Will Editing Your Awful Tweets Cause More Problems Than It Solves?

Change isn't always good

  • Twitter has confirmed it's testing a new tweet edit button after years of users asking for one.
  • Some experts are concerned that the ability to change the meaning of a tweet could put some people in hot water.
  • Experts worry a tweet's meaning could fundamentally change after someone liked or retweeted it, causing the potential for embarrassment.
Person yelling at mobile phone Twitter

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Twitter says that it is now testing a new button that will allow people to edit their tweets—but experts are already concerned about the possible ramifications.

Twitter says that an edit button is its most requested feature to date, adding that some Twitter Blue subscribers might already see the edit button appear beside their tweets. But experts say that being able to edit messages will fundamentally change how people use Twitter, and they are concerned about the unintended consequences of such a feature.

"There is some fear that this feature will lead to gaslighting, spreading of false information, or even promotional spam added onto tweets that have been retweeted or shared," Kami Huyse, social media strategist and CEO of Zoetica, told Lifewire via email. "I think this fear is well founded given the history of toxic interactions on the platform."

Small Button, Big Changes

Person using Twitter with the logo projected on them

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How will Twitter's edit button work? The social network says that people who are part of the test group can edit a tweet for up to 30 minutes after it was originally sent, allowing them to fix typos and add tags when needed. However, Twitter hasn't so far said how many edits a person will be able to make, which might suggest that it's unlimited so long as they are made within the initial 30-minute window.

Twitter also said in the announcement that edited tweets will "appear with an icon, timestamp, and label, so it's clear to readers that the original Tweet has been modified." People reading an edited message will be able to see previous versions of the tweet, too, although it hasn't said how these things will work when people use third-party Twitter clients—it hasn't even confirmed that edited tweets will be available to those who don't use its own apps and website.

Twitter could have some serious growing pains to work out!

However, some experts worry that people will still find themselves in potentially sticky situations despite the badges Twitter says it will add. They believe that the expectation is that what they're reading on Twitter won't change unless deleted. "It's the biggest thing to hit Twitter since they changed the character limit, but I don't think anyone truly realizes why the edit button could be so problematic," Alex Micol, CEO of digital marketing company Scalers, told Lifewire via email.

"What makes Twitter, Twitter, is that your thoughts stand in stone," Micol said. Previously, tweets could be deleted, but that would also remove all traces of any likes or retweets. Edited tweets will have a badge, but some worry it might not be enough. Micol instead believes that Twitter would be wise to prevent retweeted tweets from being edited, at least until further testing has been done, adding that "Twitter could have some serious growing pains to work out!"

Why Now?

Hashtag symbol in a speech balloon

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Some Twitter users are concerned that Tweets will no longer be immutable, preferring the way that Tweets have historically had content and timestamp, nothing more. Could Twitter be overcomplicating a winning formula? And why now? Elon Musk’s failed buyout of the social network captured the attention of many, but it was his wish for an edit button and subsequent Twitter poll that caused the biggest stir. Twitter later confirmed it was indeed working on an edit button.

Experts believe that now Twitter is providing a feature it says they want, people should be wary of what they reply to. Especially when doing it within the 30-minute editing window. Testing editable tweets with Twitter Blue subscribers will hopefully give the company time to deal with such teething problems.

"Because Twitter culture often involves rapid-fire conversations that can expand pretty quickly, 30 minutes may be a little too much time,” Emily Hale, Social Media Strategist at Merchant Maverick, told Lifewire via direct message. “After 30 minutes, you're likely going to already have a response from a large segment of Tweeters. Who's to say the edit doesn't change the meaning or intent in a significant way,” she warns.

Correction 9/8/22: Changed the mistaken attribution in the final paragraph to the correct source.

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