To use Twitter is to have a love/hate relationship. Love, because it sometimes creates moments of perfect absurdist comedy, like these good people trying their best to explain what Rick and Morty is. Hate, because it amplifies every user’s worst narcissistic and self-important tendencies, and also my goodness there are a lot of Nazis on this damn thing.
Well, fresh off unleashing the horror of 280 characters, Twitter announced Tuesday it’s not yet done with its efforts to drill all the way down to the bottom circle of internet hell. As explained on its blog, Twitter is rolling out a new feature over the next few weeks designed to make it easier for people to create threads, in which people fail to take the hint of keeping their thoughts to a single tweet and connect a bunch together in a train of thought that defeats the whole theoretical purpose of Twitter’s pithy raison d’être.
“Hundreds of thousands of threads are Tweeted every day!” writes Twitter product manager Sasank Reddy, in a tone that sounds suspiciously like he doesn’t see this as a terrifying problem that may require fire to solve. “But this method of Tweeting, while effective and popular, can be tricky for some to create and it’s often tough to read or discover all the Tweets in a thread. That’s why we’re thrilled to share that we’re making it simpler to thread Tweets together, and to find threads, so it’s easier to express yourself on Twitter and stay informed.”
To understand the problem with this — beyond the basic objection that threading is not something that more people need simplified access to, and one of the few hilarious things about 2017 is the guy who can use Twitter to start nuclear war doesn’t seem to understand how to make threads — let’s consider how this will work. With the new feature, you will see a “+” button next to the character counter that will let you create additional tweets, then publish them all at once as a thread. There doesn’t appear to be an upper limit, so you could post a 200-tweet thread all at once — and rest assured, somebody will.
So what’s the issue? It’s the same basic one as the problem with going from 140 to 280 characters. Let me embody all that is Twitter by quoting myself here, in which I ironically came to the thread’s defense.
With threads in their original form, users had to commit to their lengthy diatribe. Every 140 or now 280 characters represented another checkpoint, another opportunity for the user to really consider whether this was so important that they couldn’t just bail and go, say, read a book or something. Each passing minute was a new chance for the tweeter to think, “nah, I’ve probably said enough about how this political thing is like this pop culture thing” and let everyone off the hook.
That was the fundamental genius of the original 140 characters: That’s at most enough characters to encompass one simple thought, and anything more complex than that would at least require the user to constantly reckon with their own shamelessness. But between the jump to 280 and this new insta-thread feature, people can say so much more without being forced to consider if they’re actually saying anything at all.