Schadenfreude: The Joy of Another’s Misfortune

By | November 4, 2019
Schadenfreude: The Joy of Another’s Misfortune

What caught my eye when I picked up this book is the gaudy design and the summary of instances that will trigger the shameful tickle of enjoyment we experience when things go wrong for other people. Such as:

A commuter barges past you on the stairs – and then just misses his train.

Someone else’s child is having a meltdown in the supermarket.

This turned out to be a short, entertaining book that discusses the psychology behind Schadenfreude, how it’s gaining momentum (especially in the form of “likes” and “shares” in the digital age), how organisations manipulate Schadenfreude to their advantage, and (believe it or not) the benefits of Schadenfreude.

“To see others suffer does one good. To make others suffer even more so.”

Friedrich Nietzsche

In particular, it has become convenient to indulge in Schadenfreude on social media platforms.

The author writes: “Hiding behind our screens, we do not have to face up to transgressors in the flesh, to risk a punch or social humiliation in the real world. And, since studies show we are more likely to punish when others are watching, we already have an audience. If we wanted to derive pleasure from seeing people get their comeuppance, hanging around online is the easiest way to do it.”

However, the book gets a little repetitive (like, “ok, I geddit” repetitive) after a while, especially with the examples of Schadenfreude preceding each chapter/section.

If you are a wee bit uncomfortable savouring your moment of Schadenfreude, read the Rules of Engagement at the back of the book. It should put you at ease, at least temporarily.

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