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I, Phone: The 13 Million Moments that Mattered…or didn’t.

The 13 million moments that mattered…or didn’t.

Words by Michael Winnick

dscout recently published research findings that document the amazing extent to which people interact with their phones throughout the day. We highlighted super users: people who exceed 200 sessions and 5,000 discrete interactions each day.

I’ve had an iPhone since Gen 1, seven years ago. Since then, I really haven’t been without it...for a single day. And, I am undoubtedly a superuser: I use my phone so much that my preschooler and first-grader suggested an iPhone as cake decoration for my 37th birthday.

How many times have I touched my iPhone since I’ve owned it? That’s 5,000 touches a day, 365 days a year, for 7 years. Using my iPhone calculator (14 touches, btw), that’s 12,755,000.

Aside from breathing, blinking and other autonomic functions, it’s arguable that touching my iPhone is the thing I’ve done the most…ever.

I just cried a little when I wrote that.

Some truly momentous things have happened during those nearly 13 million touches. My son’s first steps were documented. A business was founded. Friendships blossomed. Others not so much. I’ve read some of my favorite books. But, most of those touches were… inconsequential. Daily chaff. Distraction by a thousand digital cuts. A way to pass toilet time.

I am like most people I’ve researched: I love technology, but I am ambivalent about how much I interact with devices. I’m pretty sure it’s not good for me, and I’m not just talking about my chronic case of “text claw.” But I’m also not really interested in changing my behavior.

Nor is the tech industry going to serve as my digital 12-step program. Entrepreneurs read books about addiction, not to prevent unhealthy behavior but to create it. We even have an industry mantra: create painkillers, not vitamins. (Interestingly, even the people that write these things aren’t sure it’s a good idea. See Nir Eyal’s post.)

As product teams go about solving our problems and working really hard to engage us, they become masters at hijacking our time and our touches. But by squandering our two most precious personal resources—presence and attentiveness—have designers inadvertently created the tech version of Oxycontin?

Perhaps these challenges will be solved by technology itself. Virtual reality promises full immersion. Chatbots and virtual assistants might learn so much about us that they can manage the digital flotsam and jetsam on our behalf.

More likely, however, is that new devices will compound the challenge. More things and more services will be vying for beachfront property in our pockets, our homes, and most of all, our cerebellums. After all, more than half of Americans have at least five devices in their home already. That number is going to jump…a lot. Will our interactions increase in tandem? I hope not.

This is something that we at dscout want to dig into. As people that nerd out on people and technology, it’s hard to resist big questions about our relationships with tech: Is this time well spent? Can we spend it better? Are all of these interactions a good thing, a bad thing, or just a thing? Can we make interfaces and interactions that aren’t so needy? Does it matter?

I don’t know the answer to these questions, and I'd sure like to find out. But, here’s what I know does matter: The humans behind the 1.2 million interactions in this study. The tens of thousands of research missions that companies run on our platform each year are not about big data, but about the people underpinning the data. Capturing and contextualizing real-life behaviors and real-time thoughts gives researchers a better way to discover the Why that informs the What.

dscout thrives because understanding in-the-moment human experiences has indispensable value to designers, developers, and product owners. Without that understanding, they don’t have a truly human-centered design.

Michael Winnick is the CEO and founder of dscout. Since the platform's founding, research leaders have tapped Michael’s personal passion for harnessing context-rich, human insight to drive innovation.

Michael previously served as gravitytank’s managing partner, steering the innovation consultancy through continuous growth for nearly a decade, prior to its acquisition by Salesforce. He’s led product development at Bay Area start-ups and media companies, including WIRED.

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