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33% of Cell Phone Users Admit to Pretending to Talk On Phone

NEW YORK, NY (SP) — A recent study shows that heavy cell phone users experience heightened feelings of isolation during any instances they are not actually talking on the phone. The more often they use the phone, the antsier they get when not using it. In fact, 33% of cell phone users polled admitted to sometimes pretending to talk on the phone, in order to be seen by others as talking with someone.

The study, conducted by the Mobile Telephone Addiction Foundation, was carried out in New York City and eight other major North American and European cities. One of its findings was that heavy cell phone users' aloneness anxiety lessened somewhat when in the presence of other people, but only when deep in conversation. During any lull, the subjects' heart rates increased to similar levels as when forced to do something in utter, solitary isolation, such as walking down the street, or waiting for the subway, without using a cell phone. In many cases, these cell phone addicts were more comfortable talking on the phone to someone else while in the company of people, since by their very nature phones are not conducive to pauses in conversation. They described the advantage as being that, when on the phone, one must be constantly yapping, whereas during normal interaction with other humans there are natural pauses in conversation, or even periods of complete silence.

The isolation stress symptoms were reduced when the subjects were allowed to perform solitary tasks while holding a deactivated cell phone to their heads. The researchers theorized that being seen to have a cell phone clamped to the ear gave the users a comforting feeling of being perceived as being in conversation, or perhaps listening to piles of voicemail, even when not actually saying anything themselves.

When encouraged to talk into the battery-less phone as though there were someone else on the line, the users' stress levels at first increased, with the act being perceived as somewhat "wacko". However, once the subjects became comfortable with talking to themselves in public, their stress levels dropped to those measured when actually on the phone with another person. And in an anonymous post-study survey, 33% admitted to having done this sometimes already, and being embarrassed to do it in front of the researchers.

When holding a similar sized object to their heads, such as a deck of cards or a Zippo lighter, the test subjects' stress levels were reduced for as long as no one came close enough to see that the object in use was not actually a cell phone.

Users of hands-free cell phone accessories were an exception: they exhibited practically no fear of being seen as nuts. Hands-free cell phones are nearly invisible, often with only a small walkman-style earphone and mini microphone attached to the same cable, and then threaded down into the collar to an inside jacket pocket where the phone sits. When viewed from the opposite side to the ear which holds the earphone, it often appears that users are talking entirely to themselves. For this reason, first-time users of hands-free phones will often hold the microphone with one hand anyway, simply in order to make it obvious that they are not talking to themselves. Once they've gotten over their stage fright, however, they quickly become comfortable with being perceived as insane, striding down the street with arms swinging at the sides, or perhaps hands thrust into pockets, yapping away non-stop — and hence these users exhibited no fear of being seen talking to themselves in public.

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