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Double the characters, half the appeal: Twitter’s upped its limit

By September 29, 2017 No Comments

Is nothing sacred?

In 2016, we were hit with a series of rather unexpected – some would say alarming – events. When Brexit was confirmed, many were shocked. When Trump defeated Hillary in the race for the White House, millions were stunned. When Harambe was shot, billions were outraged. 2016 was a year in which nothing was certain, and everything was seemingly possible.

But then came the dawn of a new year. The birth of 2017 offered optimism, hope, and the opportunity to make the most of an unprecedented series of happenings. Surely nothing could match the dramatic and wholly bewildering nature of 2016.

Yet momentous occasions and life-altering moments tend to happen when they are least expected. On Tuesday 26 September, @jack, co-founder of Twitter, decided to upturn the apple cart all over again. He took to the platform he helped create, and made an announcement that could change the face of social media – nay, the world – forever.

What @jack declared was that Twitter would be trialling a new tweet limit of 280 characters, instead of the 140-character boundary we’re all used to. It’s safe to say that people did not initially react well; there was confusion and indignation, anger and annoyance. And that was just from me. The platform announced on 7th November that the majority of users could now rant and rave by an extra 50 percent. You can see how everyone’s reacted via the hashtag #280characters.

Running through fields of tweet

My love for Twitter is based primarily on the notion that it prompts people to get to the point. There’s no waffle. If you blather and bleat, you’ll soon run out of space, and that’s exactly what I want from my social media. I’ve got a mate who used to regularly post Facebook messages that could quite legitimately be considered novellas. For all I know, he still does it. I muted him about six months ago, so I can’t be certain one way or the other.

Social media can be overwhelming, but Twitter has been the one shining light in the fight against prattle. However, this doubling of the channel’s character limit could conceivably damage my relationship with this most cherished platform beyond repair. I don’t want to trawl through tweets the length of paragraphs. I don’t want to read 270 characters before ultimately concluding that a tweet is tosh.

Twitter has been the one shining light in the fight against prattle

I’m not quite ready to give up on Twitter just yet, but I’m certainly on the cusp of giving it the cold shoulder. You’ll no doubt remember Theresa May stating that her most outrageous wrongdoing was the time she ran through fields of wheat. Well, Twitter’s most serious transgression could be forcing me to traipse through field upon field of tweet.

More characters than a work of Tolstoy

Perhaps you’re reading this and consider me little more than a stick-in-the-mud pessimist. Maybe you’ve gone a step further, and think I’m ranting for the sake of ranting, or believe – quite rightly – that in the great scheme of things, this doesn’t really matter. It’s only Twitter, after all.

Well, let’s back up for a second. Once again, I’d like you to recall the 365-day glitch in the Matrix that was 2016.

Cast a furtive glance over your shoulder. Gaze upon the smouldering ruins of 12-month period that saw David Bowie, Carrie Fisher, Alan Rickman and Muhammad Ali shuffle off this mortal coil. A year that saw Donald Trump become the most powerful man on the planet. A year that, despite almost unanimous public support, didn’t end with a £200m research ship being christened Boaty McBoatface. Almost everything I wanted to happen, didn’t. The only positive was that Spurs kept hold of Harry Kane.

It was an exceptionally curious time. We managed to step around calamity, oddity and outright bewilderment, and emerged, for the best part, unscathed. When the clock hit 12 on December 31 2016, we all breathed a sigh of relief, locked eyes with 2017, and demanded it do better than its predecessor. We had high hopes, but we were fragile. We were still on the road to recovery, and each of us was still somewhat wary.

And yet, none of us expected this. Nobody could have predicted that we’d be handed this Twitter pill to swallow.

Yes, that’s a bad pun. But I’m not even sorry.

A breath for composure

Ok, I’ve taken a look back at my introduction to this piece, and I can see that perhaps I’ve gone a little overboard. 2016 was a year when the unforeseen ruled supreme, but that in itself doesn’t mean everything was bad. Brexit came as a surprise to many, but let’s remember that Leave voters won that referendum fair and square. Trump’s victory was astonishing, but he was only able to win because he secured the requisite number of votes. He triumphed and, love him or loathe him, he did it legitimately.

Maybe, in that case, I’m going in a little too hard on this 280-character thing. Should I be a tad more easy-going? I probably should, but on this occasion, I’m going to let my heart rule my head.

Of course, some users are completely in favour of the decision, but I’ve decided not to acknowledge them because they don’t back up the point I’m trying to make. I’m the author of this article, and that’s my right. You can’t stop me – just like I can’t stop Twitter from doubling its character limit.

Brief encounters

Twitter’s great appeal has always been that posts need to be succinct and to the point. Users are forced to consider exactly what they type, because every letter, space or use of punctuation counts. The limit encourages people the make complex issues simple, and tell stories in a way that cuts the unnecessary fat. As a content marketer, this is something I entirely approve of.

Twitter’s great appeal has always been that posts need to be succinct and to the point

Brevity is a much underrated skill. Being able to assess what is necessary, and what is superfluous, is part of a marketer’s day-to-day routine. A powerful message gets to the heart of the topic, and that’s where Twitter’s strength lies; the author is obliged to be concise, and the audience is afforded a simple, yet comprehensive, understanding of the point being made.

For some, the expanded character limit will give them the capacity to be more precise, or to summarise a complicated subject in a little more detail. Sometimes this will be valuable -that I don’t doubt – but I still feel I must question the concept.

A powerful message gets to the heart of the topic, and that’s where Twitter’s strength lies

We’ve all coped just fine in the past, haven’t we? I don’t remember a time when the 140-character limit stopped someone for posting about an issue of utmost importance. If necessary, they could – heaven forbid – post two, or even three, separate tweets to thoroughly cover their opinion. It may not have been a pretty solution, but that in itself stems back to my initial point; Twitter encourages brevity! Short, sharp posts are why I cherish Twitter, and that element of the platform should, in my view, be retained.

In summary

Good luck as you delve into Twitter’s newly enlarged dept. Do your very best to enjoy the character development, though I fear that may be an impossible ask. And, above all, may brevity be with you.

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