This past weekend while out to lunch with my family, I noticed six college-aged guys sitting at the table next to us. All six of them had their eyes glued to their phones. I have noticed this before at restaurants, when my younger cousin has friends over, and even with my own friends sitting around our dinner table. Something about the image of six people sitting at one table, all distracted by their cell phones irks me. However, sometimes it feels like it’s the only option – if the five people I am sitting with are all on their phones and I decide to keep my phone away, am I just going to sit there and stare at them? My friend might realize she should put her phone away, but when she looks up to do so, everyone else is on their phones, so what’s the point? And this can lead to a cycle of people thinking it’s okay to spend so much time on their phones instead of engaging with the people in their company.
Throughout the semester we have had many discussions about people being addicted to their cell phones and social media. I have read numerous blog posts in which classmates have mentioned “aimlessly scrolling through social media” (and I am definitely no exception!). Not only is it rude to be on your phone all of the time, but there are also dangerous repercussions, such as accidents caused by texting and driving.
So what can we do about this? I am sure there are many people who are not looking to change behaviors. On the other hand, I am confident that there are plenty of people, like me, who want to spend less time on their phones and social media. Although they may desire to cut back, they still catch themselves mindlessly scrolling through newsfeeds of various social media sites.
Yesterday my friend told me about a trick to cut down time spent on one’s phone. There is a setting that can turn phones to grayscale, and apparently this could discourage someone from using their cell phone as much. A video posted on the Atlantic of senior editor James Hamblin explores this idea. He explains that “emotions and attention are tied to color perception.” Cell phones and apps are wired to grab your attention and distract. Notifications are evident by red numbers on the corners of apps. The color red is known to enhance our attention to detail and “stimulate excitement.” According to a Fast Company article, it is also associated with high click through rates, creates urgency, and is eye-catching. Could turning these red icons to gray really affect your urgency and frequency of phone and social media use? There has not been much research on the subject. Hamblin describes it as more of a mind trick, but that it has decreased how frequently he checks and uses his phone.
After reading about this, I decided to try it. On my iPhone, I went to “Settings” –> “General” –> “Accessibility” –> and then turned on “Grayscale.” I have only had this on for a few days, so it may be too soon to see if it’s making an impact, but I have noticed a few differences so far. In addition to the effect of the red color, seeing my phone in grayscale is just not as enticing. Instagram photos and Facebook videos seem to lose their appeal when they are not in full color. Additionally, since it was my intention to start using my phone less, whenever I go to use it and see the gray color, it acts as a reminder to put down my phone.
I intend to use this setting for as long as possible in order to see if it has a lasting effect and truly works. However, I anticipate wanting to turn my phone back to color when I want to take pictures for events such as graduation festivities.
Tell me what you think! Could it really work? Would you try it?