Think about the first time you made an account for a social platform. Looks a lot different now, right? New features, layouts, and algorithms have been transforming these social tools over the years. While these changes may not catch your eye at first, some make big headlines.
Twitter, the social platform notorious for the quick blurbs—140 characters to be exact—was a place where individuals could say (almost) whatever they wanted whenever. Twitter began as a place to put your thoughts into micro messages, but now the Commander-In-Chief of a country can make headlines for a thread of public insults condensed in short characters.
Why would Kim Jong-un insult me by calling me "old," when I would NEVER call him "short and fat?" Oh well, I try so hard to be his friend – and maybe someday that will happen!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 12, 2017
Yeah. That really happened.
Twitter has its fights, polls, breaking news, GIFs, videos, threads of conversations, favorites, retweets, etc. etc. etc. At the end of the day, people turn to Twitter to scroll through quick messages. Because that’s all our short-term memories can grasp, right?
This controlled character count format decided to take a different turn when Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey announced in September the company’s idea to expand the character count for tweets to 280 – double the amount of the original character limit. This move was only granted to certain individuals before expanding more broadly.
So, when the news broke on Nov. 7 that all Twitter users could give the 280 characters, I knew I had to give it a try.
I cannot believe Twitter is now allowing people to use 280 characters! I mean, what could I possibly have to say to my adoring Twitter fanbase besides the typical "I'm single, ready to mingle, always drinking coffee/wine, loving dogs" spiel? Hm, well I guess that's actually it.
— Jeanie Davey (@JeanieDavey) November 9, 2017
After a couple of week, it turns out that I’m not so impressed. I felt forced to continue adding characters into the tweet to fit the new count! However, besides my personal experience with the new character count, there are a few other reasons I don’t think this is the best move for Twitter.
It takes away from Twitter’s identity
This is a small change, but a big move for us. 140 was an arbitrary choice based on the 160 character SMS limit. Proud of how thoughtful the team has been in solving a real problem people have when trying to tweet. And at the same time maintaining our brevity, speed, and essence! https://t.co/TuHj51MsTu
— jack (@jack) September 26, 2017
When one thinks of joining a certain social platform, there is the question of why? For Facebook, is it uploading a photo album, joining a niche Facebook group, or selling goods through a marketplace? For Snapchat, is it feeling free to take a double-chinned selfie and sharing your location with your friends? For Instagram, do you visually want to showcase your brand, curating live video and stories for your viewers? Each platform stands firm in their mission for what types of users are pushing what type of content in what type of time frame.
Twitter’s mission statement: “What’s happening in the world and what people are talking about right now.” That formatted action of a quick, instantaneous statement gave 140-character communication a thrill. Sure, it could be tough reframing a message by abbreviating words, finding grammatical shortcuts, or using imagery to finish your message, but that was the Twitter we all knew and loved. Now? There’s a lot of wide, open space. Instead of following threads or reading swift phrases, we have all the room to plop what Twitter users could consider a blog into a tweet.
It’s a distraction from a real social media crisis
OK, please don’t label me a conspiracy theorist just yet.
The world superpower under continuous investigation for relations tying into the 2016 U.S. presidential election? It may not be fresh in your mind, but members of Congress are grilling Twitter and other top social platforms for their meddling as tech giants during the election.
So, it should come as no surprise while during this negative time for tech companies, a breaking story about a major feature overhaul comes around. Right? No. This could easily be a diversion in narrative to instead focus Twitter news on a new user experience instead of being under federal investigation.
A little fishy, if you ask me.
There isn’t an exact structure
When I heard about this new character count, I had to take into consideration Twitter’s global audience. Well, it turns out Twitter did take into account their different countries worldwide. When the announcement came out about the new count, only certain users were able to utilize the feature. This move was very selective. Who exactly was allowed to use this, where were they from, etc.?
In fact, Twitter’s move was inspired from different users globally. Twitter’s product manager, Aliza Rosen, stated that the character count was inspired by frustration for people tweeting in English and using all the character space versus Japanese and other languages. So, those who tweet in certain languages get 280 characters, but others keep their original count. To pick and choose who gets what character count remains questionable in Twitter’s mission.
Going off-brand, diverting from current news, and creating an unstructured format make Twitter’s efforts a bit shaky to start. While the social media world is constantly evolving, there will always be new updates.
Until the editing feature is available for tweets, I’ll just be over here reminiscing the short and sweet Twitter character count we all once knew and loved.