Beware of Bright Shiny Objects

I’ll warn you right now. You may want to click off this post within 30 seconds, but I urge you to get through it. Some of you may disagree with it pretty quickly. All I ask (ever) is that you stop and consider that this may be worth swirling around your noggin for more than 10 minutes.

Two weeks ago, I listened to this podcast episode called ‘How technology brings out the worst in us, with Tristan Harris.’ I had never heard of this podcast show nor Tristan Harris.

At first, I got the sense that there’s nothing new here – some person espousing that we spend too much time on our phones. No shit.

As I’ve said multiple times, I hate when people are not present with each other. One could argue that maybe my presence is not all that exciting, but I’m going to lie to myself that I’m not that bad of a guy to hang out with most of the time.

Late in the episode, Harris talks about changing his phone’s screen from glorious color to black and white as a way to minimize the dopamine hit he gets when looking at his phone. As he says, we don’t get to choose whether we want those dopamine rewards, they just happen. By changing to grayscale, we can then start to look at our phones as tools and not bright shiny objects to distract us.

At the end of the episode, I was more than mildly curious, so I visited the organization’s website that Harris co-founded, Center for Humane Technology. Within their site, they have a handful of suggestions on how to take control of your phone.

I have always been a big believer in minimizing your notifications, so the first suggestion was already completed. I then dove headfirst into the next three recommendations.

  • Go Grayscale. Maybe I’m a geek, but I find this suggestion to be oddly appealing. As my friend said, “tech noir.” Just note that Harris says that if you do this, you also need to set your phone up so it’s easy to get it back to color for those times you do want and need it – like taking and looking at photos.
  • Try keeping your home screen to tools-only. Back in January, I shared my new phone home screen. It was set up perfectly in my mind. After reading this tip, I completely blew it up. I now have one (and only one) screen on my phone (see the image at the top of this post). All unimportant apps were thrown into one big folder. I’ve made a real conscious effort to have only tools easily accessible. Email, Spotify, Instagram, Safari, Sports? All buried. See next bullet point.
  • Launch other apps by typing. Causing a lot of friction to get to some time-sucking apps is a big deal. It’s the exact opposite of minimizing friction to help you get things done.

I’m now two weeks into my ‘new’ iPhone, and I love it. Even when I do look at my phone, I don’t get sucked into it. Email can wait. Barstool Sports Instagram can certainly wait.

If you prefer to watch a shorter Ted Talk with Harris, it’s right here.


Alas, you’ve made it to the end of the article. Congratulations! Did you make it because something resonated with you? Are you willing to join me in this grayscale movement or do you feel you’ve got things under control?

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