Why 59 minutes is the most important period in tech

We all know we're attached to our gadgets. But are we attached enough? A new study offers an opprtunity for deep thought and a great opportunity for tech companies.
Written by Chris Matyszczyk, Contributing Writer

She's trying not to look at her phone. These are her 59 minutes.

My phone is my pulse.

I wake up, I grab my iPhone and instantly I know I'm alive.

I disappear into terrible news, disturbing pictures, and, especially, short videos of people doing something truly ridiculous.

Then, I'm ready for my day, a day that involves hours of staring at screens. A lot of staring at screens. 

I write while staring at a screen that displays my words, while also staring at another screen that's showing a vitally important sporting event from somewhere in the world. (The effect is evident, of course.)

Somehow, I've come to edit out information about how long people are attached to their gadgets every day.

The answer is usually "a lot."

Still, a new study descended onto my screen, while I was watching the decisive Game 6 of the Korean Series. (The NC Dinos, owned by gaming company NCSoft, won the whole thing, bringing shame to LG and Samsung. Thank you for asking.)

This study was dramatized with a startling revelation: "Americans Spend 95% Of Their Waking Hours Stuck To Their Devices."

Strangely, this came from a tech company -- specifically, NordVPN, which my colleague David Gewirtz considers one of the very best.

This NordVPN research, conducted among 1,000 Americans, offered sobering, if predictable, findings.

It seems that, on average, Americans say they spend 10 hours a day looking at screens. For work. I fear it might be even greater, given so many are working from home.

While performing this 10-hour screen starefest, Americans also say they spend 3 hours and 16 minutes surfing online. Yes, simultaneously.

However, even when they switch off, they don't switch off. They spend another 5 hours and 1 minute online, after their work is done.

This study assumed that people sleep for eight hours, which is painfully optimistic.

Still, I was enveloped in only one thought. What do people do in those 59 minutes when they're not communing with a screen?

Does this, at least partially, involve the time they perform their ablutions? I don't wish to be sordid here, but I fear not. And, in the times when I used to visit public restrooms, I heard not.

Would at least some of these 59 minutes be taken up by exercise? Unlikely, given that so many now strap at least one gadget to their bodies, not only to listen to music but so the gadget listens to their heart and monitors their step length, floors climbed and, oh goodness, walking asymmetry.

Of course NordVPN wants you to consider just how tied you are to your gadgets. It wants you to ponder whether a VPN is the more secure transmission method for your every online need. It's especially interested in attracting women, as they're apparently slightly less tied to their gadgets than are men.

I find all that a touch prosaic. Instead, I see in these precious 59 minutes the next great opportunity for the tech world.

Dear founders and your sugar daddy VCs. This is perhaps your greatest challenge. There are 59 minutes left to exploit. In these minutes may lie your next (or, perhaps, first) grotesque goldmine. Soon, your seminal tome: The 59 Steps I Took To Become A Billionaire.

Do your research -- or pay someone else to do it. Find out what causes human beings to disappear from the almighty grid for 59 minutes every day. Map those minutes.

What are people doing? Why do they believe technology cannot help them in these clearly precious moments? Why are they feeling the need to turn away from the all-world system that has already shown its power over every thought, feeling, and action?

Once you have the answers, work out how to monetize these last 59 minutes. Yes, you'll likely have to suck in their attention first with a ruse that gives them instantaneous pleasure.

Ultimately, though, imagine the money to be made. Your startup could be the first to be the technological alternative to the screen.

This could be big. This could be very big indeed.

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