Thick and Thin Tweets

By Anthony Rossi

I first started using Twitter my Junior year of high school and, like many other people, I use this social medium mainly as a distraction. My Twitter timeline is something I can scroll through when I’m bored, when I can’t fall asleep, or when I just need something to look at so I don’t have to make eye contact with strangers on the bus.

 

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Sick tweet, man!

 

At this point, I’ve tweeted 3,621 times and I can honestly estimate that at least 3,610 of those posts were what David Silver would call “thin tweets” (tweets with only one layer of information). Because I am so used to tweeting immature jokes, bad pictures of my friends, and other average things that no one cares about, it was actually a real challenge to sit down and try to figure out something worthwhile to say. I decided to make each of my multi-layered, link-filled “thick tweets” about one of my passions.

With my first thick tweet, I promoted my local improvisation team’s latest show, making sure to include the date, the price, the start time, and the location of the event. I also included a link to our Facebook page so that if anyone was interested, they could quickly find out more information about the team. This is different from my average tweet about the 45 Kings, because I will usually only mention one or two pieces of that information instead of taking the time to include it all. Overall, this thick tweet feels like a much better promotion of the team, because it is informative and interactive instead of a half-assed invitation.

That's more like it!

That’s more like it!

 

With my second thick tweet, I tried to drum up excitement about Fantasy Football season by posting a link to an article with lineup advice. Usually when I tweet about Fantasy Football it is an out of context little blurb about my team or a player’s status in the league. This thick tweet felt more inclusive and appealing because it doesn’t only focus on my experience with the game, but the game as a whole!

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Overall, this exercise was a little difficult for me. Each tweet took more time, more attention, and more creativity than I am used to devoting to my account. Once I had finished typing out each tweet, it seemed to look wrong. This is probably due to the fact that I am used to reading thin tweets, so seeing multiple levels of information in one post made it feel too long and too complex. This, of course, made me think about the readings. Rushkoff’s idea that the net limits complexity and Dibbell’s ideas about the way social media has limited our attention span both seem like prime examples of my experience with thick tweets.

Twitter is tailored to our easily-bored generation and our desire for immediate gratification, so I’m not sure whether my followers would be interested in receiving large amounts of information all at once or whether they would hate me for crowding their timeline with links.

Questions:

1) If you were to post exclusively “Thick Tweets”, do you think that you would gain or lose followers?

2) Do you think you would get more or less favorites and retweets on each post?

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2 comments

  1. Anthony,

    You bring up some great and relatable points. I understand completely feeling the need to use Twitter as a time filler or something to keep me busy on my morning CTA commute. Sometimes, though, I use Twitter as a source of information and news updates, in place of reading the paper in the morning or something. In response to your questions, I think that I would lose followers if all I posted were lengthy, thick tweets. Having a balance of thin and thick tweets is part of what is appealing about Twitter, at least in my opinion. I like having the option of getting great information (about your improv group, for example), but still like to indulge in a bit of brain candy from time to time. I also think thick tweets probably get less favorites/retweets because they take more time to read and engage with. I favorite something if it is a quick, pithy, funny, or sarcastic comment, and quickly move on. If I have to click around and a link takes me elsewhere, it is rare that I return to the original tweet to favorite it.

  2. I think the necessity for more or less thick tweets depends on the kind of account you run. Its a lot more useful for a news organization to create thick tweets with links and pictures so you can learn more about whatever story they are promoting. On the other hand, if somebody you had one class with your freshman year of high school consistently, or only, sends out thick tweets about their small college that you’ve never heard of, I think their follower count would probably drop. I think that rule works pretty well across all of Twitter, and maybe the internet as a whole: If you don’t put out information that’s relevant to the audience you have, or the audience you want, you’re not going to have any audience anymore.

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