I feel bad for Shashank Tripathi. No, not that Shashank Tripathi (the guy who tweeted a bunch of very false but very alarming “news” about made-up events in New York City during Hurricane Sandy). I feel bad for Shashank Tripathi -- the guy with the same name who lives in Singapore, and who became the unsuspecting target for cascades of Internet vitriol because people thought he was the other guy.
The whole sorry tale is a pretty good illustration of some of the shortcomings of social media -- or at least its users (us). First of all, the first Shashank Tripathi (let’s call him Shashank NY) managed to hoodwink countless Twitter users and a good number of journalists through the rather unsophisticated technique of posting plausible-sounding lies online. That was it; that was all it took. Before you could say “fact check please” Piers Morgan was reporting that the New York Stock Exchange was under three feet of water, because someone with the Twitter handle @ComfortablySmug said so.
Of course, it wasn’t long before @ComfortablySmug was revealed to be Shashank NY, a jackass with a previous history of being a jackass. Giving credit where credit is due, I believe his identity was uncovered and confirmed by online sleuths using social media in a remarkably short amount of time, so that’s a point in its favor.
But then the dark side of social media struck again, when a Forbes.com article about Shashank NY’s antics mistakenly included a link to the LinkedIn profile of another Shashank Tripathi entirely -- Shashank Singapore -- who then found himself on the receiving end of buckets of online hate mail.
The unfortunate Shashank Singapore is most definitely not Shashank NY. In addition to being a cadet sociopath, Shashank NY is a hedge fund analyst and occasional GOP campaign manager who lives in, yes, New York. Meanwhile, according to his LinkedIn profile, Shashank Singapore is a director at a company (or companies) called Shanx Inc./Erudys, and previously served as “Regional Executive Director, Asia Pacific at Publicis Groupe (Starcom MediaVest, Leo Burnett),” who lives in – wait for it – Singapore. I should add that LinkedIn has at least half a dozen profiles for other people named Shashank Tripathi around the world.
Anyway, the deluge of hate mail prompted Shashank Singapore to post this at the top of his LinkedIn profile: “I AM NOT THE SILLY GRUNT FROM NEW YORK: The Shashank Tripathi who faked hurricane Sandy rumors on Twitter as "@ComfortablySmug" is **not** me. One expects better from Forbes and Yahoo News, who linked to my LinkedIn profile in their stories… The tadpole in question, apparently a grunt in some New York hedge fund, should get a real job…
He expanded on this theme in a second update posted Nov. 1: “I have received hundreds of spiteful emails in just a couple of days from people who love to read the Twitter versions of news. Some people have had the gall to write to companies associated with my profile. One wonders which is in poorer taste -- some childish buffoonery by a misguided wall street underling, or people's virulent, unwarranted, Pavlovian response to it. Please stop, and find something more productive to do with your time. I am **not** the Shashank Tripathi from New York.”