Former Google employee Tristan Harris claims there's an easy way to combat phone addiction without installing any new software. By enabling grayscale on your phone, checking your apps and notifications will be less appealing and thus stop you from obsessively checking your phone.
I don't know about you, but every time I open up my smartphone I get bombarded by notifications. If I even glance at it, I get sucked down a wormhole of social media and Candy Crush. It feels impossible not to get distracted by my phone, so this simple trick could help with that.
In an interview with Anderson Cooper on 60 Minutes, Harris explains that smartphones are like slot machines. Sometimes you check and your phone is dry, but other times you are rewarded with notifications. The thrill of knowing you could possibly see a notification keeps you compulsively checking your phone, thus leaving you incapable of simply checking it when necessary and putting it away when not in use.
This obsession doesn't just manifest organically. Rather, developers want this to happen and are designing their products with the goal of shaping your habits and desires. As Harris describes, they're intentionally hacking your brain.
By putting your phone in grayscale, you're minimizing the visual appeal of your apps and making notifications less eye-catching. In other words, you're taking back your brain.
In an effort to reduce my attachment to my phone, I've been trying out the hack for the last few hours. I have to say, it's been pretty effective.
I check my phone significantly less, but when I do, I find myself frustrated with the lack of colors and itching to see visuals the way I'm used to. This hack could take some getting used to, but I would encourage you to try it if you find yourself struggling to stop checking your phone. Although this may not entirely eradicate the slot machine effect, it could lessen it.
This trick takes advantage of technology your phone is already equipped with. Android and iOS both offer accessibility features to remove color from your phone. These features are intended to make displays easier to see for people who are colorblind, but they can also ease attentional difficulties.
The process for configuring this setting differs slightly depending on your specific phone and operating system. On iOS, go to Settings -> Accessibility -> Grayscale, and toggle that on. To enable grayscale on your Android smartphone, go to Accessibility in Settings and configure it there. It may be located under Direct Access or Vision depending on the smartphone. If your Android doesn't have this option, you can install the Monochrome app to turn your phone to grayscale.
Screenshots by Sarah Tseggay/Gadget Hacks