As news comes in of iPhone users being duped by spoof videos on social media, claiming that their new handsets can indeed be used under water, the story reflects the epitome of Schadenfreude – a German word used to describe ‘pleasure derived from the misfortune of others’. The English language does not have a fitting one-word translation.
Much as some iPhone users may indeed have a few annoying traits (don’t we all?) – such as whipping said gadget out over dinner to Google some fact or figure or prove a point – I find it reveals the extent to which some people’s jealousy or annoyance will go. Perhaps unable to afford one of the new, snazzy 5S or 5C models for themselves, many derive great joy in duping others into destroying their brand new piece of tech. Much like the spoilt brat, unwilling to share a toy or give away some sweets, they think: “If I can’t keep it, then you shouldn’t enjoy it either!” – and then proceed to smash the toy to the ground or smother the sweets in dirt.
I’m no iPhone fan – and most will argue that the users should not have been so gullible – but I find it disconcerting to imagine that an increase in similar pranks via social media will likely ensue. Ah, the internet at its most debased – a breeding ground for the immature, the resentful and the narcissists. For what goes on online doesn’t stay online. It’s mirrored back into the actions and activities of those in everyday settings and everyday life. Our real neighbours and colleagues can quite easily reflect our online neighbours (or similar versions of them) – just as bullying on social media soon transfers to bullying in school corridors and work or social venues.
Let’s hope social media sites will fight back to redeem their more worthy features – such as community, shared information and links and pursuit of the common good. Used in commendable contexts, the internet can be a lifeline and a joy. The lonely are connected, good causes are promoted, businesses succeed. Conversely, if even just a few set out to pursue Schadenfreude, there will be innumerable ways for them to achieve this end. The consequences of unkind actions can permeate both the online and offline atmosphere. Some will brush off such stunts as mere jokes, but I find them mean spirited. Attempting to damage others’ property through deceit is not a minor issue.
Long before spoof adverts or hoaxes were even invented, it seems that Schadenfreude is something God also had an opinion about. The biblical proverb states: ‘Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, And do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles; Or the LORD will see it and be displeased.’ (Prov 24:17) There are some things that cross the line, and I think we know what type of actions or hoaxes they are.