User Input

User Input: Shared Hallucination

Notice that they do make a distinction between "quiet" and "vibrate".

Notice that they do make a distinction between “quiet” and “vibrate”.

In a meeting the other day, at the outset of the presentation, the facilitator asked us all to turn our cellphones off. As we all know, that doesn’t happen under any circumstances anymore, so there was a chorus of clicks as everyone switched their phones to “silent” or “vibrate only” mode. And yet, there’s where the whole thing started to puzzle me.

During the meeting, there were periodic interruptions as various cellphones around the room would buzz. Mine was set to “blink”, so I was able to see the faint light flash through the fabric of my pants pocket when a message came in, but most others relied on vibrate mode. And throughout the lecture, the room was peppered with soft – and not-so-soft – sounds of “bzzzzt, bzzt, bzzzzzzt”.

I realized at that point that we have incorporated a rather surprising consensual public hallucination. We’ve all accepted that a phone on vibrate makes no noise. Oh sure, I can hear it. And you can hear it. But nobody else can. And since we’re clearly the anomalies in that situation, there’s no sense in drawing attention to it. After all, we’re just special, so that’s not worth causing any kind of a scene.


What other bizarre “shared hallucinations” have entered the public consciousness in the past generation or so?

  • The Professor

    Gravity is the most common one that I can think of. It's insidious.

  • skitter

    Everyone will love this ringtone, there's no need to put the phone on vibrate.

    Loosely related to question: Whar my shirt?

    • nanoop

      I was once convinced that a ringtone serves as a means of signaling that an other person wishes to talk to me, and hence, should be audible, and that's it. Similar things were valid for incoming message notifications: a humble information about that fact, full stop.

      How wrong I was! Here's the actual rules: the ring tone underlines my character, emphasizes my sense of humour, and is a showcase of my taste in pop music. To everybody in the room, even if that room is an airport.
      The message notification primarily serves as information container (to the same audience, btw.) what brand my cell phone is.

      (Disclaimer: I hate sound logos, especially the very good ones (Samsung theme whistled, anyone? That's brilliant as a sound logo, and therefore especially annoying), and thanks to my open plan office, I can distinguish several generations of iWhatever by their calendar reminder sounds)

  • I must talk EXTRA LOUD when on a cell phone!

  • OA5599

    I was at a large theatre not long ago, watching a sold-out play. The woman to my right kept doing something with her phone and then stuffing it back in her purse. She had it out too quickly for her to have been texting, and I tried to ignore it the best I could, but the on-and-off of the screen backlight was a huge distraction.

    At intermission, she apologized to me. She explained that she had a hearing aid, and the volume was adjustable via Bluetooth. She was having trouble finding a compromise between the volumes needed for the dialogue and the musical numbers, so kept on bringing her phone out to control it.

    Understood, but my tickets were a-hundred-and-something-bucks each, as, I'm sure, were the seats of the audience around us.. It would seem that someone not hallucinating would be able to use a volume-adjustment device that didn't annoy surrounding audience members.

  • Number_Six

    $120 average phone bills are acceptable
    $120 average cable bills are acceptable, as is the fact you still can't choose your own channels at that price
    Intrusive airport searches, even of flight crew, are not only acceptable but wildly effective
    Climate is not changing

    • PowerTryp

      Climate is changing, but calling it global warming was a massive faux pas when certain regions have had record lows in the past ten years.

  • Nuclearspork

    So your saying I'm not the only person with super hearing?

  • If I put this embarrassing photo of me and my friends online and only set it so they can see it, nobody else will ever see it.

    • The Professor

      Hell, that's a major industry now.

    • I'm really looking forward to politics 30-40 years from now when all of these pictures will still be out there for all the candidates.

      • Number_Six

        No kidding! Who is going to be the first presidential candidate to have a full-colour drunken puke photo or video broadcast and still get elected?

      • Felis_Concolor

        Some will attempt to exploit their former photographs.

        "See that? I guess that proves I am a natural leader."

    • Devin

      On that note: Nobody can see what I like on Facebook.

      I accidentally know about the specific tastes in naked people for so many folks.

      • PowerTryp

        I'm still curious as to what kind of person out side of the porn industry hits the facebook button on any porn website.