Reading Ourselves to Death

Kit Wilson at The New Atlantis:

Between 1900 and 1990, the amount of time the average American spent reading and writing remained broadly consistent: somewhere between one and two hours a day. According to a 2012 McKinsey report, the addition of text messaging and the Internet raised that amount to something closer to four or five hours a day. Most people were illiterate four hundred years ago; today Americans spend up to a third of their waking hours encoding and decoding text.

Every minute, humans send 220 million emails, 70 million WhatsApp and Facebook messages, 16 million texts, 530,000 tweets, and make 6 million Google searches. The journalist Nick Bilton has estimated that each day the average Internet user now sees as many as 490,000 words — more than War and Peace. If an alien landed on Earth today, it might assume that reading and writing are our species’ main function, second only to sleeping and well ahead of eating and reproducing.

more here.