Companies look to us to help them craft messages and strategies that cut through the noise in the marketplace. Typically, there are two angles to this goal: either you need a unique signal, or you need to reduce the competing noise.
So when we read of a small trick to help each of us reduce the amount of “external noise” in our everyday life, we were intrigued. Add to this elements of color theory and technology psychology, and we’re all in!
The one-step hack was published earlier this month in The Atlantic as a way to spend less time on your phone. What’s the magic step? Switching your smartphone display into grayscale. Almost so simple that it is silly, but the psychology is solid. Colors are attractive to our minds, eliciting individual thought, sensations and emotions. Grayscale inherently reduces this, making the phone less interesting and, potentially, less worthy of your valuable time.
Among other addict-shaping ploys, our phones are using color to keep us engaged for ever-lengthening periods of time. A couple examples:
· When was the last time you saw a Facebook Ad that was in black and white? Or even a black and white app icon? Out of 110 apps on my phone (yeah, I know that’s a lot) only 2 of mine are strictly black and white. (One of those is the iPhone Voice Memos app). Color ads and apps attract our attention and draw us into engagement.
· Anyone else constantly annoyed by the little red alerts showing unviewed activity on each app? Those are red on purpose- because the color draws the most attention in and causes the brain to want to react to it. (This fact is how we got our name- RedMark – but that’s a whole other blog post!) It has been proven that black and white images only sustain interest for less than two-thirds a second, whereas a colored image may hold the attention for two seconds or more.
So, we decided to have everyone at the office put their phone’s in this magical grayscale setting to see if it really did help with spending less time on the devices. Only about half of us thought the change produced somewhat beneficial results. Overall, results were mixed.
“It was almost depressing to have to scroll through Instagram in all black and white! While I did not find myself checking my phone any less, I did find that I was spending less time on it for each individual check.”
“It is a lot harder to see images on your phone that are in black and white. I felt myself having to squint more frequently to look at something. Using grayscale became more annoying than anything else. It kind of took away all the enjoyment from using my phone, but I can see this being useful in a situation where you want to keep off your phone.”
I, for one, hated it. I use the same phone for work and personal things, so need to judge images and client comps where color is essential. Turning the grayscale on and off just wasn’t practical. I can see use cases where it could help. Let’s say you are on a long car ride with friends and want to make sure you are focused on bonding rather than distracted by Facebook. Sure, grayscale away. But the office “mandate” didn’t last long.
It is an interesting concept though. As awesome as mobile technology can be, we can always strive to have our lives be more radiant than our phones.