I Think Getting Rid Of The 140-Character Twitter Limit Could Ruin Everything, Because Brevity Really Is The Soul Of Wit
Apparently, Twitter is considering ending its 140-character limit, according to reporting by the tech site Recode. Some people are happy about this. I'm not one of them. In fact, I think it could very easily ruin what's great about the site.
At a time when people are wary enough about other social media outlets to repost a hoax about privacy changes, I still unabashedly love Twitter. Sure, it offers a great way for random men to call me names for writing something about feminism; however, it also helps me find news quickly, and as a comedian, it helps me sharpen my pithiness when I write jokes. I would not be exaggerating when I say that using Twitter has taught me more about how to write a good joke than three years of performing comedy has.
Example: I used to be the kind of person who would write long, reactionary screeds about political outrages. I'm not against essayists or anything, but this is a pretty unfunny and useless reaction for a comedian to have. For Twitter, though, my writing can't be indulgent. You have to be creative; you have to be succinct. The requirements dictated by the 140-character limit taught me to use jokes to make fun of things that bothered me by figuring out what was absurd about the opinions of people I disagreed with. So for instance, instead of writing something about how ineffectual and uncharismatic I find certain political candidates, I might compare them to certain other fictional characters. Or, instead of writing about the kind of posts that annoy me on Pinterest, I might write something like this:
This also affected my live comedy, for sure. There's such a temptation when you're writing comedic material to make it long, and rambling, and like a real story. Lots of novice stand-up comedians make this mistake. But Twitter gets you in the habit of tightening up jokes. I can't begin to count the number of jokes I've thought of that have been improved when I've tried to tweet them and realized they were too long.
The shortness of Twitter makes it weird and fun — it's almost like a game, trying to make thoughts fit into 140 characters (even if, sometimes, the results end up slightly awkward). When people make up an awesome Twitter joke, it's easy and fun to share it — you don't have to worry about hogging up someone's feed with a long retweet. And when people in your feed are bad at Twitter — stealing material, for instance, or making a hack joke — their tweet takes up only a few seconds of your time.
It's easy to imagine what Twitter would look like without a character limit: Facebook. Think of every single post on Facebook: Anti-immigration rhetoric from your Donald Trump-loving uncle, long "please send me good vibes I have a very important audition I can't tell you about it but here's a picture of me and Anna Kendrick" posts from your narcissistic actor friends, painfully boring thoughts about wedding planning from your college sorority sister, and long pleas from improvisers to attend their crappy comedy show at some bar (um, guilty).
No one wants this.
Most writers could benefit from making their thoughts shorter. That's why the best writers in the world are also good editors. As proof of this, here are some tweets that say everything I've said in this blog post, but better: