Life in Color, Screens in Black and White

I haven’t written on here in awhile. I’d like to say that it is because I just absolutely haven’t had any time, but that isn’t really it. I have just been lacking in motivation, inspiration, possibly confidence. I’m not really sure. But I’m almost always glad when I sit down to write something, so today I’m setting aside the time and going for it. I’m not exactly sure how, but I think it is good for me.

Cell phones are a big deal today. I don’t think that is a secret. Where we might have used to describe the amount of people who have smartphones by saying a really high percentage, like, “77% of Americans own smartphones” or something like that, try this – how many teenagers or adults do you know personally who don’t own a smartphone? I can think of one off the top of my head and that is it. That is crazy! They are a huge part of our modern world.

People give this generation of kids and teenagers a really hard time about their cell phone use. Some have called it the “iGeneration.” It is almost a broken record to talk about how much time kids spend on their phone and how they don’t know how to have a normal conversation anymore. I work with middle school students, and a lot of those stereotypes are true! I am deeply concerned about cell phone addiction for students.

But, I am also deeply concerned about cell phone addiction for people! Us adults aren’t always that great at having normal conversations and looking away from our phones either. If you are a person with a smart phone, you have the potential to have a problematic relationship with it. It isn’t necessarily your fault, in a lot of ways they were designed to be addictive!

Cell phone addiction is something a lot of people talk about today. Websites like Huffington Post have a whole section of articles simply titled “cell phone addiction.” There are plenty of tips out there on how to break cell phone addiction, or at least limit our time on our devices. A really common tip is to turn your phone to black and white. There is a lot of science that I won’t try to explain that shows us how the red notifications, the lights, the color, all causes us to be addicted to our phones. But by turning the screens to black and white, the phone becomes a lot more boring and a lot less alluring.

I, like many other people, am trying to at least be conscious of how much time I spend on my phone. So I tried out the black and white screen thing. (Here’s a quick little explanation of this theory and how to do it on your phone.)

The results were eye opening. To begin with, it really does make the phone a lot more boring. There is not much exciting about a black and white screen. Notifications are harder to see. Instagram and Facebook feel pretty lifeless. Gifs aren’t nearly as funny. The phone genuinely did become less alluring.

My boring old phone.
My boring old phone.

But here’s what I found to be the most significant realization. Any time that I did look down at my black and white phone, and then looked back up at the real world, something wonderful happened. While the phone was dull and boring, the world around me was full of life and color. Everything was vibrant and full. Everything from our faded white apartment walls to the spectacular green trees outside the window somehow appeared brighter after looking at the lifeless, black and white screen.

It was a great reminder to me of the way things should be, and how far away we have gotten from that. I see it in the students I’m with all the time. When life starts to feel dull, lifeless, or boring, their phone is a quick and easy way to see color, excitement, and what seems like “life.” And it seems to work, so it keeps drawing them back again, and again, and again.

We have it backwards. If we aren’t careful, we can start to see the world around us as black and white, and the screens in our pockets as bright and full of life. That is a scary place to be, but I think it is reality for a lot of people. I think that is part of why it is so easy for us to bury our head in our phones. And the more that we do, the more we will think that that is where true “color” is found.

Now, of course I’m a hypocrite. I don’t do this perfectly or even that well. I made the setting on my phone so that I could easily switch between color and black and white (I mean, how else am I supposed to look at apartments on Craigslist if I can’t see them in color?). But even doing it for a day is a great reminder to me of this simple truth – these phones are not real life. They are just a screen, showing us a limited perspective, and that perspective is black and white – boring, dull, lacking. But the world (and the people) around us is bright, vibrant, and full of life.

When I pick my eyes up from my phone, I see bright green trees, some of the handiwork of God’s spectacular creation. I see a grandfather playing rock, paper, scissors with his granddaughter in a coffee shop. I see my sweet wife, made in God’s image.  I see the world as it really is, fallen though it may be.

What if you decided to just go a day, maybe even a week with your phone in black and white? How might it change your perspective? Would it cause us to look up and at each other more often? Would it cause us to see new beauty in our day to day life?

Would you be willing to give it a try?

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