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COLUMN: Twitter users don't need 140 more characters



Twitter announced on Tuesday that it has begun beta testing a new elongated tweet model in which users have 280 characters instead of the traditional, beloved 140 characters.

Aliza Rosen, a product manager at Twitter, discussed the update in terms of accessibility of use across the globe. She explained in a blog post that users in Japan, for instance, have an easier time with the character limit since the characters in their alphabets carry more meaning than those in English.

While it may be true that those users in Japan, Korea or China can say more with less, this fact does not warrant another unnecessary Twitter update.

It is unclear whether anyone really had a problem with the previous format of 140 characters.

For many, including myself, the 140-character limit was a challenge in being brief with thoughts or jokes. It was almost like a new genre of joke: one that could be made clear and grab attention in a small window of space, while still being funny enough to warrant a “favorite,” or as it is now called, a “like.”

Twitter, with the 140-character limit, is a breeding ground for memes.

Without it, it is like a baby Facebook.

With 280 characters in a tweet instead of the traditional 140, users’ posts will be more akin to a Facebook status. The shift from “favorites” to “likes” in 2015 and the algorithmic interest-based timeline as opposed to the previous chronologically-organized one both make the case that Twitter is slowly morphing into the same website as Facebook.

Aside from the identity of the social media site, allowing 140 characters of freedom for a tweet does not bode well for us or our current president. 

If Donald Trump has 140 more characters to tweet, there is no telling what other trouble our country could get into.

His tweets have already been perceived as a “declaration of war” by North Korea, so adding more characters could mean something a lot more damaging. 

While his tweets have no real legal power, they do spur a lot of debate. President Trump’s use of his personal Twitter has far outweighed his public appearances or press conferences. 

With a longer character limit, it is possible that the small number of press conferences could dwindle even further. 

If there is more space to complain about the NFL or arbitrarily ban transgender people from the military behind the veil of an uncomfortably close twitpic and a cover photo stolen from Barack Obama’s inauguration, what is the use of visibly facing the nation?

The last and most emotional argument against the doubled space limit for tweets is simple: nostalgia.

Sure, none of us have SMS-enabled flip phones anymore, and that was the reason for the character limit anyway. But maybe there are some outdated quirks we should hold onto for consistency’s sake. 

When life feels cold and you think every day might be the end of the world, at least you would have had a kind and inviting timeline of blurb-sized tweets to keep you warm.

meickhof@indiana.edu

@maggie_eickhoff

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