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Life, Technology

Why Twitter Should Never Give Us An Edit Button

Tweet what you mean and mean what you tweet

Imagine you’ve just thought of the perfect tweet. You whip out your phone knowing that your followers will love it. It’s witty and topical. But just as you hit the tweet button, you realized that you’ve made a typo. And on Twitter, you don’t have an edit option. You either have to delete the original and create a corrected tweet or respond to the original with a correction.

It’s a topic that comes up every once in a while on Twitter. Sometimes it’s even protested on Twitter through a trending hashtag like #TwitterEditButton. There’s no way that the Twitter team doesn’t know that this is something most Twitter users want, but why won’t they create this functionality for the app?

Early last year, Jack Dorsey, the CEO of Twitter, answered that question. When Twitter first started, it was an SMS text messaging service. Twitter wants to preserve the feeling of those days, and since you can’t change a text once you send it, the same goes for your tweets. Dorsey also made another important point. If you quote tweet or retweet someone on Twitter, you don’t want that to suddenly change. We all can imagine the fiasco something like that can cause.

However, I think there are a few other arguments to be made that no edit functionality is beneficial to Twitter. Not being able to edit your tweets makes them more credible. You can’t just go back and change it if you say something that is rude, bigoted, or just incorrect and then pretend that you tweeted something else. No edit button makes Twitter as reliable as an email or text message when used as evidence in the court of public opinion or sometimes in the court of law. If they gave us an edit button, then people will just say that that the original tweet that someone took a screenshot of is photoshopped thus lessening the integrity of Twitter’s tweets. 

Photoshopping a social media post does happen on Twitter, but it is not as consequential as on other social media platforms because it doesn’t have an edit button. Kylie Jenner had an issue a few months ago when someone photoshopped one of her edited posts. A person changed a caption on one of her posts to suggest that before Kylie edited it the original post said, “Brown skinned girl” just to cause drama. Turns out that wasn’t what her caption said at all. However, it did initially cause her some drama as people didn’t realize at first that the image was photoshopped. Luckily for her, the person didn’t do a good job photoshopping the image, so it was easily debunked. The drama with Kylie wouldn’t happen on Twitter because if the tweet is still online everyone knows exactly what was written. But on Instagram, it’s another story.

Anyone can make up a username and add any photo to a profile on social media. You don’t have to be who your friends and family know you to be in real life online. Twitter is a website that is known for troll and burner accounts. Former Republican congressional candidate, Dean Browning, was accused of using a burner or a sock puppet account when he tweeted, “I’m a black gay guy and I can personally say that Obama did nothing for me…”

Screenshot of Dean Browning’s original tweet. It begins with, “I’m a black gay guy.” The original tweet has been deleted.
Screenshot of Dean Browning’s tweet. Source: The New York Times

Browning, obviously not black and married to a woman, attempted to explain the situation as a botched effort to quote one of his supporters. However, this explanation made the matter seem even more suspicious when a person created a video claiming to be “Dan Purdy,” the supposed supporter that Browning was quoting. But internet detectives figured out that the real name of the man in the video is Byl Holte. The Dan Purdy account was suspended from Twitter because it violated the app’s rules. Needless to say, that with all of the other mess and confusion that goes on, Twitter doesn’t need to add editing into the mix.

Screenshot of a tweet with a typo. The tweet reads, “Fuck this pandemic, I miss eating out my friends.”

My favorite and final reason why Twitter benefits from no editing is that it adds to Twitter’s virality. Typos can turn a run-of-the-mill tweet into an instant and hilarious viral hit. This happened earlier this month when a person accidentally forgot to add the preposition “with” to her tweet. Twitter is the home of quick quips, so there were many funny replies under the threads in this tweet related to her typo. Sometimes typos can be happy accidents, at least for the people that didn’t make them. 

There’s no other social media platform where something like this would happen. I’m sure she noticed the mistake right away, so if there was an edit button the mistake would have been quickly corrected. However, Twitter’s lack of editing added to its culture. Twitter’s vibe is of sarcasm, teasing, and bluntness. You can “join the conversation” but just make sure you tweet what you mean and mean what you tweet. In life, there are some things you can’t take back. A tweet just happens to be one of them.

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  1. An intriguing discussion is worth comment. I believe that you should write more on this topic, it may not be a taboo matter but typically people do not discuss such subjects. To the next! Best wishes!!

    1. Thank you for your kind words, Duncan! I’m working on my blogging schedule right now, so I’ll add this to the topics I plan to write about within the next month or two.

  2. When I looked into the reasons why Twitter does not have an Edit button., I ran into this line: “We would also guess that another reason behind it is accountability – having an “Edit Tweet” button would allow people to change what they had previously posted and then claim that they never made such a statement in the first place. ” I think that this problem could easily be solved by having the Edit button only work for like 10 seconds or so after you post . That would preserve accountability but enable quick fixes of typos.

    Then I read your interesting & well-written piece on the subject. I hear what you’re saying about preserving accidents that are funny, but I still think we should be able to quickly correct typos..

    Do you know of any place where I could weigh in on this topic?

    I’ll read more of your blog, Aria! Thanks for all you do.


    1. Hi Fiona! Thanks for reading. I like the solution you’ve suggested. I think that a timed editing option would give their users what they want while simultaneously preserving the original Twitter SMS feel that Jack Dorsey would like to preserve. I’m not sure how to contact Twitter about this. You can try their contact page: https://help.twitter.com/en/contact-us or tweeting @TwitterSupport.

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