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.
|Awesome Blogs||Words per Year|
|Classic Books||Total Words|
|Homer – Iliad||168,599|
|Plato – Apology||11,472|
|Aristotle – Ethics||85,103|
|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|
* 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- We consume facts, but few ideas – TechCrunch 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?