Twitter is all about brevity. It’s been this way since… well, always.
It’s kind of Twitter’s calling-card.
Pretty soon, all that may be changing.
If this makes you immediately confused, I don’t blame you. Twitter has only ever been about those famed (and infamous) 140-characters – no more, no less. You have to mold your words to this limit, get creative with a succession of tweets, or simply not tweet at all if you can’t be concise.
Now, Twitter wants to experiment with doubling the character limit.
Yes – they want to give 280-character tweets a whirl.
So, what will this mean for the Twitter-verse?
As NPR puts it, “…more words, less wit.”
How Are People Reacting to the Twitter Change-Up Around the Web?
Of course, the Twitter news has been circulating the web.
There are some good points to think about in the scope of the matter.
Twitter Chats Won’t Look the Same
Madalyn Sklar, a top influencer on the platform, recently shared her thoughts on the doubled character limit.
A great point she made is the fact that Twitter’s original limits are what made it so cool. An example she gives is Twitter chats. Often, chats accumulate hundreds of tweets in lightning-quick fashion. They’re fast-moving, but that’s part of the reason they work.
You can easily blip through 140 characters and move on to the next when hundreds of tweets are flying in. Now, imagine trying to sift through tweets in a Twitter chat that are double the length.
All of a sudden, we have a problem, and one of the best parts of Twitter is compromised. Instead of participating in a lightning-round talk, you’ll get bogged down in meandering posts. It will be like you’re in a bloated discussion thread with people posting novels instead of comments.
(…That situation sounds familiar. Facebook, anyone?)
Madalyn addresses that point, too. She says, “Twitter doesn’t need to be another Facebook, LinkedIn, or Instagram.”
She couldn’t be more on-target. The way it is now, Twitter is unique, and this is one of the reasons lots of people make it their social network of choice.
I personally agree, especially since we at EW have a Twitter chat, #ContentWritingChat. What will that chat look like with 280-character tweets? Probably nothing like it does now, which is concerning.
Our Community at #ContentWritingChat Says “Don’t Do It, Twitter”
We asked the question as an icebreaker in yesterday’s #ContentWritingChat:
— Express Writers (@ExpWriters) October 3, 2017
Most of the people who answered voted the change down.
280 Characters = Less Creativity?
I have spent six years molding my writing to Twitter’s limitations.
Guess what? It’s not a roadblock or a hurdle. It’s a creative challenge, and it’s made me a better writer.
You want proof of how the 140-character limit forces you to get to the meat of what you want to say, and say it well? Look at this fantastic example. Somebody took Jack’s initial announcement and cut out all the unnecessary wording:
— Brian Barone (@brianrbarone) September 26, 2017
The result is brilliant (AND it’s 140 characters!). It really showcases how Twitter’s brevity is an asset.
Why Is Twitter Testing the Waters for Longer Tweets?
All this chatter around Twitter’s announcement brings us back to the question of why. Why is Twitter doing this? Haven’t they ever heard the cliché, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it?”
Nah. As with most other things, this is about money.
According to NPR, Twitter has discovered through research that people tend to tweet more when they have extra space to write. Of course, when people tweet more, the company makes more money.
Meanwhile, Twitter’s stocks have been on a downward slope for quite a while. You do the math. Suddenly, this whole issue seems to be less about improving the user experience, especially since the platform has been ignoring a bigger user plea for quite some time: Let us edit tweets!
Or, as this Twitter user sums it up:
twitter users: let us edit tweets
twitter: we made everything round
users: edit button
twitter: everyone is allowed to be twice as annoying
— Haley Byrd (@byrdinator) September 26, 2017
The Other Side: How Are 280 Characters a Good Thing?
Twitter, of course, says that the update is about helping people “more easily express themselves.”
They say that English users regularly run into the problem of trying to “cram” their thoughts into a tweet. The solution is to edit it down rigorously, omit a word that’s important to the overall meaning, or abandon the effort altogether.
Meanwhile, users in other countries like Japan (where they can fit more information in a tweet because of language differences), seem to have it easy-breezy. They type out their thoughts with “room to spare” and no stress.
Twitter also presents this graph, which is supposed to mean something and explain why they’re excited about the change-up:
Apparently, it’s better for more users not to constantly hit the character limit (I think).
The Atlantic has gone on the defensive for the change, too. They say users have gone beyond Twitter’s original boundaries anyway, forcing the platform to shift (for instance, adding the ability to attach pictures to tweets). People have found ways to work around the limitations, too (posting screenshots of longer texts, numbering their tweets, etc.).
Less stress is great, no question. And it’s absolutely true that increasing the 140-character limit will make a lot of users’ lives easier.
(If you’re in this camp – more intrigued than dismayed – you can test the broader limits with this clever workaround.)
Still, my initial objections remain. Twitter is losing a piece of its identity with this change. In the process, it’s inching closer to being like the other social media networks.
For those of us who respect the current character limit for what it is and use it to say what we mean (and mean what we say), it’s not particularly good news.
However, change is always inevitable. We’ll adjust.
We’ll just miss the “character” and flavor the old Twitter limitations gave our posts and conversations.