What’s Twitter changed?
Everyone seems to have a view about the recent change in Twitter’s limit on the number of characters you can use from 140 to 280. Up to now, I have just accepted the 140 rule and worked within it. Now I need to think whether I want to write longer tweets. I have written before about the kinds of words people think I should use and not use, when writing my books. More recently I have written about the kind of language people expect. Is any of that relevant to my tweets? Or my blogs?
What is Twitter for?
I use Twitter in a different way from my blog, and my writing is different again in my books. I hope you have noticed, but I also hope something constant is there in everything I write. Writers call it their voice.
I consider different media to be appropriate for different types of messages, just as there are different types of conversation in the real world.
- If I see someone I know in the street when one of us is going somewhere and we don’t want to stop, I might say ‘hello’ or ‘all right?’ or just wave, or I might make a quick comment on the weather or something that doesn’t require a reply. That’s like a 140 character tweet.
- If we want a longer chat, we’ll stop for a few minutes. That’s like an e-mail.
- If we want a more in-depth discussion, we’ll go into a cafe, or if it’s a nice day sit on a bench, and talk things over. That’s like a blog.
- If we want to go into something in real depth, we might have a proper business meeting, or get together for an evening. That’s like the start of a book.
What will longer tweets do for me except allow me to be more verbose?
Is Twitter trying to address one of today’s social problems?
Some people say that the Internet has contributed to intolerance and polarisation of views. One reason for that may be the anonymity it provides, making it easier to say offensive things than when meeting face to face, on the phone or writing letters. Internet trolls have a lot in common with anonymous phonecallers or poison-pen writers.
It has also been said that the need for brevity on Twitter discourages expressing yourself in a balanced way, explaining ideas fully, showing you appreciate the other side of the argument. It makes for soundbites. Glib opinions. Oversimplification. Taking sides.
Oscar Wilde said, “The truth is never pure and seldom simple.”
Will people be more polite and thoughtful when using 289 characters than they were when confined to 140? Will ideas be better examined? Time will tell. Let’s wish them luck.