Teaching Opinion

In Defense of 140 Character Tweets

By Jill Berkowicz & Ann Myers — January 26, 2016 2 min read
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News that twitter may be extending the number of characters in a Tweet, from 140 to possibly 10,000, is worthy of notice. What was the original reason for the 140-character limit? It came before the smartphone days “when Tweets needed to fit into an SMS text message” (The Week magazine January 22, 2016 p. 18). But, the 140 characters have forced users into brevity and summary. There is value in that, right? A limitation of 140 characters directs us to find the kernel of what we mean and leaves room for links to background or further info. 140 characters allows for all kinds of hashtag chats. Here is just one source listing edchats.

Why We Should Support 140 Characters
There are certainly reasons why educators should be invested in good, clear communication. Yet, too often, spoken and written communication fail to create understanding. If that is what is intended, it fails either because we haven’t taken the time to clarify before sending out our message, or our communication is rushed, or those with whom we want to communicate are not listening carefully or at all. The demand for fewer words requires the capacity to synthesize our own thoughts before sending the message. Or, perhaps, it allows us to be even more “off the cuff” because we keep sending out these little thoughts. But, Twitter’s 140 character limit gives us the opportunity, as educators, to practice the skill of crisp and effective information sharing. We can also teach it to our students. There is a place for brevity in communication and the 140 character limit has made that part of the social media world.

Regardless of where one stands in the debate about whether “Tweeting” has contributed to or is destroying our capacity for meaningful two way communication and dialogue, there are places where brief communication can connect people and share thoughts. From just one Twitter chat, we have made connections with educators, some even from other countries, who share their thoughts, beliefs, and opinions every Saturday morning. From just one Twitter chat, we have learned about new resources, professional development events happening, and books and videos that open doors and minds. We already have Facebook, Email, blogs, articles, newspapers, magazines, editorials, and op eds. Within this bigger environment, we have come to appreciate the place for 140 characters for its utility. It serves a role as a communication choice. If Tweets become lengthy, they will abandon the purpose they have come to serve. With the value of brevity in mind, we end here at 2578 characters!

Connect with Ann and Jill on Twitter or by Email.

Illustration courtesy of Pixabay

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