzly bear on a hike and the other half was eating a lemon. He had snapped.
“I SWEAR my phone vibrated. I swear it. Someone must be messing with me, calling and hanging up, or maybe the phone is broken, or, or…”
He was still staring at his phone, arm spasming softly. He looked me in the eye.
“You believe me, right?”
“I think it’s possible that your thigh has been vibrated against so often by the phone that sometimes it sends that sensation to your head without any stimulus.”
I had hoped my response wouldn’t further aggravate him; when he started to take off his clothes I realized it had likely done just that.
“I’m not f@%#ing crazy!!! I just need to get out of these God-damned clothes. THEY are the problem!”
The image of his bare bottom streaking through the city night, phone held high in hand, crowd parting before him… that memory will never leave me.
The next time I saw him was in a psyche ward a few days later. He was a splintered, bleary version of his former self, lost within the world once inhabited. His stare was that of the heavily medicated, likely given to control the violence that often bubbles forth from wounded animals.
“How are you old friend?”
He didn’t know who I was or why I might want to see him.
“If it didn’t vibrate, why did I feel it? If no one was calling, why did it vibrate? If that feeling wasn’t real, what else is an illusion?”
He was stuck in a loop that was difficult to be near. I didn’t stay long.
“Doctor, please let me know when he starts to improve. I’m worried about him.”
The reply from the psychiatrist was terse.
“IF he starts to improve son. If.”
This is an anecdote from my own life, and in part helps explain why this issue is so near and dear to me. I lost an old friend, a close friend. But, similar to how a rider mid-descent on a rollercoaster can relate to an astronaut, so too can I relate to my broken friend. I have been frustrated by cellphone-induced quad-hypersensitivity, though thankfully I’m not predisposed to falling off of a mental cliff because of it.
When I feel the vibration against my thigh, even if I choose not to reach for the phone, whatever is happening in real time loses a little bit of clarity. For all that mobile phones have allowed us to do, appreciating a moment has become more difficult, as your attention is pulled in various directions.
This interference was further complicated when telemarketers got hold of our mobile phone numbers. All of a sudden cell owners could no longer trust that the unwelcome vibrational distraction was at least coming from a friend or acquaintance; someone you had chosen to communicate with in the past. The trust afforded to the authenticity of a thigh vibration diminished.
After years of feeling the mechanical tremor, and after countless interruptions in conversation only to look and see an unknown number as the cause, our bodies began to compensate. The phenomenon that has followed is one part defense mechanism, one part maladaptation.
Before the advent of vibrating cellular phones, a person’s quad would feel a sensation, and the brain would respond to what that sensation had meant in the past.
“That’s a loved one’s hand on my thigh, I’ll respond with a hug.”
“That’s a bullet entering the flesh of my thigh, I’ll respond by hobbling away from this battlefield.”
“That’s just a soft breeze on the exposed skin of my thigh, no response necessary.”
For a growing number of individuals, the quadricep-to-sensory-cortex neural pathway has been damaged, and is now differentially regulated on each end. Quadriceps are signaling sensory brain regions so often that the brain reduces its response. In turn, the quadricep increases the frequency and amplitude of the signal, as it tries to get through to a brain that has learned to ignore sensations emanating from the mid-thigh. At the extreme end of this mechanism, a quad will spontaneously generate sensory signals. In this way, the overstimulated quad has substituted communicating to the brain the true external environment for simply being acknowledged by it.
Many of us have experienced this; a subtle vibration in the muscle underlying your pocketed phone that is suspiciously soft, but too similar to a real incoming call not to investigate. At this early stage it is a nuisance, but not a danger. You are compelled to check your phone, realize neither your friends nor creditors are trying to get in touch with you, and put the phone back in place. Added distraction to an already cluttered world, but that is all.
It becomes dangerous when the brain adapts to this new possibility. When the central processor comprehends that there are incoming signals it can’t rely upon. That the periphery no longer cares about the core or the understanding. That every man is for himself and pathways the body ‘round have lost their AAA confidence rating. A callous forms to protect sensitive nervous tissue from false promises.
“I feel a sharp, stabbing pain coming from my thigh. It’s probably nothing,” when in fact it is a sharp knife stabbed into the leg of an individual that needs immediate medical attention if they hope to survive.
Even if individuals don’t ignore the signals completely, central adaptation to cellphone-induced quad-hypersensitivity can manifest as constant anxiety or insomnia.
“I feel what I understand to be the bedsheets brushing against my thigh. But I feel compelled to double check with a different sensory modality, like my eyesight, to make certain it is, in fact, the bedsheets, and not a poisonous spider.”
In the form we see most commonly today, the disconnect begins with thigh-based signals before spreading elsewhere. We saw this progression in the anecdote about my friend earlier:
“If that feeling wasn’t real, what else is an illusion?”
It is this thought, from the mind of the afflicted, that gets to the real depth of the public health nightmare we might be facing in the coming years. Who could have ever predicted that adding a vibrational setting to cellphones would one day result in our psychiatry wards being filled with human shells, distrusting all sensation, disconnected from reality?
Physicians don’t yet know how to predict who will be susceptible to the full progression of this mental illness, and who will be resistant. They have found that it is almost invariable a male disease, though this is likely due to fashion rather than physiology. Men wear pants with pockets positioned in standardized thigh locations, while women wear all manner of leg garments, depending on the day and season.
Females are also nearly 250x more likely to carry a purse with them as they go about their day than males and, anecdotally, often hold their cellphones in such purses. Whether or not similar syndromes can develop beginning with the favored purse strap shoulder remains to be seen.
These insights inform potential strategies for avoiding full blown psychosis in those who are vulnerable but don’t want to stop carrying their cellphone. We here at whatsthesitch.com recommend alternating phone pockets daily. Or even better, wear a jacket with abdominal pockets to expand the rotation, increasing the vibrational rest period for each quad from minutes to days.
Also, men, start wearing purses. You don’t have to call it a purse. So long as it is a pouch that is not affixed to a particular body part for an extended period of time. You can call it whatever you like. This is for the health of our population, so we should get over our sheepishness.
Lastly, more research needs to be done on those who have experienced the beginning of the syndrome and survived. Why do some individuals seem to be so resistant to the mental erosion that their peers succumb to?
We usually try to inject some humor into situations here at whatsthesitch.com. That is something we strive for. But it is not a requirement. And it is not as important to our mission as truly helping our readers navigate specific sitches. Unfortunately, cellphone-induced quad-hypersensitivity is a somber subject. Thousands of young people across the country have been hospitalized. This technology-induced mental illness will continue to plague our connected culture unless we can spread awareness about the underreported epidemic.
Laughter might be the best medicine, but you won’t need medicine if you stay disease-free in the first place. Spread the word. Rotate pockets. Wear purses.
And please, don’t get me started on the devastating effect of rear-pocket wallets on our population’s gluteal muscle mass…