A twofold alternative: it fulfills the role of both bullets and drugs.
The medium by which a “vibe,” which is both the name of the technology when in use (Broadcasting vibes) and specific forms of the technology itself (A particular vibe, usually titled such as “Rain Came Crashing”), is transmitted to a human recipient. The means of transmission isn’t important to me. Vibes can penetrate solid matter and depending on the broadcasting source are capable of long and wide coverage. Drone-mounted transmitters can project a cone about the size of a city block, and I’ll assume that a very tight point-precision transmission could be achieved over hundreds of meters or more. One could simply chalk the means of conveyance to some pseudoscientific solution like “neutrino particle beams” but I’m not a scientist, nor even a fake scientist. I barely read Wired magazine regularly. I don’t care how they’re transmitted.
Firstly, only the absolute weakest broadcast form of vibes are undetectable by a human being. Any vibe strong enough for a human being to notice even a weak effect causes a subtle to strong physical sensation in the body felt in a specific area. A vast majority of individuals feel it in the diaphragm but it can be felt in a number of places, usually areas of smooth muscle connected to significant nerves or concentrated nerve clusters in the body. The sensation is usually described as a “fluttering,” “flipping” or “tickling” which is uniquely distinct to the experience of being “under a vibe” and is rarely strong enough to cause discomfort. Citizens of areas under heavy constant vibe saturation, such as Union Civic, become so used to the sensation that it becomes as easy to ignore as the feeling of wearing one’s own clothes.
The hardest and most practical form of vibes are formally known as Incapacitants, which are most commonly thought of as “weaponized” forms of vibe but are more often used in medicine. These simply use the transmission medium to influence the human nervous system. The effects range from gentle muscle relaxation and massage to complete loss of motor function. Incapacitants have myriad uses involving medical care recovery, first aid, pain management and physical therapy. Most famously, they’re used by Union Police as a means of disabling any aggressor without causing any bodily harm or pain. The use of incapacitant vibes have no long-lasting effects upon the body, and the only psychological harm done is generally due to the humiliation of being rendered helpless.
The most extensive use of vibe technology, however, are Experiential or “soft” vibes. The transmission medium can be used to stimulate the human brain and endocrine system to generate within the body and mind a particular abstract sensation. These vary as widely as heath and beauty products do today, and each one is unique in some subtle way. Vibes are created like recipes, through experimentation, scientific theory, and testing, to produce more new sensations. Vibes are named in an attempt to either sell their qualities or in an attempt to sum up the texture of their effect in a stylized sense: Rain Came Crashing, Venus Rising, Apex Junction, Savior Of Man, Imperfection Untangling. Some vibes are constructed to deliver a specific sort of emotional experience, therefore less abstract, but also requiring specific calibration to an individual’s biometrics for accurate effect: Home, Introspection, Discovery, Peer Legitimacy, Violent Acceptance, Renewal, Foreshadowing, Heartwork.
"Hard vibes" are the attempted replication of a vibe in chemical form, usually a pill or a dissolving capsule in drink. Hard vibes provide a similar, often severe and legitimately intoxicating, experience. While they’re produced by Union Civic’s Medical Corps for a variety of uses, the vast majority of hard vibes are illegally produced and sold off-FEED for a cheaper, stronger vibe experience.
Vibes are the fabric of the lives of Union Civic citizens, and subversively leak into the lives of every individual within and surrounding Union Civic. The addictive quality of both soft and hard vibes would be undeniable and possibly even worrisome if the whole of Union Civic did not exist in a constant bath of them, without a single thought of ever losing touch with a technology that is as common as electricity itself. Every FEED handheld app contains a vibe broadcasting hardpoint by default.
The complete and utter absence of vibe presence upon an individual who has become life-long acclimated to them would require the absolute removal of FEED itself. The loss of FEED results in context withdrawal.