Greyscale Solstice: How To Celebrate Humanity, On The Oldest Holiday

People like us, do things like this. #GreyscaleSolstice

Brian Deines
6 min readDec 15, 2023

For a day, let’s make a choice. Let’s celebrate our flawed humanity. How? There’s one simple, unifying act. Turn your smartphone screen onto Greyscale mode.

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is one of those iconic 80’s movies. But it’s not about skipping school — it’s a warning. Don’t miss your Life.

Throughout human history, it’s never felt easier to miss your own life than it is right now. Why is that?

Why We’re All Missing Our Lives

Because, the smartphone. Because attention is now the most precious commodity on Earth.

And every aspect of smartphone technology is engineered to extract that attention-commodity from you.

We know. Deep down in our cold human hearts — Social Media, A.I., and the Smartphone they rode in on — they’re bad news. (More on “bad” news in a moment). But we know all this.

We’ve split in two. On line self, real life self.

So what can we do? Greyscale.

This essay will explain why Greyscale is the first, easiest, and possibly the most helpful thing you can do to counteract the effects of the smartphone — and avoid missing your life.

Let’s dive in.

Humanity and The Darkside of Tech

All smartphones have the ability to operate in greyscale. Tristan Harris of The Social Dilemma fame has spent his career advocating against the darkside of tech.

His foundation, The Center for Humane Technology instructs us why greyscale works.

Simply put, greyscale mode works because it robs the smartphone screen of its mesmerizing color.

Color Theory

The prismatic wizardry of the smartphone screen bombards our eyeballs — our humanity with beautiful, juicy, technicolor.

But why is that a problem?

Well take those red notifications for example? Harris and others have explained that our eyes evolved to find calorie dense fruit.

Thus, we’re programmed to tap that alert icon — because we basically wish it was a raspberry.

That was a sinister design choice that preys on human nature. Red alert indeed.

The Tricks Of the Smartphone Trade Prey on Our Dumbness

Essentially the tricks of the smartphone eliminate friction.

Other examples include the Like button. The bottomless scroll. Click bait headlines.

BTW, click bait works because it’s been found that humans are more likely to react to things we find shocking, disgusting, or repulsive. Which is great news for “bad news.”

And alas, the Attention economy cares only about “time on device.” So there’s nothing but more where that came from ahead.

But at the same time, I would argue this “bad news mechanism” is circumstantial evidence that everything and everyone in the world is not as bad as we’re being told.

This is the power of greyscale.

Greyscale is a Reminder… Hey Buddy, You’re Human

Greyscale is a reminder. A sticky note to or from our better angels.

Greyscale draws attention to the juice that is lacking onscreen.

Greyscale creates awareness because you become aware that you like your phone less.

The Logo Of The Logos?

It’s about controlling what you can control.

It’s worth noting that the inventors of the Blue LED light won the Nobel Prize.

They won that Nobel dynamite money, because the Blue LED facilitated the Smartphone screen.

Now there are 4 Billion Smartphone users on the planet.

And as each day, each year of our lives march past, we become more and more symbiotic with our little devices.

We have become less ourselves, more our phone.

Less human.

Nobel Peace

But what if we decided to remember we’re all human?

What if we simply go greyscale for a day — on the Solstice? Let’s celebrate the Solstice, the OG Holiday, in a modern way, that still honors it’s original intent.

It’s a new holiday, that’s actually the oldest holiday. A holiday for all humankind. And our collective awareness bends the tide of history in favor of humanity, grace, and peace.

Raise awareness one person at a time. If you like what you’re reading, share this. Help someone else. If we all pay it forward?

Help this idea circulates until every smartphone user switches the screen to greyscale twice a year to honor the Solstice, and what it means. One unifying gesture, a gift to our shared humanity. I mean, noble peace prize indeed.

Solstice — Shine the Light of Awareness on the Darkness of Smartphones.

Thus I propose a new holiday. On the Solstice. The darkest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere.

The solstices have been honored by humans for eons. (See Stonehenge).

But the Solstice has been overshadowed since the advent of.. well.. Advent, Hanukkah, and electricity.

I think we all still sense the change in light much more than we realize.

The Light Sources We Orbit

As such, Greyscale Solstice is more than a day off from the color of our screens. It’s a day to honor the history of all life on Earth.

Let us honor the return orbit of that life-giving light source, by electing to tone down the life-draining light source each of us now orbit.

Why Are Smartphones Addictive?

Tristan Harris calls smartphones a slot machine in our pocket.

For over a decade, the smartest minds in Silicon Valley mined every trick of human failing and designed it into the smartphone.

You probably know what we’re talking about. Infinite scroll. Red alert icons. Like buttons. Notifications. Gamifications. Monetization. Click bait. Thirst traps. Filters. Bad News.

And all of it in amazing, living, Nobel Prize-winning color.

All of these tricks are psychological hacks intended to attack our smooth monkey brains on a subconscious level.

To what end? No end — other than just using the smartphone more.

If you don’t understand a thing, you can start by following the money. Advertising dollars. Marketing budgets.

Maybe you hate yourself and don’t really give AF. Fair enough. But what about the kids?

What is Greyscale?

It’s simple. Greyscale is the absence of color.

And when your phone isn’t lit up like a Christmas tree, notice that you enjoy your actual Christmas tree more.

And each phone not only has a greyscale feature, but a way to create a greyscale shortcut. The instructions are found on Google and YouTube.

Greyscale To Conserve Energy, You Say?

Then there’s the energy conservation discussion.

If everyone on Earth used Greyscale for a day — it would reduce conserve how much energy? I’m not just talking about electricity consumption. We’re all exhausted — how much of that has to do with our smartphone consumption?

We already know how greyscale can save battery. The battery-saving triage technique is: close out apps, dim the screen, and turn on greyscale.

What if we all conserved battery? How big of a reduction in electricity, how much carbon emissions would we save? Seriously, if you know how much, please share!

Likewise, greyscale can help us recharge our human batteries.

A Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

So as you can see. Something as small as Greyscale Solstice has massive implications. But it also just feels good. Easy. Right.

For one day, let’s all make a simple gesture and choose the color of life over the color screen.

“Look around,” like Ferris Bueller told us. Let’s raise our awareness about awareness. See the real color, honor the real light of the world for awhile.

Take a day off, be a little more human.



Brian Deines

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