Why I’m Not-So-Happy With Twitter’s 280 Characters
November 27, 2017
Ever since first embracing social media as a tool for professional development, Twitter has been one of my favorites. Twitter chats played an early role in connecting me with other educators. I even got my first push to take baby steps towards starting my makerspace from this social network. I always appreciated the brevity and conciseness of 140 characters. The short format made it easy to scan through tweets and tweeze out information and resources that I needed. It was less overwhelming than trying to scroll through an RSS reader of blogs or through verbose Facebook groups. But recently, Twitter changed things up, and I don’t think it’s for the better.
Why I’m not-so-happy with Twitter’s 280 characters
When I first heard the rumor that Twitter was changing their character count, I was sure it would never happen. I know Twitter has had some struggles, but changing the one thing that makes them unique just seemed foolish. I was sure it wouldn’t happen.
Then during AASL, I started noticing paragraph-long tweets in my feed. I realized that the familiar character count that told me the number of characters I had left was replaced with a circle graphic giving a visual representation of how much was left (out of 280 characters). Twitter took the power out of our hands and replaced it with a silly graphic. Even if I still want to only write 140 characters, I now have to estimate.
Too much information
Luckily, a lot of people are still sticking with the traditional brevity of Twitter. But many are not. And I get it – having 280 characters available is tempting. You don’t have to edit yourself as much, so why should you? All those characters leave room to tag more people, add more hashtags, load up on more information. But perhaps it’s too much.
I used to enjoy scrolling through Twitter feeds. I’d look up conference hashtags. I’d read my curated Twitter lists. But more and more of those tweets are nearing the 280 character mark, and it’s no longer quick, easily digestible information. It’s overwhelming and I quickly get mentally exhausted from having to process all of it. Meaning I don’t use Twitter as much.
“Brevity is the soul of wit”
Anyone who has ever taught writing knows the power of editing. They know that challenging students to use fewer words is actually a lot harder than giving them an unlimited word count. The more you edit, the more you cut, the stronger your writing becomes. That was the power of 140 characters. It’s hard to get an idea out in that many characters. But once you get it there, it’s so much more powerful. Allowing twice that many characters takes away so much strength from Twitter. Which makes me sad, because I worry that this may be the twilight of Twitter, that it may not recover. I’ve already started using it considerably less. I hope they realize their mistake and change things back before it’s too late.
Note: Many of my Twitter posts are automatically reposted from Instagram, Diigo, etc through IFTTT. I had never worried about those before because it would truncate them to 140 characters. Now they can be 280 long as well, so some of my own tweets might be longer. I’m trying to find a way to fix this, but for now, I’m also writing shorter Instagram captions.
Diana Rendina, MLIS, is the media specialist at Tampa Preparatory School, an independent 6-12 in Tampa, FL. Previously, she was the media specialist at Stewart Middle Magnet School for seven years, where she founded their library makerspace. She is the creator of the blog RenovatedLearning.com. She was a monthly contributor to AASL Knowledge Quest from 2015-2018. Diana is the winner of the 2016 ISTE Outstanding Young Educator Award, the 2015 ISTE Librarians Network Secondary Award, the 2015 AASL Frances Henne Award & the 2015 SLJ Build Something Bold Award. She is an international speaker on the Maker Movement and has presented at conferences including AASL, FETC & ISTE. Diana co-authored Challenge-Based Learning in the School Library Makerspace with Colleen and Aaron Graves and is also the author Reimagining Library Spaces: Transform Your Space on Any Budget.