Tweets are not long enough to express opinions clearly and carefully. That is bad for our public conversation.
To be sure, twitter has 'democratised' our public conversation, giving millions of people a voice. The problem is, the format encourages miscommunication and antagonism. Almost every issue worth talking about has nuance to it, but twitter doesn't leave enough room for nuance. Tweets tend to be forceful, provocative statements that don't brook any exception.
Fruitful conversation doesn't work like that. We may start with a difference of opinion, but we qualify our absolutes, admit the exceptions to the rule, and move toward mutual understanding. Less room for qualification means less of this progress, and more unbudging animosity. Sound like the twittersphere?
The good news is, no one is forcing us to stick to 240 characters. We'd like to see thoughtful tweeters adopt a practice more like letters to the editor: writing down their thoughts outside twitter (for example in a short blog post 😉), and 'sending' them into the ecosystem via link. The letter to the editor is a form scuplted by hundreds of years of use. Its length - around 200 words - gives you room to express yourself like a grown-up: carefully and with nuance. Why let twitter limit you to childishness?
By Henry Fraser
Clark Young on Unsplash