As you probably noticed the last time you were on Twitter, it may have seemed like some tweets were longer than others. Twitter recently rolled out a test that doubled the amount of characters a user is able to type into a single tweet, changing the limit from 140 to 280.
Twitter says that the reason for the jump is to encourage more people to tweet. If one doesn’t have to shove a thought into 140 characters, they will tweet more. This seemed to be backed up by data from countries that speak languages with an alphabet whose characters express whole words and concepts — rather than just sounds — like Japanese, Chinese and Korean. People who write in languages like these are less likely to be constrained by 140 characters, and thus tweet more.
But that assessment was disproved as the change was initiated. Shift Communications compiled the data and found that there is no correlation between engagement with tweets, in the form of likes and retweets, and the length of the tweet. They note that the 280-character limit is still in its infancy as a form, and they will analyze more data in the coming months to note changes in these trends.
A counterargument offered for the change was to distract both investors and the public from Twitter’s poor fiscal earnings. This is not the platform’s first bad month; it seems Twitter has had declining revenue for some time now.
Increasing the character limit has worked in some respects. The amount of users hitting up against the character limit has dropped from 9 percent with 140 characters to 1 percent with 280 characters.
I think that 9 percent isn’t very many tweets. An 8 percent change doesn’t seem like enough to warrant such a dramatic alteration. Again, it is too early to see the long-term effects of the character rise, but as of yet, this seems to be the only change.
Let’s be real for a minute. When was the last time anyone posted a selfie or life update with a photo of themselves on Twitter? Cue cricket noises. Twitter is not Instagram, Snapchat or Facebook.
With each platform melding into one another, like with the addition of stories, I applaud Twitter. Twitter is a place for witty comments and political commentary. Scrolling through Twitter right now, the first five tweets I see are two amusing stories, one celebrity responding to another celebrity and two criticisms of the latest Republican tax bill. These are the things I expect and want when I go on Twitter.
If I want to see the latest goings-on of my friends’ lives I’ll go on Instagram, and if I want to see pictures of my dance teacher’s twins I’ll go on Facebook. Twitter is trying to be something it’s not. Maybe at one point, it was a place for these things, but it has evolved into something different and, arguably, better.
Twitter sold itself to people with the promise of brevity. One hundred and forty characters were all you had to compose, but also all you had to consume. If you wanted to express more, you could embrace this new form of elongated expression — the thread. And your followers could choose whether or not to follow you.
The new limit could eliminate or overburden the thread, which would drain a valuable tool for storytelling. It implies both a progression and a passage of time, which can and has been manipulated effectively. Either threads will be twice as long and thus repulse readers, or cease to be necessary, and this tool will be lost.
I get it, Twitter. Between President Donald Trump’s overuse and verification of white supremacists, along with the deletion of actress Rose McGowan’s account, you’ve been getting a bad rap. If you were just trying for some good publicity, this wasn’t the way to do it. There’s no reason to change your concept. Don’t fix what was never broken. Instead, focus on fixing the existing flaws.
Jessica Gutowitz is an undeclared freshman.