One Simple Hack To Use Your Phone Less
Making my smartphone black and white has made it suck so much that I use it less. Which is the goal. The simple act of going grayscale leaves you with all the necessary functionality but none of the joy. It’s a simple hack but for me, a week in, it’s been effective.
Less Of A Slot Machine
When you open a normal phone you get a bunch of candy. A bunch of icons that can each take you into another world.
When you open a black and white phone you get a bunch of dross. My brain can’t even register the icons without their familiar colors, it just looks like unappealing paste.
Each app icon is a rabbit-hole that can swallow your time and attention through your thumbs. Apps are, above all, little dopamine adjusters, little slot machines, and what would a slot machine be without the color and the spin? If you take the color out it’s just a bunch of dull symbols which your brain has to think hard to recognize. And thinking hard is the opposite of distraction. You end up thinking ‘what the fuck am I doing?’ and just stop. Most app experiences aren’t Citizen Kane, without the frosting they’re just not that great.
Watching YouTube, for examples, sucks in black and white. Without color, mindless video browsing is basically unusable. You have to pay so much attention that it defeats the purpose of distracting yourself. I don’t have Facebook, but I suspect that that would also suck in grayscale, as you would have to think about each photo or link to identify it, and if you think too hard you would realize that most photos and links are dumb.
Browsing photos also sucks, which is actually something I miss a bit. I can’t show people photos of my kids anymore or enjoy looking through snaps, but I guess that’s an acceptable loss as I am less tempted to use the phone while I’m actually with my kids. Previously I have caught myself using my smartphone to read about fucking Donald Trump over my newborn’s shoulder. Now my delightful child has a fighting chance of getting my attention, unless Donald Trump has done something especially infantile that day.
Another thing that sucks is taking photos. Taking a grayscale photo is almost like shooting film. You have a color photo but you can’t see it unless you ‘develop’ it on a computer.
Overall, however, those are acceptable losses for the effect of basically crippling the slot machine nature of a modern smartphone.
More Of A Tool
The only apps that are still pleasurable are Kindle (books, good) and then maybe sorta news apps. But again only for reading words. Anything picture driven just doesn’t work.
Besides that, all the functional apps work just fine. You can use Google Maps (though traffic is a bit harder to read), you can use email and Whatsapp, and oh, take phone calls — though video calls suck. You can still Google stuff and if I want to hail a cab I can do it on PickMe (or Uber if you’re like that). I can track packages, convert currencies, find out what the fuck that rash is, all the functional stuff a phone is super useful for, I’m just not doing that stuff on a machine that’s full of other distracting fun.
In color my phone is a slot machine but in grayscale it’s just a tool. Which is more how it should be, I think.
The other effect this has is that reality suddenly becomes more interesting. Because it’s in Technicolor. Hence I find myself staring at stuff more, or out the window, cause it’s just nice. I pick up books sometimes, or find people to talk to. Yes, I still read news a bit compulsively, but I find myself getting bored and putting the phone down more. Which is good. Smartphones have just gotten too good. By making it grayscale you at least give reality a fighting chance.