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I was out to dinner the other day with a large group of people and as I scanned across the table, I noticed about half of them had their cell phones out. The phones were either sitting on the table in clear vision, or were currently in use, either being shared with others, or used individually to "step out" of the dinner conversations.
I won’t lie … at one point I was one of those people. I pulled my cell phone out to share my recent Halloween adventure with my friends and as I was shutting off the phone, I noticed I had a few more new emails waiting in my inbox.
Every time my iPhone has a new phone call, a new text message, or an unread email, a red dot appears on each application to notify me of the item. I came up with the term, "Red Dot Syndrome;" the strong need to address every new item (to make the red dots disappear) and the inability to set the cell phone down until the red dots go away.
I must admit, I frequently suffer from this "Red Dot Syndrome" where I have the desire (and need) to make each red dot disappear. While at dinner, I was tempted to leave the table mentally, review the recent emails and dive into a conversation through text messages, but I had to tell myself no and set the phone down.
My friends and I often joke about this so-called syndrome, but it is an issue for many people and is impacting many relationships.
My cell phone is a part of my everyday life: I check my email, I send quick text messages to friends and family, I play Words With Friends with my extended family, I take photos of fun items, I update social media for business, I check the traffic, I listen to music, I check the weather, etc. This list is endless.
My awareness of my own "Red Dot Syndrome" helps me know when I need to put the phone down and leave those annoying red dots for later. But for many people, setting the phone down can be a very big challenge. As a therapist, I hear on a weekly basis how people can feel uncomfortable when their partner or friends pick up their cell phones and begin texting or checking Facebook.
Etiquette for Cell Phones and Relationships:
Jennine Estes is a Marriage and Family Therapist in San Diego with a private practice in Mission Valley. She has appeared as a Relationship Expert in Redbook Magazine, Martha Stewart Publications – Whole Living Magazine, Social Work Today Magazine, San Diego local news stations, and more. To learn more relationship advice from the author Jennine Estes MFC#47653, visit her relationship column Relationships in the Raw or her San Diego Couples Therapy website.