Jean-Paul Sartre had it only half right when he wrote that "hell is other people." Real hell is other people on Twitter.
Maybe the trendy messaging website coaxes contributors into feeling anonymous and uninhibited. Perhaps its short-burst format encourages streams of consciousness that go tragically unedited. Or, possibly, the world is full of more jerks than we care to acknowledge. Whatever the explanation, a shocking number of Twitterers manage to use just 140 characters to come across as massive jackasses. (See the top 10 social-networking apps.)
"It's so life-affirming when the poor fall in love," Christy from Los Angeles shares with her followers.
"Watching a LOT of fashion mistakes go past whilst waiting for the bus," a British Twitterer pouts. "This is why I don't use public transport."
And who can't relate to this dilemma plaguing a Mary Kay executive: "I make multi-million $ decisions on a regular basis why is it soooo difficult to decide what to do with my hair?"
These paragons of narcissism, misanthropy and delusion now have a shrine of their own, at tweetingtoohard.com (tagline: "Where self-important tweets get the recognition they deserve."). The website features more than 2,700 messages, which visitors rank in terms of offensiveness.
"I saw a tweet on my phone one night and I was like, 'God, this guy's so pretentious!' There should be a site where we can show the world just how lame this is," says Keith Hanson, a Louisiana-based software writer who developed the site with three friends this spring.
Tweeting Too Hard now gets several submissions every hour, and many leave Hanson banging his head. "Why would you flaunt that on a public forum?" he wonders. "They would never say these things in real life."
In fairness, some of the more outrageous messages appear to be gags (let's hope so). But others, unnervingly, are not.
Peter Serafinowicz, an actor, says there's a perfectly good explanation for his tweet "Went to the gym this morning. As I left, everyone said I was the best!" an observation that earned him a spot on the site's all-time-worst list. "At my local gym, most of the guys (losers) are jealous of me, as (I don't wish to boast) I'm in great shape. I'm pretty sure that they call me names when I'm not around," he wrote in an e-mail. So when his gym mates congratulated him for bench-pressing 180 lb., "I suppose I felt vindicated in some way and wanted to tell the world about it."
Tweeting Too Hard lists Twitter usernames for all its submissions, though like many things on the Internet, the identities of the self-important scribes are usually unknown. But some readily reveal themselves, such as the much scorned author of this piece of humility: "I love how some dudes hate me for dating their fantasy girl, as if they were going to if I hadn't." That, lucky fantasy girls, is musician John Mayer.