The online disinhibition effect: when people stop acting like members of a society when on the internet, and instead just act like assholes. When no one knows who you are, you can just be a jerk to everyone, right? Sure, knock yourself out, man. What could go wrong?
Well, during Hurricane Sandy, a guy on Twitter had some fun spreading fake breaking news updates. As Jack Stuef writes for BuzzFeed:
During the storm last night, user @comfortablysmug was the source of a load of frightening but false information about conditions in New York City that spread wildly on Twitter and onto news broadcasts before Con Ed, the MTA, and Wall Street sources had to take time out of the crisis situation to refute them.
What @comfortablysmug didn’t count on, apparently, was losing that anonymity. Based on photos he censored and posted to the account but I found unedited elsewhere, @comfortablysmug is Shashank Tripathi, a hedge fund analyst and the campaign manager (Tripathi has since resigned. See the update to this post.) of Christopher R. Wight, this year’s Republican candidate for the U.S. House from New York’s 12th Congressional District.
Eh. All right. So now whatever dickery Tripathi has tweeted (during or before the hurricane) can be connected to his name. Maybe his professional life is fraught with such cutthroat opposition that folks are currently printing out his Least Professional Tweets and faxing them to his boss. It can’t be that bad.
It gets pretty bad
So apparently, a few years back, Tripathi participated in New York Magazine’s organized version of the online disinhibition effect: a weekly feature where ordinary New Yorkers share waaaaay too many details about their love life with the entire world. And of course Buzzfeed found the article. It starts out kind of bad. This is actually the subtitle of the article:
Today, the Self-Obsessed, Emotionally Detached Hedge-Funder: 25, male, Brooklyn, heterosexual, single, comfortablysmug.
I don’t know which would be worse: Tripathi coming up with “Self-Obsessed, Emotionally Detached Hedge-Funder,” or New York Magazine’s editor coming up with that after reading Tripathi’s summary of his week. It’s cool, though. I bet he has all sorts of hilarisad misadventures like Barney on How I Met Your Mother. Right guys? Here is the second paragraph:
I think about how I haven’t been in a committed relationship for a year and a half now, since I broke up with the Only One That Mattered, the only girl I ever loved. The breakup was especially bitter — I still refuse to answer calls or e-mails from her and have become extremely pessimistic about relationships working. I’ve pretty much convinced myself that I am capable of living the rest of my life without a significant other, starting a family, or ever letting someone that close to me again.
The next afternoon:
I’m on the Facebook profile of the Only One That Mattered, my most pathetic habit. I’ve been prescribed Wellbutrin pretty much since we broke up. I hate days when my thoughts turn to her — it hurts but fits in with my many masochistic tendencies.
Eight hours later:
Home early because I didn’t even feel like trying to enjoy myself. I masturbate thinking back to a particular sexual encounter with the Only One and go to sleep.
The next day:
Back AGAIN on Facebook looking at the Only One’s profile. Her new boyfriend has put up new pictures of them. I can feel my face get hot, even though I know she’s been seeing him. I’m better looking than him, have more friends, and know I make far more money … he’s a freaking graduate student in philosophy. [Ed: as if I weren’t already rooting for Only One’s new boyfriend!] I will never understand or stop wanting her.
That’s kind of a recurring thing
Hey, we’ve all been there, hung up on an ex. It happens. If it never happens, you’re probably not engaging with your significant others in a meaningful way. The point here isn’t that he’s unique or lame or pathetic for not moving on.
It’s that Tripathi’s just lost his pseudonymity by spreading bullshit to New Yorkers during a state of emergency, (Thanks for that by the way, man. Classy stuff.) and it turns out he’s shared what would be private moments of intense vulnerability with the world at large.
But at least it’s not all “I’m super hung-up on my ex” — it’s also a nonstop cocktail of Ambien, Adderall, Wellbutrin, and Xanax with a chaser of “I hate my co-workers” and “I get off on hurting women”:
Lunch with some guys from work. I hate spending time with co-workers beyond the 60 hours a week I already see them. Each complains about the nuances of their respective girlfriends. I realize I am the only one that isn’t in a relationship, and for some reason it makes me feel inferior to them. I go to the bathroom and take a Xanax.
Sometimes it really irritates me when other people want to spend time with me. I have so little of it and despise the thought of feeling like I owe any of my time or self to anyone else but me.
My suspicion she has low self-esteem is confirmed once … segues beautifully into rough sex. I’m satisfied by the thought this will probably leave her with bruises.
The guy who unmasked Tripathi says starting rumors during a hurricane (and state of emergency) is a bit like yelling “fire” in a crowded theater. This, then, is kind of like yelling “fire” in a crowded theater and then handing out copies of your diary’s most embarrassing moments to screaming patrons while they flee.
Be an anonymous dick if you like, and be an anonymous dick who openly reveals his deepest insecurities to the entire world if you like. But now you’re 29 and whoever Googles you for your next job is going to find an entirely different kind of resume, man. One that ends with:
Totals: two acts of intercourse, one rough; one act of fellatio; two acts of phone sex with poorly treated ex; one collected phone number from lesbian; two acts of masturbation, both while fantasizing about ex-girlfriend.
Schadenfreude is best freude. Thanks for the fake news, Shashank.
UPDATE: And like ten minutes before I hit publish, he tweets this:
I wish to offer the people of New York a sincere, humble and unconditional apology. twitter.com/ComfortablySmu…
– ComfortablySmug (@ComfortablySmug) October 31, 2012
Spreading rumors which threaten to sow even more panic during a state of emergency? Pretty shitty. Failing to use the Oxford comma? Goddamn sociopathic.