That's one small step for a tweet, one giant leap for the Twittersphere.
Chief executive Jack Dorsey announced today that his microblogging site would begin letting some users post tweets up to 280 characters long — double the current limit of 140 characters.
That might still sound awfully cramped, but the company hopes it will lure more users onto Twitter. So far, the reaction from current Twitter users has been decidedly negative.
But before we jump to judgment in 140 characters — which is perhaps Twitter users' greatest skill — consider what doubling the tweet length would allow.
Emily Dickinson could tweet one of her greatest poems:
I'm Nobody! Who are you?
Are you – Nobody – too?
Then there's a pair of us!
Don't tell! they'd advertise – you know!
How dreary – to be – Somebody!
How public – like a Frog –
To tell one's name – the livelong June –
To an admiring Bog
The opening of the preamble to Declaration of Independence could fit in a single tweet:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
We could tweet much better Shakespeare quotations:
All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts.
Henry David Thoreau's aphoristic sentences fit much better in 280 characters:
If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.
And so do Ralph Waldo Emerson's:
The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.
A longer tweet gives more room for full-throated threats:
My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius, commander of the Armies of the North, General of the Felix Legions and loyal servant to the true emperor, Marcus Aurelius. Father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife. And I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next.
But more room for real inspiration, too, from Eleanor Roosevelt:
You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, 'I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.
Ron Charles is the editor of Book World.