140 Characters (give or take a few)

Lidor WyssockyBlog

A few months ago something happened that caused an earthquake in the virtual social platforms world. Debates, discussions, protest… You name it. No matter which side you took, one thing was clear: the world will never be the same.

The event, as you might guess, was Twitter’s announcement that the 140 characters limit is going to be replaced with a 280 character limit.

I won’t even try to guess why such change got so much attention and involvement while there are gazillions of more urgent issues we can invest time in. But I would like to use this opportunity to share my view (despite the other gazillions of more pressing issues)… Not specifically on the number of characters debate but more on the essence of this arbitrary limitation.

We are living in a world flooded with information. Some of it is important. Most of it is not. With the boom of social networks, it seems like the amount of data we are exposed to is being increased exponentially, and unlike before, today we get most of this information in push mode. It’s harder to be selective.

From a different perspective, it is so easy (too easy?) to share content nowadays. From endless texts (such as this one?) to live streams of some esoteric events. Apart from directly contributing to the flood, this ease of unlimited sharing comes at the expense of the quality of the shared material (this is not a criticism – it’s a law of nature). To be blunt: we are polluting our digital environment.

And then, there was Twitter, against all common sense, limiting their users to share only very short posts. So short, they had to count characters and not even words. Guys, this is 2017! Are we really still counting characters?

Yes! And you know what? It was awesome!

I can’t speak for everyone, but for me, this arbitrary limitation was a real challenge. You see, I tend to write long sentences. I don’t find it trivial to focus what I wish to say in as few words as possible. But when I was using Twitter, I was forced to. Maybe the most challenging activity was taking part in a Twitter chat when I have only 140 characters at my disposal for asking a question or replying one, making an argument, expressing an idea, — all this with practically no time to edit, rephrase, and make sure I am coherent.

As a side effect, of course, there was also less content to read. I don’t know if on average I considered more posts to be appealing than in other platforms, but I was able to choose who to follow quite easily based on their ability to express themselves in such short posts.

I don’t know if that was the goal, and I don’t know how many Twitter users would agree, but for me, using Twitter was like an ongoing creative challenge. To some extent it still is, but as the limitation is now double than what it was originally, it’s much less challenging.

So if someone from Twitter happens to read this, here’s an idea: why now add a user option to revert to the 140 characters limitation, at least when writing tweets. Just so people like me will be able to add this extra added value in the form of challenging themselves, and making Twitter not only a great social platform but also a way to practice the art of abbreviation.