Blogs vs. Classics: The New Experience of Language

In order to get a handle on just how many words I see every day, I analyzed two of my favorite tech blogs and compared them to a few classics.

The Statistics

Awesome Blogs Words per Year
TechCrunch* 1,881,152
Engadget* 1,218,609


Classic Books Total Words
Homer – Iliad 168,599
Plato – Apology 11,472
Aristotle – Ethics 85,103
Old Testament 593,493
New Testament 181,253
Augustine – Confessions 137,505
Shakespeare – Hamlet 30,066
Melville – Moby Dick 210,997
Dostoevsky – Brothers Karamazov 349,272
Faulkner – The Sound and the Fury 96,709
Total 1,864,469

* These stats are estimates based on number of posts per week reported by Google Reader and an average number of words from the last 10 posts.

Dropping TechCrunch = Literary Scholar?

These numbers suggest that if I dropped just one blog, TechCrunch (I love you Mike!), I could conceivably use the leftover time to read all of the above classics in just one year. At 250 words/minute, it would take only 20 minutes a day.

And people say they don’t have time to read the classics.

What It Really Means about Our Experience of Language

In reality, this comparison isn’t apples to apples. I don’t read TechCrunch, I just scan it. I look at the titles and pictures, and only read the posts that relate to my field. But because I do this hundreds of times per day on several blogs and news sites, it says more about my experience of language than my chances of becoming an epic scholar. Here are some observations:

  1. We are exposed to an staggering number of words every day. Just scanning these two blogs adds up to 3 million words in a year. That’s not counting comments, advertisements, or the links out to other sites.
  2. We are see numerous fragments, but few complete thoughts – TechCrunch uses it’s 1.8 million words for 6,000 short, decontextualized posts. Compare that to 1.8 million words in 10 classic works each comprising major themes.
  3. We consume facts, but few ideasTechCrunch is a must read for the web startup world, but it is mostly just data. It doesn’t develop a person morally or discuss what ought to be, it only tells us what is.

This doesn’t mean TechCrunch is bad or even useless, but it does mean that our most common experience of words is a form of empty consumption rather than deep soul formation. It’s rather like choosing to eat a dozen 99 cent McDonald’s burgers instead of a slowly marinated, costly steak.

If you looked at your word consumption, what would you find?

Published by

John Dyer

In my day job, I work at Dallas Theological Seminary, and at night I write Bible software for countries whose leaders could be called "overlords." This one time, I wrote a book about technology and Christian faith. You can find out more about what I'm up to at http://j.hn/.

15 thoughts on “Blogs vs. Classics: The New Experience of Language”

  1. I recently cut out some blog reading time, and some other stuff, and am committed to reading at least 250 pages a week. I’m actually far exceeding that for the first three weeks, and I’m getting a lot more done aside from reading. I’m not really sure where all of my new found time came from, but I think not reading 20 blogs and following all of their rabbit holes (to mostly useless information) is helping.

      1. It really is.

        I’ve been trying to read Don Everts’ 150 page God in the Flesh for more than two years, same with Case for a Creator. But since I slowed my blog reading and started sitting down to read books, I’ve finished 3 in two weeks. And I’m reading faster while retaining more information.

  2. I agree with Charles. I have cut out some significant time drains – reading blogs (trimmed the list to REALLY good ones, like yours :), twitter, google discussion groups, and even my own blogging. by “significant” I mean they take more time than I need to devote. I still find them fun, interesting, and often edifying.

    in their place I have committed to reading a minimum of 20-30 minutes per night. this has been an amazing blessing. my thoughts are clearer, deeper (not necessarily more profound), and more extended. it’s extremely pleasurable.

    I also limit TV to LOST, AFV, and major sporting events (i.e., not EVERY football game, but ones such as playoffs – go Steelers!).

  3. This post hit a nerve – OUCH! I am trying to cut down on blogs, twitter, and screen time in general. In my pruning, I still spen way too much time.
    Laying it out like you have will help me rethink this conundrum once again. It’s time to take the pruning shears out once again.
    Thanks!

  4. And I love this:

    “TechCrunch. . . doesn’t develop a person morally or discuss what ought to be; it only tells us what is.”

    In _The Poetics_, Aristotle writes, “The historian sees things as they are. The poet tells us what ought to be.” (And then Aristotle argues that the poet is superior).

    Like all who have replied to this post, I am convicted about the time-wasting element of surfing the net. But I also see your deeper Straussian (tee hee) meaning; Robert Frost puts it poetically in “Neither Out Too Far Nor in Too Deep”:

    http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/neither-out-far-nor-in-deep/

  5. I also recently cut back on many blogs- I kept TechCrunch because I need to keep plugged in for work- but I’ve cut many of the social media “gurus” who all talk about the same thing, and many other blogs.

    interesting post. dostoevsky rocks.

  6. isn’t it curious how many of us keep reading this blog, and comments, in the face of our commitment to cut back on reading blogs? me = pot kettle black.

  7. I am wondering about the reading vs. scanning idea.
    When you come across a more hardy read, requiring digestion, does that effect how much you are able to ingest. (i.e. read) Or, would said ingestion, be found to be more related to scanning if kept at such pace, 250wpm? I know that when I take in books that make me think, process and/or challenge moral normalcy it slows me down a bit. Am I just a rookie when it comes to processing beyond factual information?

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