Digital Editor Alex McDonald offers his opinion that the Twitter character count increase is ultimately meaningless
Twitter is marching towards its inevitable doom after announcing it may be changing to accommodate tweets of up to 280 characters.
That sentence was 131 characters in total, and despite being compliant with the current 140-character limit, it is still a completely ludicrous thing to say. Things that are 280 characters long aren’t immediately bad. Those who genuinely believe that doubling the length of a tweet marks the death knell of one of the largest social media platforms in the world is, simply put, short sighted.
Yet public outcry rang out across the internet.
‘Brevity is the soul of wit,’ quotes your Uncle Keith who tweets twice a month and one of those is a retweet of a Daily Mail article. But it appears the irony of quoting Hamlet, a four-hour epic that still remains a masterpiece despite its length, seems to be lost on Twitter. But oh well, it’s only 26 characters so naturally it is the most eloquent argument that could be made. And thus, with extra room, all comedy on Twitter will shrivel and die.
‘But greater tweet length will give trolls, misogynists, racists and perhaps the worst of them all, the President of the United States, more of a voice,’ I hear the huddled masses cry. But what about being a generally undesirable person limits you to tweeting just once? If someone has 280 characters worth of despicable rhetoric to spout they aren’t going to deny themselves a second tweet. Trump is a serial tweeter who often stretches his fear and war-mongering over several tweets. These changes will not bring you more or less Trump. These extra characters will just allow him to say ‘VERY SAD’ instead of just ‘SAD’. That will hardly change the course of his spitting contest with North Korea.
Threads have had a recent surge across the Twittersphere. Journalists or just random people claiming that Joey and Rachel from Friends are perfect for each other (#RossAndRachel4Life) have started to string together tweets into one coherent argument as opposed to writing an article or blogpost about it and tweeting a link to it. An interesting new way to deliver information for sure, but when I see 1/77 at the end of the tweet, I know that I don’t have the patience to scroll through it all. But why has this been accepted with open arms, yet doubling the length of the tweets will just half the number of tweets used.
But the question that I continue to come back to is, who cares?
If your day is genuinely offset by Twitter doubling the length of its tweets then, to quote Ron Weasley, you really need to sort out your priorities. Twitter is not the art form that people seem to think it is, with some rising above the plebs to achieve totally mastery of 140 characters. It’s a social media platform with a character limit based on SMS messages, which has also outgrown its constraints making Twitter’s seem outdated and arbitrary. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not campaigning for tweets that are like paragraphs, but 280 characters is hardly a dissertation.
The real problem Twitter has, and seemingly refuses to fix, is that it does nothing about death threats and overt racism. And changing the character limit of a tweet is not going to increase or decrease the amount of vitriol there is spread online. I understand that this is a bad PR move on Twitter’s part; when the world wants trolls, bots and Nazis removed from the website, don’t do something absolutely meaningless like increase the character count. But ultimately, this won’t make Twitter any better, but it won’t make it any worse either. You don’t have to use more than 140 characters if you don’t want to; Jack Dorsey (the creator of Twitter) will not be holding a gun to your head.
Anyway, what are you really going to do? Use Facebook instead? Not likely.
If you’re interested, the above spanned 3745 characters which is the equivalent of 27 tweets. I probably should have just written a thread.