A week without color: phone display challenge

The mobile device is one of the most addicting substances on the planet. Walking around a busy street without seeing a phone in someone’s hand is like trying to find a needle in a haystack; even though we have control over our devices, our devices are starting to have control over us. 

A study completed by Reviews.org found that nearly 57% of people admit to being addicted to their phones, and these numbers are climbing as technology advances. I admit to being part of this percentage, and as a college student, I don’t feel alone.

The more I was consumed by my phone, the less I was completing on a daily basis. I felt the need to take action against my device, but first I had to question: what makes phones so addicting? 

According to former Design Ethicist at Google Tristan Harris, technology is engineered to be addicting and hijack our attention, and a phone is comparable to a slot machine. To combat this problem of a stimulating screen, I thought that taking away what makes it appealing — the color -– would result in less screen time. 

For the past week, my phone has been switched to grayscale. It has not been easy, as I have been accustomed to a colored screen since I purchased a device more than a decade ago, but it works. For iPhones, this can be completed by going into Settings > Accessibility > Display & Text Size > Color Filters, and switching it from off to on. 

My screen time’s biggest enemy is the app TikTok, as the app is designed to scratch the itch of short attention spans. I found myself constantly scrolling on Tiktok, watching as many videos as I could in between tasks, and while I had important work to complete. Since switching to grayscale, I have spent significantly less time on the app. Videos are less interesting to watch without color; it seems to be a no-brainer, yet this easy fix isn’t known to a lot of people. 

Another part of my phone that is not only damaging to my screen-time, but also to my bank account is the endless access to online shopping. I have every one of my favorite stores as apps, and I started to find more and more Amazon packages outside my front door the more that I used my phone. Since I made the switch, I haven’t purchased a single item this week. Without seeing the item for its real color, I simply did not want it, and my credit card has thanked me. 

A valid reason why phone displays are colored in the first place is for the purpose of photographs. I take a lot of pictures, and it’s evident in my camera roll with over 8,000 pictures. With my phone in grayscale, I did not like to see myself, or the world through the camera, thus resulting in fewer photos. Great for my phone storage, but not so great for the memories to look back on. Although, if pictures are taken with grayscale, they still switch to color once the display settings are changed back. 

Social media in general, including Instagram and Snapchat are platforms I consume every day. After the switch, I barely spent any time on them. I didn’t post a picture, I rarely sent snapchats of my own, and I only scrolled through Instagram to catch-up on everyone’s lives. 

Last week, my weekly average screen time was six hours and 19 minutes. As of today, my weekly average is three hours and 1 minute. Since switching my phone to grayscale, my screen time has dropped more than 50%, which goes to show the effectiveness of this experiment. Since going gray, the world around me has been more stimulating than my phone, and I will continue to utilize this easy change to enjoy what is real over what is artificial.

Header Photo: The new social experiment going around on TikTok is changing your phone screen to black and white to reduce screen time, but does it work? (Mercedes Kauphusman/The Reporter)

Write to Mercedes Kauphusman at mercedes.kauphusman@mnsu.edu

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