So here is the promised piece of advice to Musk: require a character minimum for tweets. The fundamental feature of Twitter is its limit of 280 characters for a post. Brevity was considered a virtue for a writer in the print era, but on Twitter, brevity has nothing to do with a sender’s virtue. Quite the opposite: short tweets tend to be short on rationality. In this medium, brevity is a business gimmick that makes the news feed faster and easier to engage with. What is needed to reverse radically this feature of social media is an opposite limit: tweets must not be shorter than 280 characters. A quantum of media must become time-consuming again, inhibiting responses via a technical delay into which thoughts, not emotions, might be squeezed. Alternatively, Twitter could prioritize longer posts, or give perks to users authoring thoughtful content.
This would encourage an unthinkable outcome for social media: requiring a user to think about what to write. And that renders it extraordinarily unlikely. After initial hype, such rules would undermine engagement, which lies at the core of Twitter’s business model. It could accelerate the takeover of non-textual media, such as TikTok. But solutions that slow down social media engagement cannot be driven by market imperatives. A source for such solutions, though, might be the arbitrary will of an eccentric owner—one who does not care much about the platform as a business and whose ambitions are peculiar enough to include sending humans to Mars.
I agree with Kevin Williamson that a good version with Twitter would not be Twitter, and that the problem with the platform is nothing more, or less, than good old human nature. I also agree with Alan Jacobs that Musk could be a hero by simply nuking the entire site from orbit. But mostly, I’m just amused that, once again, the solution to the ills of social media is to reinvent the blog under a different name (or simply turn Twitter into Reddit). Why were we expelled from the Garden of Blogging to begin with? There’s a loose parody of the Book of Genesis, based on the last two decades of the social web, just waiting to be written by someone more creative than me.