When text messaging began in the nineties, who would have thought it would blow up. I and many others like me were in the mind set that 140 characters would never be enough to properly communicate. The number of characters was most definitely arbitrary, I am sure a small amount of market research was done, and seen to be restrictive. That exact restriction is what made text messaging what it was. Text messaging started crossing over to the web in the 2000’s and then twitter was born.
Twitter was most likely not the first website of it’s kinda, but it was the first to gain a wide user base. The website was meant to be an easy to communicate with lots of people from your mobile phone. Texting was the basis for twitter and twitter was a new communication medium. It sparked innovation from bloggers to newscasters finding great new ways to distribute their content. This eventually gave way to presidential candidates and many politicians using twitter and websites like it to advance their goals. As anyone that reads this blog knows, twitter had a huge spawning of websites and services just like it, including laconica, pownce etc.
Why limit myself to 140 characters
140 characters seems like an extremely small number of characters to write with, some find it hard to get their point across. This is were texting and micro blogging shines. The limit of 140 characters has forced normal people, bloggers, and everyone else to become more concise and innovate the way they communicate. Parents and teachers have been sounding the alarm about the decline of their children and students ability to write. I believe their ability is improving, evolving, and becoming more efficient. Why spend time writing out common phrases, when the point can be communicated and read far more quickly. The old mantra used to be a minimum amount of words or a minimum page size, I believe the twenty first century will be about efficiency and speed, not about arbitrary sizes and formality. Young people will be armed with the skills necessary to make a point quickly and they will also have the skills decipher small messages some older people would think are jibberish.
Lets get Social
I have heard the argument many times that communicating 140 characters at a time removes the social aspect and voice writing used to provide. That texting can hurt social interactions overall. I find this is only true for a small number of people that are completely wrapped up in texting. Moderation is the key to everything. Overall, I have found that texting allows people the time to communicate they would not normally have strengthening relationships. It is much quicker to write a small 140 character message to go to a friend or colleague, and via twitter many friends , than it is to make a phone call to some one. It is also quicker than email. This has given students, businessman, and hurried soccer moms the ability to stay in touch with out interrupting the normal flow of their day. The limit of 140 characters has also brought new communities together like twitter, the twit army, and many other micro blogging communities. 140 characters can limit the depth of the conversation, but that’s the point. So instead it should be a tool to build the connectedness of a relationship and when more depth is needed the communication platform changes. You can’t text message breakup, that requires at least a well written email.
140 characters may not be the best way to communicate, but it has led to major advances in the way we interact. We have evolved, become more efficient, and better connected. I say that’s a good thing.