The Twitter Word Count Controversy: Good or Fueling the Fire?



Is bigger always better?

Twitter seems to think so, introducing their new character count expansion, allowing more to be said in one single tweet. People are quickly taking to the platform to test the new freedoms and forming opinions of the dynamic and combative change, benefitting the Twitter user base as well as the company’s growth.

The Basics Twitter announced back in September of the company’s plan to change their original 180 character count to 280, on the grounds that those who tweeted in languages like Korean, Japanese or Chinese were able to express double that of, say an English or French speaker, in one single character. Below are screenshots of exactly how these characters translate into different languages and how many characters are used for the same message.

The expansion was announced on a post on Twitter’s blog by Aliza Rosen, Twitter’s Project Manager along and Ikuhiro Ihara, a Senior Software Engineer. In the post, Rosen lamented,

“We understand since many of you have been Tweeting for years, there may be an emotional attachment to 140 characters – we felt it, too. But we tried this, saw the power of what it will do, and fell in love with this new, still brief, constraint.”

Along with this, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey took to the platform to announce and support the change. Unfortunately this was quickly bashed by users, specifically, a markup by Twitter user, Caitlin Kelly in which edited Dorsey’s original 280-count tweet down to 139, while still keeping the same message. (I had originally questioned why you were using this person, but when I see the edit process she did, it was terrific.  Very smart.)

This update, which launched November 7th, has since created a lot of controversy over the whether this expansion takes away from the brevity that Twitter is known and loved for. While Crimson Hexagon, a social media analytics company out of Boston, reported that 63 percent of tweets collected from September 25th were centered on “negative sentiments,” A privately-held technology and media company, The Morning Consult, conducted a study that resulted in evidence that Americans were in favor of more characters rather than opposed to it. Dante Akins, a tester of the new character limit said,

“You don’t realize how conditioned you are to shaping thoughts into 140 characters for public consumption until you no longer have to do it anymore.”

Whatever the opinion was, Twitter’s goal was to remove roadblocks for newcomers and in return grow its user base, something that the company has struggled with in the past.

The Issue With Twitter From President Donald Trump’s tweets to internet trolls and pro-terrorist content, Twitter has had many issues with abuse. Twitter has since launched combative changes (combative changes?) to silence abusers of the app in February of this year, specifically adding a filter to account replies on Twitter. According to the well-established technology news source, TechCrunch, “Twitter says it’s working on identifying and collapsing low-quality and abusive replies, which will make following longer conversation threads more productive and more relevant” The gif below demonstrates this change. Along with this, there are also changes to the mute button and the reporting process. The below is an animated image that walks you through how one’s timeline would look with the new filter and then where the “less relevant” button is located on your feed to view the tweets that did not make it through the filter.

The question becomes then, is the change from 140 to 280 only going to increase these issues? Many of the critics say yes. Popular, modern news and opinion source, VOX  says, “A large segment of those protesting the change see it as a diversion from more essential improvements to Twitter.” Some of the issues brought to the table are seen in the Tweets below.

The Small Market Although Twitter’s expansion is dynamically changing internationally, its micro changes are affecting advertising and the communication flow between small communities and their connections. In our local community, students are noticing the difference in character count and just like the rest of the world, they have a big opinion about it.

Marli Collier is a Senior enrolled in UGA’s  Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communications. She studies both Journalism and Political Science and uses Twitter every day.

“I’m definitely not a fan (of the expansion). I feel like my brain is so trained to look only at that 140 characters, anything beyond that seems excessive. If what you’re trying to say is more than 140 characters, is Twitter really the best platform to get that message out??” Said Collier.

She continues, “I do not support this change. Longer messages are for Facebook, Medium, or other blog-ish platforms. The 140-character limit encourages users to be terse and succinct.”

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey has continued to respond to the reactions to the change, taking in stride the negative comments as well as the positive ones. The change character count is just one in the many advancements that Twitter plans to make, carrying on to other dynamic changes through 2021.






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