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Digital Distraction Tip: Dull Your Phone

“Every silver linings got a touch of grey.”

-Grateful Dead

Cardinals (red), goldfinches (yellow), and indigo buntings (blue) are common sights during northeast summers. Nothing rare about them. Often seen dining at backyard feeders.

Yet whenever spotted someone inevitably turns it into a David Attenborough moment. “Look,” they shout, “a goldfinch!” And look we do. Always impressed, sometimes amazed, feeling better for witnessing a brief shake from the mundane.

House wrens (brownish gray) are also common. They possess the gift of song. Yet their presence ignites no such fanfare. Never does someone shout, “Oh look – a house wren!” Without primary color we view them as dull, unworthy of wide-eyed attention.

Susceptible to Shiny Objects Syndrome

Our brains are attracted to color. Especially red. It’s the color wheel’s version of shouting.

So it’s not by coincidence that online notification bubbles – e-mail, Facebook, Instagram – are always red. Remember: nothing engineered by tech is unintentional. Everything is carefully calculated to manipulate attention – including colors.

The Power of Grayscale

Hence, the power of grayscale. Removing colors from your phone screen dulls the appeal. It turns your phone from a gold finch into a house wren.

It won’t eliminate screen monitoring urges, but it will curb reactionary checking triggered by colors. The void of colors creates resistance. It stalls impulse, causing enough hesitation for the brain to question the need to respond to the notification alert. It may or may not stop you from opening your phone, but it will, at the very least, provide you with some semblance of control.

How to Dull Your Phone

The process for enabling grayscale varies by phone. But generally you can access the color filter, regardless of phone, by going to Settings, tapping the General tab and then opening the Accessibility menu, taking no more than 30 seconds.

About the Author: Jeff Wozer presented our April 2021 webinar entitled "Digital Balance in an Age of Digital Addiction" which members can view in our webinar archive. He is a national speaker, writer, and comedian. For digital balance questions, comments or recommended books on the topic e-mail Jeff at You can also find tips, via short videos (yes, he gets the irony) at

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