Student Affairs and Technology

When Twitter first announced in September that they were going to test out a new 280 character limit, the response was less than stellar. The 140 character limit for a single tweet has always been a fundamental element to engaging on Twitter.

I even tweeted my own critique of the new 280 character limit. Obviously, I was like a lot of long-term Twitter users…a dramatic change like this was not exactly welcome at first.

Well, this is interesting. Twitter goes from being concise and curated to being more like a mini blog post that lives inside of a single tweet. The power of Twitter is the 140. This extra space is not very helpful and it loses the very brevity that makes Twitter special/useful.

— Eric Stoller (@EricStoller) September 28, 2017

It only took a couple of months of beta testing 280 characters before everyone tweeting in “languages where cramming was an issue” were given the new lengthier post option.

Once again, my response about the new character limit wasn’t a positive one. (Yes, it’s ironic that I wrote up my opinion about the new 280 character limit by way of a 280 character tweet.)

So there you have it…280 characters for everyone. Twitter has become a blogging platform. It will be nice to see if a competitor emerges that sees the benefit of being concise. RIP 140 characters. You will be missed. Also, this really changes Twitter and not in a good way. #sad

— Eric Stoller (@EricStoller) November 8, 2017

Time is a funny thing. I remember when Facebook was changing their interface seemingly on a daily basis. It was most upsetting. However, most of those changes have worked out without issue.

I joined Twitter back in 2007 and have been a fan of the “140” for quite some time. Unlike a lot of social networks, Twitter hasn’t made a ton of massive changes to the user experience. I think that my initial issue with 280 characters was driven more by nostalgia than by a tangible problem with the extra space for thoughts, links, mentions, etc.

According to Twitter’s own data on tweet length, most tweets are still coming in at less than 280 characters. The length is there if you need it (e.g., university crisis communications), but most of us will probably instinctively still construct our tweets with more or less the same amount of characters. Brevity on Twitter will still be the norm.

Change is always interesting. When social networks change their core features, it can be disorienting. This is especially true when you’ve been using an app/site for a decade. However, time softens the dissonance of digital change. And, in the case of 280 characters on Twitter, we’re going to be okay.

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