Is Twitter the New Long Form? – UPDATED

Is Twitter the New Long Form?

I follow several social justice leaders and activists on Twitter. I have noticed that they use Twitter in a way that is different from in the past.

In the past, tweets were singular events – a comment, a link, a share of some sort. A lot of people, myself included, still use Twitter that way.

The activists using Twitter now use it as a long-form platform. They pick a topic and tweet about it at length. Dozens of tweets in a day. If you stumble onto Twitter in the middle of one of these tweeters making a point, you must to go back, find your way to the beginning, find your way through the thoughts and watch to keep up. It often requires looking at whole conversations, checking for replies and questions, and then going back to the main thread.

Since most people are not watching Twitter 24/7, this approach requires some work for the people who may care about what is being tweeted, but it offers some advantages.

For the readers, a blog post would be easier to follow. All those thoughts could be put in one post, in the right order, and sent out. But easy isn’t the point. Advocacy is the point. Change is the point. Being heard right now is the point. Interaction is the point.

Twitter offers immediacy. There’s immediate feedback, immediate retweeting, immediate sharing of voices and information. Twitter is engaging. Many people can think and talk about an event or an idea in real time.

Twitter is forgiving of speed. Typos, awkward phrases, abbreviated thoughts are overlooked in the name of speed. There’s no need for polish.

Who would have imagined, when Twitter began, that it would become the long form discourse platform of choice for social change?

Update 8/26/15

Thanks to @redcrew, who just alerted me to Introducing the Tweetstorm. This article proposes a solution to the problems I outlined above for anyone trying to either write or follow a series of tweets on a particular topic. The developer, Daniel Rakhamimov, suggests a way to connect a series of tweets automatically through what he calls a Tweetstorm. His idea has many advantages to both readers and writers when Twitter is used as a longform medium. It’s a must read article and a great idea!


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