Schadenfreude: The malice behind social conversations

Posted by Vivek in Blog,Sociology,The social web on March 17, 2010

Guest post by Vivek Khandelwal, Co-Founder Voicetap Technologies

When it comes to Human behavior enough is never enough.  One of the most interesting traits of  human behaviour is situations we tend to find comfort and solace in. More then the situation its the conversation that happens that has a pacifying effect -but then conversation do not necessarily have to be relevant. History has it that nothing is as pleasurable then watching your best friends fail at things – while I tend to disagree with that there have been cases where if not friends, but yes people have derived utmost pleasure from incidents absolutely irrelevant to them.

Welcome to whole a new world of human behavior – “Schadenfreude”

Here is a classic explanation of the german word – (More details here)

Schadenfreude — by Si Frumkin

Germans have a way with words. They created words that other languages simply do not have.

Schadenfreude takes 7 English words to define it: “malicious satisfaction in the misfortunes of others”. The dictionary explains it with a quote from historian Peter Gay — who felt Schadenfreude as a Jewish child in Nazi-era Berlin, watching the Germans lose coveted gold medals in the 1936 Olympics; he said that it “can be one of the great joys of life.”

Now picture this – 50 Million tweets per day. 60 Million Status Updates on Facebook  PER DAY.  Clearly we live in a world where reviews are written before a movie release, debates are held on naming of a product, and kids are named before a couple even has sex.

On a serious note, we are surrounded by opinions –  Good, bad, neutral and extreme, soft, hard. Opinions of every kind.  Thanks to the ease that platforms like twitter and facebook have provided to voice one’s opinion. While these tools have enabled companies to interact with their end customers by tracking their views about their brand, there have been cases where these opinions have created lead to PR nightmares. The human tendency of replicating negative emotion more vehemently over the positive one is not unknown any more.

For instance the Cleartrip Kiruba Incident (Cleartrip’s  Stand and Kiruba’s Stand ) was a issue between a company and a normal customer but the fact that Kiruba’s single tweet reached 1000′s of timelines and was further retweeted n number of times required the CEO of the company Hrush to step in and explain every action over a blogpost. Amidst all this close to 40 twitter updates were made that literally crucified Cleartrip for no good reason.  For some reason people RTed Kiruba’s tweet, while some enjoyed the drama – Amidst all this Cleartrip was defamed. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing but what the heck- people RTed whatever little they knew about the acutal story. Damage beyond repair was done to Cleartrip.

Chetanblock -Another classic example where people drew pleasure from a conversation between Chetan Bhagat and Fly youfools. Consequences – #chetanblocks trended for almost a day on twitter. Some body went on the extent of buying a domain chetanblocks.com. What next – they now intend to make tshirts saying #chetanblocks. All this while hundred’s of people used the hashtag #chetanblocks and thousands of tweets were  exchanged with very few people actually understanding what happened.

While there a dozen other stories where brands have been crucified, people have started deriving sadistic pleasure out of this trend of defaming. I still believe that most of the people don’t actually read facts before they actually share a negative opinion, without actually understanding the consequences their actions might have. They just do it. And yes as a friend of mine puts it – Sadistic pleasure is better then the real version of pleasure. Welcome to the world, the world you live in surrounded by Schadenfreude.

I am no expert at understanding the human psychology but then yes Humans are Humans and social media platforms are no exceptional places for them to behave differently.

The next time you retweet a negative thought or share one on FB, for a moment put yourself in the shoes of the brand manager of the brand and ask yourself – Is this what I actually signed up for – To give justifications to people who believe that their brand is bad.  Food for thought.

From my personal experiences on twitter and facebook

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Tags: ,

  • Human behavior is a complex part of people's life.Sucut plantarea trandafirilor Jesy

  • Archana Vijaykumar

    nice to have learnt a German word...

  • Perfect timing of the photograph!

  • On the whole, both sides, even in the most heated debates, believe their end is good, and don't proceed with evil intent or malice. Politics requires rational, moral, and informed decisions, but prejudiced presumptions of concealed malevolence in ...

  • On the whole, both sides, even in the most heated debates, believe their end is good, and don't proceed with evil intent or malice. ...

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