Twitter’s First Tweet Turns 9 Years Old

Nine years ago today, horrid grammar and questionable spelling in short-message form took their first steps toward the mainstream.

Twitter. I use it all the time because I like the idea of finding and sharing new things. Plus, the interface is so damned simple, it’s beautiful. As for the 140 character limit; I’ve found limitations such as this to be extremely inspirational and liberating.

Back in March 2006 it was called twttr and had at least one anxious user in Founder Jack Dorsey. And on this day in 2006 he set things off with one innocuous tweet. It would be introduced publicly in July 2006. I set up my account in March 2007. Who else remembers tweeting via text messages sent to ‘40404’?

And there you have it. The 24 characters that sparked a wave of over sharing in the most efficient way possible, or at least it should have. The hope was that, by limiting people’s words, it would make communication more streamlined and effective. They’d think, “How can I say what I want using 140 characters or less and not sound like an idiot.” Sadly, that would not be the case.

In the heyday of MySpace for example, users were not only allowed to post updates using a seemingly unlimited amount of characters, they were allowed to embed HTML code, leading to a myriad of animated gifs and wavs clogging up browser resources. Not to mention being the perfect hiding places for malware and viruses.

Facebook never allowed for embedded code in their posts and they did at one time limit the amount of characters to 160. However, over time that limit was increased to an eventual ludicrous level:

  • March 2009: 420
  • July 2011: 500
  • September 2011: 5,000
  • November 2011: 60,000

C’mon now. Is 60,000 characters seriously a limit? Unless you’re using Facebook as a blogging platform, it’s just a silly number. Anyway, back to my original point.

Those of us who remember the early, wild west days of social media thought this new platform was a breath of fresh air. As it turned out, the simplicity of Twitter did not actually make it’s users better communicators. Not all of them, anyway. While some were able to thrive within its confines, most tended to dumb themselves down for the sake of efficiency — or at the very least, speed.

“Wow! Letters like U and R can stand for words like you and are!” ~ Philip J. Fry

I’m no grammar nazi, but I am tired of seeing writers (some of whom I respect very much) using text speak in their posts. It’s lazy. Some say they’re just trying to fit as much of their thought as possible into a Tweet. Ok, but what about those who do it on Facebook with it’s obscenely high character limit? It makes them come across as moody teens, not seasoned writers.

Abbreviations are fine, but using numbers or letters to replace words is not. Neither is leaving out punctuation or not taking the time to check spelling. These things all make the most intelligent of scholars look like a moron. And this practice has gotten so widely accepted that I’ve seen these offenses in fully published news articles. Not just online, but in print as well. Unacceptable.

I’m issuing a Twitter challenge. Think of it as an exercise in composition. Let’s use as many real words as possible and still get our points across in under 140 characters. The prize will be the satisfaction of conquering a bad habit.

Who’s up for it?

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