A tweet is like a sonnet, or should be. Follow my reasoning here.
A tweet, in order to be compatible with the length of a standard text message, is actually 160 characters long, but it reserves 20 characters for user information, which leaves only 140 characters for the body of the tweet. This is common enough information, I know, but it also makes for one of the more interesting parallels in the history of literary form, because it just so happens that a sonnet standardly consists of 14 lines of 10 syllables each, for a grand total of 140 syllables. A tweet – 140 characters / A sonnet – 140 syllables: could this really be mere coincidence?
Unfortunately, yes, it can be mere coincidence, but it is still, I would suggest, a meaningful coincidence, since it serves as a reminder of what can be done through literary forms that are tightly defined by their brevity and by their formal structure. The sonnet, though limited formally, has been one of the enduring modes of poetic expression, from the 13th century until the present day. This should refute the assumption that something as brief as a tweet cannot be capable of performing a literary as well as a communicational function.
It should also cause us to examine the extent to which most twitter is actually concerned with the question of literary value. If it is possible to write literarily through the form, and I think it is, and I have heard of examples of this kind of writing, it is certainly the case that most twitter has very little concern at all to be literary. Like much of our modern media, it has been dominated by a concern for communication at the expense of a concern for expression, though it contains the possibility for such expression, as the sonnet demonstrates.
So, I think that a tweet should be like a sonnet. I think that its limited form should give rise to a greater rather than a lesser attention to its literary and asethetic expression. I think twitter should be a poetry, not just for poets, but for all of us.