The online chopblock of text is making it hard to read anything else

Originally published at:


I’ve found that, even on sites with a comparatively erudite staff and commentariat such as Boing Boing, my mental acuity suffers if I eschew the multi-generational conversation of dead trees (analog or digital) for the immediate give-and-take of stimulus of online discussions. As much as I love y’all, I need books.


Is this really a problem? It just sounds like complacency and laziness. I don’t read books regularly but i do read articles and various other things daily, and i’ve never thought to myself… “Man if only this read like a buzzfeed article!” or whatever example you wanna use.


I don’t think it’s laziness. I’m just not in the condition to read anything which demands a bit of concentration after a day full of stackexchange, vignettes, helpfiles, tutorials, and academic papers I browse during the day. :confused:



On top of that it looks like the average person ia now reading 100k words a day. But its a bad thing because its not a very specific kind of book?


I don’t think it’s a problem unless you like to enjoy books. There’s more than one way to learn and expand your consciousness, but for those of us who find it useful and enjoyable to read long-form books and such, an abundance of reading online text has a deleterious effect on our ability to focus. Perhaps you’re less susceptible, which isn’t surprising since it’s presumably a spectrum.


Or maybe Herman Hesse just sucks. :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes:

I’ll accept that Steppenwolf might have a profound and valuable message, but attempting to read it some twenty years ago was most definitely one of the most frustrating experiences of my limited arts education.


Even on my work days where I don’t spend too much time here cause work is actually busy I can come home and look at a novel and go nah. Heck going back to before BB was a website. My work day had a lot of reading through ticket problem logs and such.

I just go yay text what I have been looking at all day already, maybe there is a movie I want to see instead.

ETA I still read novels and depending on the writing style binge read a series. Just that most evenings I just can’t be arsed to jump right into more text at the end of the day.


My main impediment to deep, or just long, reading is having small children, not the internet.


Describing reading styles and preferences sounds much better to me. This story feels like a trend piece that happens to cite academics as its sources, but it immediately rubs me the wrong way when the title says “what we lose…” I consume a lot of short outline articles, as well as video games, TV, and comics (the previous 3 generations of supposed brain-rot) in any given day. And yet I have still had prose novels keep me up late at night, or consume an entire afternoon on the couch because I was so engrossed in them.


34 gigabytes? how does that equate with 100,000 words? Either way, I think I’m well below average then!


I’m deeply familiar with this problem. When I was younger, I was a voracious reader. I would read books the way magicians vanish cards. And I still remember all those books. It was just habit, I’m probably one of a small number of people to have read the Baldur’s Gate manual cover to cover.

The Internet trained me to “skim by default.” As did college, tutorials, legislation, and academic papers. I got so used to “surfing” (the metaphor is apt, when faced with the oceans of information the internet offers) that I stopped noticing that I was TL;DRing novels and books.

The issue, to me, is one of habit. When people talk about “distraction-free” environments and spend lots of money on products to “disconnect,” they’re treating the problem the way that smokers try to stop smoking. Which is all well and good if you weren’t required by work and modern life to smoke daily. The harder task is to develop new habits around these things.

And this is a perfect opportunity for a shameless plug for my Anti-Tsundoku Book Club.


Sorry, what does any of that mean? I can’t read the linked article, and I have questions.

  • How is 34 Gb equivalent to 100,000 words? The average length of an English word is usually given as around five or six letters: even allowing for whitespace and punctuation, 100,000 words in plain text still weighs in at less than 1 Mb. Does it mean that thanks to bloated web pages and whatnot, you have to consume 34 Gb of assorted garbage in order to get 100K words? If so, I question whether all this cruft counts as information, at least in a human sense.

  • 34 Gb a day? ~1 Tb a month? Really? These people are on some mighty data plans or have some remarkably tolerant ISPs.

  • Are people really reading 100K words a day online? Average reading speed is ~200 wpm, so that’s taking up about eight hours a day. Don’t they have jobs? Or anything else to do?

Can anyone cast light?


This seems entirely anecdotal. Maybe the writer cites studies substantiating their assertion, but I don’t feel like clicking through and wasting my 100k word allotment for the day. I hadn’t thought of this before, but now that I do I think it’s almost the opposite for me. I find that I want to read longer form works that are more immersive as a balance. Of course, I pretty much just read the news, boing boing, and a very few other nerd-centric sites (RIP io9), so maybe the quality skews me.


Roger that!



I actually have a tendency to agree with this… I’m a book lover and I really enjoy longform reading, online and off, but I think we tend to overlook the fact that people read and write a lot more than ever before… it’s just not in a way some group of people believe is the correct way.

I do try to encourage my students to read books, not just online, but they read and write quite a bit in their daily lives. I’m not sure I can assume none of it has any depth what so ever?


Guys, i need a Pagemaster sequel/remake/reboot/whatever.


Maybe check out read or die (if you can find a copy of it!)?



Yes, it’s bullshit. It’s literally a variation of “one youtube cat video is more data than the library of congress”


What? You don’t just read the unencoded data? Amateurs.