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noun [uncountable]

the annoying feeling of mistakenly thinking that you can hear your mobile phone ringing

'This audio illusion – called phantom phone rings or, more whimsically, ringxiety or fauxcellarm – has emerged recently as an Internet discussion topic and has become a new reason for people to either bemoan the techno-saturation of modern life or question their sanity.'

The New York Times 4th May 2006

'It is a familiar and unnerving sensation: the false belief that you can hear your mobile phone ringing or vibrating … Now the phenomenon is so widespread it has an official name: ringxiety.'

The Daily Telegraph, Australia 29th May 2006

It's an experience that we've all had at some time or other: two or more people are standing close to each other and a mobile phone starts ringing. Instantly everyone starts frantically rummaging through pockets and handbags in the anxious belief that it must be theirs. The activity only ceases when one person triumphantly whips out their mobile and says, 'It's okay, it's mine. – Hello …' This tense feeling caused by potentially hearing the ring of your mobile phone, at any time or in any place, now has a lexical characterization: ringxiety.

psychologists have even suggested a link between ringxiety and self-esteem

For many people, the mobile phone is like a fifth limb, something that they cannot do without, and in fact ringxiety has been likened to phantom limb syndrome, a psychological condition whereby amputees feel the sensation of a limb that no longer exists. Falsely perceived ringtones are sometimes likewise referred to as phantom (phone) rings.

Psychologists have even suggested that there might be a link between ringxiety and self-esteem. They claim that people are growing emotionally dependent on their phones for feelings of self-worth, so that when they hear an imaginary ring, it is their subconscious calculating how popular they are.

Background – ringxiety

The word ringxiety is a blend of ring and anxiety. It was coined in 2006 by David Laramie, a doctoral student at the California School of Professional Psychology, who is studying the effect of mobile phones on behaviour. Laramie claims to be a sufferer of ringxiety himself, which he says is often triggered by the sound of running water – he regularly hears imaginary rings whilst shaving.

A tongue-in-cheek alternative to ringxiety is fauxcellarm, an ingenious blend of the French loan word faux, meaning 'false', cell, from cellphone, and alarm, which when spoken out loud sounds similar to 'false alarm'.

by Kerry Maxwell, author of Brave New Words

This article was first published on 9th February 2007.

Open Dictionary

Dunning-Kruger effect

the phenomenon by which an incompetent person is too incompetent to understand his own incompetence

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