If you feel like looking at your phone all day wrecks your ability to concentrate and is probably not good for you, a black and white iPhone screen might be a nice productivity fix.
Recent research confirms our heavy screen dependence and its negative effects:
- Prolonged blue light exposure at night impacts our circadian rhythms and contributes to chronic lack of sleep, paving the way for health problems such as obesity, diabetes, elevated risk of heart disease, and even a shortened lifespan.
- Time spent looking at our smartphones is now approaching four hours each day, and recently mobile consumption passed TV consumption as the activity we spend the most time doing each day.
- Popular social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram were engineered with the same dopamine-hacking logic as slot machines, and their usage has been linked to increased anxiety and depression.
I didn’t need this research, though — I know I’m addicted.
Those new car contests in shopping malls where contestants have to keep their hand touching the vehicle at all times and the last person standing wins? If that car was an iPhone I would crush you.
I knew not being on my phone on weekends or deleting certain apps would help. But the phone still feels like candy whenever it’s in my hands (Freaking delicious, obviously).
I needed to make my phone more boring. So when I read in the New York Times that color and shape are what capture our attention first, and that bleeding all the color out of your screen might help you detox, I opted to give it a shot.
How to set up a black and white iPhone screen
This modification, buried down in the Settings app (It’s way down there — Take a left at the submarine, if you reach the pirate plunder you’ve gone too far), will remove all color from your display, making your daily feed scrolls and Instagram binges less appealing.
To set the shortcut up on your own device, Navigate to your ‘Settings’ app, then find ‘General’.
Tap ‘Accessibility’, locate Display Accommodations, then go to ‘Color Filters’.
Turn color filters on, and ensure that the option is selected is Grayscale and not another color combination.
POOF. Feel the difference? I sure did. Navigate to the home screen and you’ll immediately wonder why on earth you paid so much for this device. So boring!
I left this display tweak on and went about my day as a marketing schmuck who works remotely, feeling confident and inspired about all the new things I could pursue in life with my revived attention span.
…For about ninety minutes.
Why I don’t leave the black and white iPhone screen setting on permanently
Plot twist: I could only tolerate this habit-snapping, focus-rejuvenating productivity hack for a little over an hour.
It wasn’t because of my raging addiction to vibrant displays (or so I say).
I realize I’ve built a lifestyle in which some of my work is done from my phone - and I like it that way.
If I need to run some daytime errands, I can arrange my day accordingly and move projects along as I’m picking up a prescription or ordering a very important smoothie.
Sometimes this project management involves sending quick color feedback on a graphic design project or reviewing a video, and I found it became annoying to dive into settings over and over and toggle grayscale on and off.
Enter the Accessibility Shortcut feature. Three quick taps of the home button and I can toggle grayscale on and off in less than a second.
To enable this, go back into ‘Color Filters’ and switch your grayscale off.
Now navigate back two screens to “Accessibility’, and this time scroll all the way to the bottom of the screen to find Accessibility Shortcut.
Here, you’ll find the elusive triple-click shortcuts screen, along with a variety of options. Tap Color Filters and a checkmark will appear.
Return to the home screen. Now, when you triple-tap the home button, your screen should become black and white. Triple-tap again to bring back the good stuff.
The neurological benefits of boredom
Screen addiction has neurologists concerned, not so much because of what grows in the brain, but rather what atrophies away.
- The gray matter in your frontal lobe is shown to atrophy. This is the part of your brain responsible for organization and getting things done.
- The striatum is shown to atrophy. This is the part of the brain that controls impulsiveness.
- The insula is shown to atrophy. This part of the brain controls empathy; studies show a reduced ability to deduce emotion from physical signals when the insula is compromised.
- And don’t even get me started on the dopamine receptors thing. Studies showed that avid internet gamers’ dopamine receptors and transporters were blunted, and that the dopamine rush from heavy screen consumption was similar to what humans experience when on drugs.
So even if you’re not engaging in social apps that are wired to make you feel bad about yourself, overexposure to screens could be impacting your mental health more than you realize.
(I also hoard all the reasons I crave carbs, and it’s been shown that screen exposure may lead to deeper and more frequent cravings.)
If you’re on the hook to be creative and focused throughout the day, but also need to interact with screens regularly for your livelihood, it might make sense for you to explore this shortcut.
Again, in summary:
- Consider enabling grayscale on your iPhone. Follow this path: Settings > General > Accessibility > Display Accommodations > Color Filters. Toggle and confirm you’re set on grayscale.
- If you’re lazy like me, enable an accessibility shortcut. Go to Settings > General > Accessibility > Accessibility Shortcut.
- Stimulation from screens is turning your brain to mush. Being bored could actually help you win back your willpower and sanity.