Is the Answer to Phone Addiction a Worse Phone?

from NYTs

I’ve gone gray, and it’s great.

In an effort to break my smartphone addiction, I’ve joined a small group of people turning their phone screens to grayscale — cutting out the colors and going with a range of shades from white to black. First popularized by the tech ethicist Tristan Harris, the goal of sticking to shades of gray is to make the glittering screen a little less stimulating.

I’ve been gray for a couple days, and it’s remarkable how well it has eased my twitchy phone checking, suggesting that one way to break phone attachment may be to, essentially, make my phone a little worse. We’re simple animals, excited by bright colors, it turns out.

Silicon Valley companies like Facebook and Google know this, and they have increasingly been turning to the field of applied neuroscience to see how exactly brains respond to color in the apps, what brings pleasure and what keeps the eye. New research shows how important color is to our understanding of priorities and emotion.

But not everyone wants to be so enamored with their screen. This week, two major investors asked Apple to figure out how to help parents limit their children’s use of iPhones and iPads, citing concerns over “long-term health.” There’s also a growing movement among some early tech employees warning against the products they’ve built. And many consumers are starting to wonder what this is all doing to our minds.

Mack McKelvey, the chief executive of the marketing firm SalientMG in Washington, D.C., said she’s aware of the tricks phones use to keep you on them longer — and coming back sooner.

More here.

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58 Responses to Is the Answer to Phone Addiction a Worse Phone?

  1. Pasquale V March 29, 2018 at 5:15 pm #

    In today’s world, smartphones have an immense grip on the minds on the consumer. I myself see a minor addiction with my phone. I never go anywhere without my phone; I just need to have it. There are many reasons as to why people today are obsessed with their smart phones. The article above discusses how tech companies use bright colors and interesting shapes and patterns to draw the user’s attention to the phone, the article suggested switching the phone to black and white screen display. This would ultimately cut that psychological attraction to the bright colors showing on the phone screen. I thought this was a brilliant piece of advice. I have learned in marketing classes that there is a psychological connection between attraction and bright colors in the human mind. I feel the fact that tech companies using this as a tactic to keep users on longer is a very intimidating thought. Although intimidating, I understand why this method is used by these big tech companies. They are a business and this is a brilliant tactic to be used in order to attract users. Changing the screen to black and white would be very beneficial if trying to cut back on your phone usage. It would give people a chance to practice self-control and maybe substitute the time they would be using the phone for a more stimulating activity.

    I feel the problem really stems from people being addicted to knowing and finding out information. This information can be anything. From finding an answer to a math problem, to finding out what Becky did with Bobby over the weekend. People today are obsessed, and a little nosey. Especially millennials, Youth today have a huge problem with technology and in most cases are becoming addicted to the phone because it is a great tool to use when finding information. The phone acts as the connection to the outside world, which is pretty sad, but that is the reality. Ultimately peoples

  2. Jesse Rodgers April 4, 2018 at 11:43 pm #

    The advancement in our phones has really been remarkable. However, with these advancements have come this sort of addiction that we all see today. Whether its kids, young adults, or even older adults when we look around the world we always see people constantly on their smartphone. It has made me wonder about this addiction to our phones and if it has become a problem. In the article it talks about how tech companies use these sort of color schemes and patterns and even shapes that keep people locked in on their phone. I know I for one am on my phone a lot and it is something that I am not too fond of. In the article it talks about going gray meaning they are making the phone so called less appealing to the eye. Now this seems like it has worked but to me this would just temporarily lessen the addiction and later people would go back to the same old addiction. Me personally I think the only way that this phone addiction would go away is if they just stop making smartphones and go back to the old flip phones. I remember people not being so addicted or attached to their phones when there was no reason to be on it unless you are calling someone or texting someone. All in all I think these phone addictions will not go away as long as they keep making these phones more and more advanced.

  3. Brian Graziano April 5, 2018 at 5:09 pm #

    At first glance, I was confused with how this article had any relevance to the topic. However, after reading this article, I realized there were some valid points made to this and everything all came together and made sense.One of the great points I really liked was the mentioning of peoples buying patterns. Most people like to buy things that stand out and appeal to them, not something so dark and boring. Tying that into people addiction to phones is valid. Who would want to stare at a dark phone screen? It just looks depressing. Exactly the point of this article. With the growth of technology, and with all of the powerful things a phone can do, many people have trouble letting go of the thing. Specifically, this has become a big conflict for school aged students and even drivers on the road. It poses a big distraction and unfortunately most people are addicted to their cellular devices. Cell phone addiction also poses many more threats to upcoming generations. It could affect social skills and the way people communicate with each other. 20 years ago, it was rare to see a cell phone in use during dinner talk because it was unacceptable and flat out rude. In today world, I constantly see children playing games on their phone during dinner time and it is acceptable by a lot of parents. In my eyes, communication is the key to a successful life. Cell phone addiction is detrimental to communication. Obviously people need to realize their addiction and will need to work at it. But this article makes a great point and cell phone addicts should really consider some of the points made in the article.

  4. John Martino April 5, 2018 at 8:16 pm #

    Our society’s everyday life is more than dependent on technology. Specifically speaking, smartphones are the large source of our addiction. We can’t go anywhere without our smartphones, something that was not even heard of before. 20 years ago, the idea of being able to carry a device that can communicate with anyone in the world at any given time was inconceivable. It is crazy to think how rapidly we accepted these devices and assimilated them as an essential part to our everyday lives. Past just communications with others, now smartphones have the capability to surf the internet at any time as well as allowing users to play games on the go. This versatility is seen as beneficial for the most part in society. But how do the effects of withdrawing from social interaction I exchange for technological interaction?

    The author of this article, Nellie Bowles, saw this dependency and attempted to change her habits to see the effects it had on her daily life. By joining a small group of people who turned their phone’s colors off, making the screen gray, the attempt to make the phone a little less stimulating. I know that when I try to sleep, my mind often runs when I’m watching television or on my phone too long. Your brain tries to sleep but is still actively stimulated while sleeping. This affects your sleep’s REM cycle in a negative way resulting in a bad night’s sleep. I had no idea that companies like Google and Facebook were investing in applied neuroscience studies to see what the brain responds to as pleasurable and attention retaining. Essentially, these companies are praying on the psychology of the consumer’s human minds. By continuing to trigger their pleasure center in their brain through visual attraction, these companies are driving the consumer-technology obsession deeper and deeper into society’s culture.

    The influence of technological addiction on children is another issue that needs to be addressed. Bowles mentioned that major investors were contacting Apple in hopes to limit their children’s use of iPhones and iPads due to “long-term health concerns.” Clearly these larger companies are seeing this as an issue that can affect children for the rest of their lives. This was an aspect I had not really considered until Bowles brought this point forward. If nothing changes in the way we monitor children’s technology use, the cycle of technology addiction will become a vicious circle, if it has not already. The concept of cool is what sells products in the United States, especially with the younger generation. This was not the case in the past when Americans would buy products based on their practicality. A great example of this is when Americans were buying the because of inflated prices on homes wages and cars as the Cold War was going on. Now, we tend to buy big brand names that are well known and seen as cooler than their alternatives. With our advanced knowledge of psychology and the effects that color has on the mind, we need to figure out how we can modify phone screens so that they become less addicting for consumers of all ages to use. If we continue to push this concept of cool on the younger generation, no matter what safeguards we might try to pursue, the technological addiction will have no end in sight. A phone should be seen as a tool rather than a toy, which is a distinction that many Americans have difficulty coming to.

  5. Sapna April 6, 2018 at 8:42 pm #

    There is not a day I go without using my phone, it is constantly there with me. There are so many distractions that phones can cause, and this affects us in so many ways. The article spoke about how people are obsessed with their phones, and why. There are so many reasons we use phones and most of the time they are not usually important. They revolve around social media, and our friends, and what’s happening with our favorite Instagram blogger. These are not always important, but they are excellent at diverting our attention from what really is vital. This articles spoke about how the technology companies use bright colors and distinctive patterns to attract the owner’s attention. It is shown that by changing settings and having a black and white screen display, we are less likely to be tempted to constantly touch our phone due to the lack of color. This is a good method to try out and see if it indeed helps us with our phone addiction, it is a great way to learn how to control oneself. Personally, I believe that by reversing to the old fashioned phones would be the best way to be less distracted, but the technology is only moving forward, and thus, there will definitely be more distractions coming forth. My mother has always told me that phones should only be used for emergencies, and for when I need to be picked up from a class, but nothing more. This is a stretch, but I can understand what she is trying to say. These devices are tempting, they basically hold the entire universe in their hands, and we have them at the tips of our fingers, but it is our job to learn self control and not fall for temptation. However, I don’t remember a time where people didn’t have phones, because I’ve grown up in a generation of technology, and where people use it in their every day lives. It has always been a part of a person’s daily life, to constantly have this. I remember when I was in middle school, I used to see kids younger than me having Iphones, and it confused me, they were children, what use did they have for a phone? The fact that little kids of that age could have phone blew my mind, but they were constantly distracted in class, and it only proved my mother right, phones are mere distractions.

  6. Rain Cornelius April 6, 2018 at 9:20 pm #

    Many of us today are “addicted “ to our smartphones, myself included. Personally, I check my phone far more often than necessary and it is pretty much in my hand or at least in arms reach at all times in the day. Sometimes, our phones can prove as more of a distraction than a helpful tool. In turn, changing the interface of a phone to black and white could be an excellent way to bring the amount of time we spend on them down to a minimum. The reason we are so attracted to our phones is the colors and designs that companies use to pull us in. Companies put a lot of time in developing the design of their apps and sites in order to increase the engagement. So, those looking to cut their time using their phones may find making their screens grayscale very effective. Staring at a gray phone holds much less appeal than the colorful, inviting look of our apps.

    Although our phones offer easy communication and access to information and news within a small, convenience device, they can lead us to avoiding full interaction with what is around us, cause us to procrastinate, or even lose sleep. In addition to the method mentioned in the article, there are other ways that can help decrease the time spent on our phones. There are many different apps that reward the user or donate to a good cause based on the time the user is inactive on their phone, which is a great incentive to those who wish to stay off their phones. For example, an app called “Pocket Points” rewards students for not using their phones during class, which is an excellent method to decreases distractions. All in all, adopting these methods, or ones similar, can either make the phone less attractive and more like a tool or provide motivation to stay off your smartphone, allowing you to have control over how long you spend looking at your screen.

  7. Joel Valdez April 6, 2018 at 10:59 pm #

    I am just as guilty of the next person when it comes to checking my phone an unnecessary number of times throughout the day. The thought of having that surprise stimuli of a seeing a new message or sports notification can be slightly overwhelming during a boring statistics lecture. Yet, I myself am becoming a statistic by being one of those people who check their phone all the time. However, because my will power (believe it or not based on my last self assessment), it is not hard for me to decompress from my phone usage and place it down for a few hours to do something else. In those hours, I am not concerned with the social media world around me, nor the text messages I may be missing out on. The ability to not be addicted to my phone comes from inner convictions and discipline. The same cannot be said for many others.

    I feel that blaming a company for your phone addiction is lazy and unfair to the the companies. Although they conduct a ton of research to develop programs that stimulate our minds and will keep us coming back, as strong individuals who can think for themselves, we should all be able to say no the request of addiction from these phone companies. In addition, we live in a culture where parents turned to technology to provide entertainment for the children, isolating them from other activities that take more efforts and are practical exercises. They are the ones who bought the tablets and iPads. They have the authority over their children to deny them access to such devices. They can promote to their children the importance of playing with blocks, or going outside, yet they choose to scratch their heads and blame the large companies. A color on a screen won’t change the fun you can have on a phone. And blaming others is lazy. To beat phone addiction, it must come from inside and within our own convictions.

  8. Y Moon June 15, 2018 at 3:16 pm #

    Over the course of the last decade, cell phones have become an essential part of many peoples’ lives. The advancements that have been mades since grey scale flip phones are astronomical. The times where cell phone internet access was rare and quite expensive are gone and now pretty much all cell phones have affordable internet availability with the carrier plans the consumer choses. I feel fortunate to have been able to live through the advancements of phones and vividly remember the times when I had a grey scale phone that only made phone calls and texts, you had the plan for texting. During the times I had a grey scale phone, I was not as attached or addicted to my phone they way I am now. Even when I got a color screen camera phone, I was not as attached to my phone like I am today. But then again, during this time unlimited data and/or unlimited text plans were not of existence because of the lack of internet accessibility and because texting was not as popular as it is today. Just a few years after my first color screen phone, the advancements in cell phone technology exploded. Cell phone companies were now making all their phones with cameras, they started to make phones with keyboards, they started to develop apps that consumers can download, etc. Before the iPhone, the T-Mobile Sidekick was the must have have of the time. Users were able to access the internet, it had a keyboard and it also opened and closed in a unique way that really appealed to consumers. The only bad thing was that you would have to have T-Mobile as your mobile carrier in order to buy the Sidekick. During this time of explosion of cell phone advancements is where I believe our phone addictions started. Consumers were able to finally access the internet without having to be at home with their desktops or laptops and you did not have to be home for Wi-Fi access; the pure convenience of having internet access on your phone was an accommodation that the world loved and craved better access and better phones. A few years after the Sidekick came out, Apple presented the iPhone and this would change the world forever. Even though the first generation iPhone looks similar, it performed no where near as well as the current generations of iPhones. Even so, the first generation iPhone introduced apps and one of the best internet availability that the cellphone world could offer. The introduction of the iPhone changed the cell phone industry completely changed how we work and live today. Many people all over the world are addicted to their cell phones, but can anyone blame them? Phone advancements have made it nearly impossible to stay off cell phones and the addition of social media and the constant demands from work does not help the addiction. I am no exception to the addiction to cellphones and I am very grateful for how easy and convenient they have become, but there are many times where I have yearned for my old grey scale phones because then I would not have as many distractions as I do today. While putting one’s phone into grey scale can help deter distractions and focus the user, it does not change the fact that the phone still has those distracting apps. If a user wants to beat their phone addiction, just like any addiction, it must come from self determination.

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