How making my phone more boring changed my life
“It shouldn’t be this hard,” I thought to myself as I was struggling to finish my paper with my phone opened, closed, opened to Instagram. My eyes were glued to the different shades and hues of the photos of people’s lives that they chose to show. Even when hitting the home button, each app has been designed to draw my attention, to want to click and never, ever stop scrolling. Even when pressing the lock button on my phone, there would be this pull sensation in my stomach whispering “once you’re done with this sentence, maybe take a little peek. There’s more to see.”
There’s more to see. Ah. There it is. There will always be more to see. I remember in my sophomore year of college, this nurturing, genuine voice in my head saying, “What if you just delete the Facebook app? Wouldn’t that be better?” and then the nagging, insecure voice would come in and say, “But you’d miss out.” Even if you committed to scrolling on your phone for the entire 24 hours you have, you would still not see everything. Let that sink in: No matter how hard you try, you will always be missing out on something. Once I realized this, being off my phone in terms of mindlessly scrolling became easier. But I still slipped. Again, and again.
Even though I deleted the Facebook app from my phone a while ago (and that was very helpful), my phone was still a magnet. I was researching “how to stop looking at my phone” more than I’d like to admit. I’d already tried most of the suggestions I found, such as deleting certain apps from your phone, setting a certain time of the day to check certain apps on your phone, as well as others. Even though these tactics helped me, I was still hooked. I came upon something I hadn’t tried yet: setting my phone to grayscale. As soon as the thought “but then what would be the point of looking at the apps” washed over me, I set my phone to grayscale with a home button shortcut to go back to color if I needed to. I’d give myself at least a week to adjust to grayscale and then check in to see how I felt at the end of that week.
Not only have I kept my phone on grayscale far past that first week and don’t plan on going back to color full-time any time soon, several of my friends have switched to grayscale as well. It works. The reason is simple: it makes your phone more boring and less stimulating. In grayscale, I’d find myself scrolling through Instagram or Snapchat, and within a matter of a minutes, say to myself “wait, what am I doing?” and stop scrolling.
Setting my phone to grayscale has made the common sense we all already have inside of us bubble back to the surface: My life is in vibrant color and I want to look up, out, and around, not down. Double-tapping several photos and giggling at a few memes throughout the day does not give me more experiences, more joy, more connection. It locks me up in my own fast-paced, whirling prison, forces me to constantly compare this moment to others’ moments that may or may not be happening right now, and severs my connection to myself and others around me.
"Setting my phone to grayscale has made the common sense we all already have inside of us bubble back to the surface: My life is in vibrant color and I want to look up, out, and around, not down."
For the longest time, I could not explain this tightness between my ribs, the spinning, looping thoughts and suggestions in my head of how to live this moment better, look better, sound better, better, better, better. It felt like there was a 50-pound weight on my back with the word “MORE” in all caps on it. I’d think, well, maybe there’s something interesting on my phone because I don’t know what this feeling is. Instead of going inward and sitting in my own discomfort and confusion, getting to know myself in this moment, I scrolled and stared at others’ moments that seemed a lot more eloquently put together than this one. Now that I’ve had my phone on grayscale for over a month, I can confidently say I have the answer as to what this feeling is. It is the byproduct of being bombarded by moments that normally would be in motion but are still, one after the other, not our own, a treadmill with no red stop button. This is overload.
"Double-tapping several photos and giggling at a few memes throughout the day does not give me more experiences, more joy, more connection. It locks me up in my own fast-paced, whirling prison, forces me to constantly compare this moment to others’ moments that may or may not be happening right now, and severs my connection to myself and others around me."
I still look at Instagram. I still look at Snapchat, although I will say it’s starting to bother me more than give me enjoyment. But I think that’s the point: Grayscale has made me aware of how I’m feeling, it has given me the red stop button on the treadmill. My eyes are glued to my phone far less than they used to be. Let me tell you from firsthand experience: people’s faces are BEAUTIFUL, you can actually see the clouds moving if you look close enough, a reminder that we are in constant motion, constantly changing, and food is so. Damn. Good when you’re paying attention. I’m more into tune with my emotions and it’s rare for them to turn into something bigger. A weight has been lifted. I am more present than I have ever been.
"Instead of going inward and sitting in my own discomfort and confusion, getting to know myself in this moment, I scrolled and stared at others’ moments that seemed a lot more eloquently put together than this one."
I turn my phone back to color if I need to look at something that requires color to understand its context. Each time I do this, I see why I must have this barrier. The colors on my phone are stunning and absolutely hypnotizing. Everything is so fast. Now, this isn’t to say our phones aren’t incredibly useful, but we already know that. I am simply saying that having little to no color on my phone has made the colors in my life much brighter and my phone become a tool and nothing more. It’s difficult to explain how liberating it feels to not be constantly magnetized by my phone. Since I can’t explain it, try it for yourself. The instructions to turn your phone black and white, as well as the shortcut to turn it back to color, are below. A friend of mine who saw my phone set to grayscale for the first time the other day asked “Don’t you feel like you’re missing something with it like that?” No, I don’t. I feel that what has been missing is finally back.
Turn Your Phone to Grayscale:
Settings > General > Accessibility > Display Accommodations > Color Filters > Grayscale
Shortcut to Switch:
Settings > General > Accessibility > Accessibility Shortcut > Color Filters. Now, just press the home button three times to enable grayscale or press it three more times to go back to color.