Yesterday Dave Winer made a harsh comment regarding twitter.
Everyone: When you ask ”Isn’t that what Twitter already does?” the answer is no. Twitter does nothing well because of the 140-char limit.
You might even say Twitter does nothing. The Seinfeld of social networks.The province of snorts and gusts. Miscreant sarcasm and trollery.
– Dave Winer on Twitter, 2016-05-13. (first paragraph, second paragraph)
At first this might sound like an oversimplification but it resonated with me. Twitter is making me increasingly frustrated these days. The 140 character limit might, might, have been a good thing to differentiate it at first but today I think that it’s one of the core problems of the service.
A hundred-and-forty character limit is actively harming nuanced discussions. Once you start tweeting directly to one person it gets even worse since precious characters are eaten up by the username of that person. So instead of discussion we get people screaming simplified messages into the void, we get Trump, we get people calling someone who tries to argue for something a racist, or a sexist, or a social justice warrior, a communist, a fascist, etc. Whatever name you find is properly insulting you use to smear the those who seems to not agree with you. When there’s not enough room to question or to debate you get name-calling.
I’m guilty of this as well. I’m also guilty of not speaking up and not questioning in a lot of cases. There have been so many times that I thought of something that I wanted to express, so many times that I wanted to ask follow-up questions to someone who wrote something that I didn’t agree with and so many of those times I chose not to. Because I couldn’t fit it within the limits of twitter without botching the message completely. So instead I kept shut.
So why do I keep using twitter? Probably because so many of my friends and people whose opinions I care about are there, and so much of the news that I read comes to me this way.
Fortunately the latter obstacle is not that much of a problem. I’m still an avid RSS user and I could replace a lot of my news sources on Twitter with various RSS feeds and readers. In part I am doing that already since I’ve more or less unfollowed every single account tweeting about Swedish politics or Swedish news. Instead I keep the RSS feed of some Swedish newspapers in my river of news.
Same thing goes for a lot of tech news as well.
The first problem, that so many of my friends and people who’s voices I care about is on Twitter is a bigger issue. I am actually after all these years contemplating joining Facebook. Maybe that would help me to keep up with my friends. In a way, I think it would be better for this than Twitter is.
As for the people who I’m not a real-life friend, who might not even follow and/or be interested in me, with but whose opinions matter to me, I think all of us – everyone who’s expressing strong opinions on the internet – should be better at expressing us on our own publishing space as well. More blogs, more of the indieweb.
This post got a lot more rambly than I planned. I’d actually only planned to quote Dave and to leave a sentence or two as a comment but things doesn’t always turn out the way we’ve planned.
So I have no great way of ending the post. No call to action for you, the reader or for myself. I guess I’ll get back on this topic.