This week Twitter announced that it had doubled it’s 140 character limit to 240 for all it’s users. The social media site had previously raised the character limit for certain users but has now expanded the ability for longer tweets to everyone.
And perhaps the right word to express my feeling at this point is: meh.
I mean, have you been on the text-based screaming match of one-upmanship that is Twitter lately? If it were a physical place, it would likely be the most toxic place on the planet, with the most black eyes.
It’s a place for know-it-alls to espouse their know-it-all-ism in the face of the majority, logic, reason, and fact. And when jamming your heels into the dirt and refusing to budge on a position becomes too difficult to continue, you can simply pick some other corner of Twitter to delight at annoying people.
It’s a place where people will nit-pick your opinion, your grammar, potentially catastrophic world news, all while trying to be as pithy and clever as possible.
Twitter exemplifies all that is wrong with social media today – and I’m completely addicted to it.
Social media has gone wrong.
I remember 2008. I watched on Facebook as Barack Obama was elected after eight years of a president that started two wars, arguably started a worldwide recession (and sadly, in hindsight looks far superior to the person currently holding office). At the time, I chatted with people all over the world as we watched America elect it’s first black president, which really was a minor detail compared to the fact that Obama seemed to have a sense of decency and social justice that had been missing in American politics for the better part of a decade.
Watching as he won, the world rejoiced on social media, virtually holding hands, a moment in one country becoming a communal event for the world.
This was social media at it’s best. The way it’s supposed to be.
Today, social media, more than ever, is a place to show off. Instagram has made humility old school. If you accomplish anything, five pushups, cooking a quiche, or managing to breath air and chew gum, screw it! Take a video and post the accomplishment, no matter how menial or small, hash tag #motivation, #blessed or whatever garbage, and never suffer a success alone again. Remember, if someone succeeds in a forest and no one witnesses it, that’s a failure.
If Instagram is all about stoking your own ego, Twitter is where you go to actively tear down other people. Find someone you disagree with, tweet your opinion in the comments, draw people in to argue your point with, try to dismiss them in the wittiest way possible, and rinse-and-repeat. If someone is too smart for you to take on, just bail and try again. When you’re anonymous, you can say whatever crazy stuff you want.
Twitter is a verbal knife fight. Every time.
Still, I tune in every few hours to get a healthy dose of editorial slant with any headline on Twitter. I read the comments – because I’m a glutton for punishment – and fight back my urge to become one of the vocal masses tweeting their opinions at strangers who aren’t interested in discussion as much as they’re interested in being right.
Learning that Twitter doubled its character limit had me staring blankly at my screen for a bit. Then I had the sudden urge to vomit. It just meant I would receive a double dose of opinionated idiocy.
And yet, I keep going back.
It’s the drama, I suppose. Any writer will tell you, a scene needs conflict. A scene with two characters patting each other on the back and talking about how much they agree with each other is going to be a really boring scene. Conflict drives a story.
Twitter is all conflict, and the story never ends.
To be fair, I know how to fix the situation. Like all tools, there is potential for Twitter to provide use without the abuses, and if I purge my feed of everything but the news sources, or just stop reading the comments in anyone’s threads, it would do a lot for my sanity. But I’m drawn to the verbal carnage. I’m a sucker for the drama. And if Twitter serves as an outlet so people don’t treat each other in real life like they do on the site, then maybe that’s something. Maybe.
In any case, talk show host Stephen Colbert’s response to Twitter’s lofty new 280 character limit probably says it all:
“If there’s one thing we could ask for from 2017, it wouldn’t be ‘more Twitter’.
Well, we got it anyway, Stephen. Now we have to deal with it.