Sunday, August 24, 2014

How Many Tweets Make a Twit?

Twitter is the big thing currently, and while I like word games as much as the next writer, and the challenge of saying something coherent in 140 characters might ordinarily intrigue me -- I can’t get into this one.

What it does is, it puts me in mind of the time when messages – urgent ones, anyway – were sent via Western Union. Because Western Union charged you by the word, you left out anything that wasn’t vital to understanding the message; you adopted a “telegraphic” style. 

Where the comparison ends, however; is at the word “urgent.”    I’d think that having mastered the Twitter format you’d want to go on to something practical for continuing communication. The idea of continuing to communicate by “tweet” doesn’t seem to me to make sense.

The redeeming feature, since brevity is the soul of twit, is that the people who do it are forced to make it short – probably against their real inclination in many cases. That spares you a longer version of a short unimportant or boring message.

I see now there is discussion about retweets (or “RTs,” to the initiated) and whether sending one constitutes endorsement of it. This is still being sorted out between various people and journalistic institutions with conflicting views.

If an outsider may be allowed an opinion -- the more reasonable of those views would seem to be to forward the message with a disclaimer if it’s not an endorsement. This might apply in situations where someone has managed to assemble 140 characters into something so outrageous that you feel you have to tell other people about it, but you don’t want anyone to think you sympathize with the idea expressed. 

That would be easy enough in a normal communication environment, but can you add an exculpatory message within the confines of this system? Could you say “exculpatory” if you wanted to? Why give up most of your vocabulary of more than one syllable if you mean to communicate?