Sabahat Quadri Works


140 Characters

No, this is not about the number of characters in my book. I don’t have 140 characters in my life, let alone my book. I mean the 140 character mark that Twitter limits us to. I’ve realized that this limitation is both frustratingly restrictive and strangely liberating at the same time. Frustrating because I am used to writing complete sentences. Even on my phone’s SMS, I don’t abbreviate or condense my thoughts. I write out whole words, whole sentences, whole thoughts.

SMS shorthand is beyond me, and except for the occasional ‘wd’, ‘shd’ and ‘tmrw’, I use ‘and’, ‘the’, ‘you’ (not ‘u’) the way they should be used. (Then there’s my brother, who thinks SMS is like chat, because he’ll send me an SMS with just my name, and wait for a response before sending the actual message.) I get some of the more common acronyms such as Lol!, ROFL, IMHO, but the majority of them fly high above my head, little birds in the distance that I have no hope of catching.

So when I had to start promoting myself, and my book, on Twitter, I was naturally apprehensive. How do I bond with someone in 140 characters or less?

But it was oddly easy. First, because you don’t need to explain yourself, or talk about yourself too much. Everyone in the twittersphere has the same limitations as you – 140 characters to introduce yourself. So I can get out there and call myself an #author and no one asks for more. They don’t ask, where are you from? How old are you? Where did you go to school? If someone asks what my book is about, the hashtag #romance along with my book name is pretty explanatory.

In real life, I am diffident, don’t like talking about myself and normally take ages to make friends. In cyberspace, I can be anyone I want. Since I am writing under a pen name, it’s even easier to create a persona that is friendly, open, engaging and able to say with confidence what I can’t say to your face. On Twitter, it’s a snap, because these engagements are brief one-liners that only someone with inordinate amounts of time will pick apart or try to read the subtext (there’s always subtext). I’ve already made friends (gasp!) and my numbers are moving along in a way that Facebook, woefully, can’t seem to match.

Twitter, despite its limitations, allows for more engagement, from what I can see, than Facebook. The interaction is one-on-one and far more personal. I’ve learned a little bit about fake followers and auto-tweeting since I started, but barring those odd tweeters who assign professional organizations to tweet on their behalf, the majority of tweeters seem to be real. And their responses are aimed directly at you/me. On Facebook, engagement is always about a post, an image, a video, something you shared.

To me, this is a paradox. More engagement with fewer words. What do you think? Is Twitter still a mystery for you, or is working out to be more than you imagined?

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