We’re all waking up to the fact smartphones are timesinks designed to get us hooked. But what if there was a simple way to make your gadgets a bit less compelling so you’re not inclined to spend so much time staring at them? Buried inside your iPhone and Android are settings which change the way your display looks. It’s called ‘greyscale’ (or grayscale, in US spelling) and turns the screen black and white, reducing its grabbiness and potentially liberating you from a very modern addiction.
Tristan Harris, a former product philosopher at Google, is one of the people who think this simple step could stop you getting hooked on smartphones. Harris believes ‘technology hijacks our psychological vulnerabilities’, so advocates a sort of mindfulness to make sure your phone isn’t too grabby.
Mack McKelvey, the chief executive of the marketing firm SalientMG, is one of the people who’s tried this approach out. ‘You don’t buy black-and-white cereal boxes, you buy the really stimulating coloured one, and these apps have developed really cool tiles, cool shapes, cool colours, all designed to stimulate you,’ she told the New York Times. ‘But there’s a vibrant world out there, and my phone shouldn’t be it.’
How to turn on iPhone greyscale mode
Open up the Settings app in iOS.
Go to ‘General’ and then click on ‘Accessibility’.
The greyscale option can be found in the ‘vision’ section.
Turn it on and your phone will look like the beginning of The Wizard of Oz.
Two men who worked at Mozilla, makers of the web browser Firefox, also tried going grey. They said app developers use colours to make their creations more compelling. But by making their display black and white, the tech experts were able to resist the siren call of YouTube videos or Instagram pictures designed to keep you clicking. ‘It’s working for me,’ said brand strategist Daniel. ‘I don’t reach for my phone as much. My video consumption is way down. I’ve got more cash in the pockets of my Levi’s. These are good things. ‘Heck, maybe I’ll even start leaving my phone out of the bedroom, something I’ve been saying I would do since I got my first iPhone. I think the blue light is ruining my sleep, even more than my old restless dog.’
How to find Android greyscale mode First you’ll need to turn on developer mode.
To do this, go to ‘About Device’ and then press ‘Build Number’ several times until the phone says you’re a developer.
Go back to settings and above ‘About Device’ you will now see ‘Developer Options’.
Open it, select ‘Simulate Colour Space’ and set it to ‘Monochrome’.
In a Medium post, tech entrepreneur Megan E. Holstein said greyscale was part of a trend called digital minimalism in which people cut back their use of gadgets and try to live a less hyper-connected life. She wrote: ‘LCD colour screens stimulate parts of our brain we inherited from ancestors long ago. In nature, bright colors mean items of interest. The many bright colours on a phone screen mean many items of interest, all the time. They fixate our brains, which are still triggered by bright colours. Phone designers intentionally do this to draw us in. ‘Making a phone display black and white short-circuits this tendency. Your phone no longer draws in your animal brain like bait. It goes from un-put-down-able to, well, boring.’