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To Tweet or Not To Tweet?


I tweeted this week. My first tweets ever. A long time coming, many friends say. Within seconds of activating my account, I received my first 'mentions': "Omg, I almost did a happy dance at work!" exclaimed one friend; "just made my day!" said another; and yet another: "one word: finally!"

What took me so long? The 140-character limit. The learning curve on the lingo. But, most of all, the fear that it would ruin my writing.

Just when I thought I might be thinking too much, the editors at the unparalleled magazine n+1 remind me I'm not alone. In their latest issue, they ponder the writer's fear that Twitter represents a "scrolling suicide note of Western civilization. Never more than 140 characters at a time? Looks like the human attention span crumbling like a Roman aqueduct."

Is it true? The n+1 editors capture well the two-edged talon: "The Rise of the Tweet takes place amid an internet-induced cheapening of language, in both good and bad senses. . . . A tweet is so short that you can get right to the point — but so short, also, that why should it have one?"

But we're not all curmudgeons now. It's possible there's an art to the tweet. For one, the character limit poses a challenge similar to the one writers have long faced with the word limit: "A tweet’s a narrow window, but nothing says that one of those can’t disclose — or, by way of URL compressers, link to — a big terrain."

Aphorists like Oscar Wilde "would have been excellent tweeters, and the best tweets, today, rival their greatest one-liners." Perhaps, despite its flaws, Twitter does leave room for good writing.

After all, who could deny the wisdom of this classic "pre-tweet" from Mr. Wilde: "Women are made to be loved, not understood." Now these are 42 characters worth remembering.

Photograph courtesy ofScott Beale on Flickr.