Digital Culture

The Twitter Thread: Modernising a Good Yarn-

Charlotte Fox

The revolution that the world has seen in terms of communication and media is unparalleled in any other era in history, suddenly everyone has access to limitless entertainment and stories at the tips of their fingers, and more importantly, most of it is free.

Never have the mediums of storytelling changed so drastically and rapidly as they have over the last few decades, no longer do you have to have a physical book to enjoy a novel, nor wait to buy your weekly paper in order to read the news. This is all due to the speed and ease with which we can now access publications, however, the changes in how people receive stories, has also led to a change in the way that people tell them.

One of the most prominent ways that people can now voice their stories and experiences is through social media sites; one of the most popular being Twitter. Twitter allows people to voice their thoughts in short statements, called Tweets. However, the site came with new problems of its own, as when it was originally launched in 2006, users were only able to use 140 characters in a Tweet. That may seem like a lot, however, just in the space of this short, simple sentence alone, we have already used up 133 characters. Therefore, you can see how it would be difficult to portray stories at any real length. 

In order to overcome this restriction, users began linking multiple Tweets together in order to create a longer story or discussion; these chains of Tweets became known as a Twitter Thread. This allows people to expand on their experiences without the restrictions that the character limits put on them. Despite this, the story is still delivered in a series of bitesize chunks and so is easily digestible for users, who would be accustomed to Twitter’s iconic style. 

However, it is not just entertainment purposes that has made Twitter and the use of Threads so popular, the site has also been used for sharing matters of a more serious nature. One famous example which has gained a large amount of notoriety in recent years is the #MeToo movement. This is a feminist movement against sexual harassment and assault, which gained major recognition after it went viral following sexual abuse allegations against Harvey Weinstein in 2017. The hashtag allowed women from all over the world to share their own similar stories of sexual abuse and find a sense of solidarity within an incredibly difficult subject.

They were able to utilise Twitter Threads in order to create an ongoing conversation and women whose stories may have otherwise gone unheard, were given a platform to voice their experiences. Not only did this allow women from all over the world to confide in one another, but the amount of attention that the movement gained through social media also helped to guide the prosecution of Harvey Weinstein. Previously, the American film producer had got away with the allegations that were made against him, but in March 2020, he was sentenced to 23 years in jail.

Story telling has developed both in the medium of technology that it utilises, as well as in the number of people that it can reach. Social media sites have allowed everyone to become a storyteller in their own small way and have allowed age old traditions to continue in new contemporary forms.