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Performing Experiments on Ourselves

I read a little booklet about Facebook and social media.  I will be reviewing it next week.  In it, the author suggested that an article online that exceeds 400 words may be passed over.  I don't know about the accuracy of that statistic, but I can make a couple of observations.

When I began blogging, a popular blogger suggested that keeping a post to 1,000 words was a good idea.  That was almost ten years ago.   I think 1,000 words is pushing it today.  I think the author who suggested 400 words may be closer to being correct.  I wrot a post for Out of the Ordinary, and my first draft was over 1,200 words.  There was no way I could post it at that length, but I was faced with a difficulty:  could I do the topic justice in less than that?

I did my best, but there were things I wished I could have said.  I could have done a "series" but the nature of our blog rather excludes that.  "Series" on blogs are very popular.  It seems as if we are reverting back to the time of Dickens, who first presented his writing in such a way.  I think he would have laughed a great deal at the notion of one of his entries being only 400 words. 

Another thing I have noticed is the fading attention spans of teens.  Apparently, 20 minutes is about all they can manage.  For now.  What will it be like five years from now?  Ten minutes?  How much understanding can one get in ten minutes?

The reality is that some issues and topics are complex, and need more than 20 minutes or 400 words.  How much understanding can we get with such brief attention?  I even find myself falling to this attention deficit thing.  I'm reading Kevin Vanhoozer's Is There a Meaning in This Text, and it is a complex read.  I find myself being able to spend only about 40 minutes at a time before feeling like my mind is wandering.  When I was a student in my first year of university, I could read for hours.

The inner rebel in me wants to shout and complain about this, and say, "Stop!"  "Wait" and "Hold on!"  Surely we can work to stave off this kind of thing?  I'd like to think so, but I am probably either too idealistic, or more likely, utterly deluded.

I think I am going to try to increase my attention span by setting the time on my phone and reading until it goes off.  I'll increase the time by five minutes at regular intervals and see how it goes.  Nothing like performing experiments on oneself.

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Reader Comments (3)

Really agree and relate to your rambles in this post! When I first started blogging 2 yrs ago, I read that a post shouldn't be longer than 500 words as people read online differently. But I am a wordy person and many of my posts are about 1,000. It is hard for me to go under that...sometimes I can get down to 700-800 but 500? no! I agree that some topics are complex and can't be addressed in 400 or 500 words.

I finally decided not to worry about it and "embrace my verbosity" - as a friend of mine put it. Also - my blog is for the more "thinking" type of person and they are more likely to read longer things online. Another option I do on occasion is make a longer post into 2 or 3 parts. But I really don't like to have too many parts as I think you lose people.

Like you, I have also thought recently (and been concerned) that the internet is decreasing my attention span. I also can't read "real books" for as long as I once could. And have been thinking of ways to change that...

Well, I have demonstrated my verbosity in this reply!

January 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLaura

The longer articles are precisely why I much prefer blogs to facebook, twitter, etc. Your followers will always take the time to read the fully developed thoughts expressed if they are well written. I, for one, read you every day and never get impatient with the length.

January 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDoris Leader

I've read this same type of information. Challies has a great treatment of this subject in his book, "The Next Story". I have noticed that my ability to follow an "argument" has diminished significantly since I've been reading blogs over the years. My mind flits from topic to topic rather than retaining a sustained interest in the same subject for 10+ chapters. However, it seems that the latter has been more fruitful in my life. I have read a lot of great blog posts, but I don't seem to remember a lot of them. I can't help but wonder which is the better use of our time.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts! I can't wait to read how your experiment goes!! :)

January 14, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterElizabeth

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