Schadenfreude as a personal indulgence, not a public performance

You might be enjoying Trump's illness — but does posting about it actually help anyone?

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth

Tiffany Watt-Smith, author of Schadenfreude: The Joy of Another’s Misfortune, on reacting to Trump’s Covid-19 diagnosis:

Face-to-face, it’s much harder to confess to your schadenfreude. Online, it is incredibly easy. So this mob sense can evolve fast and at no cost. I encourage people to take a breath and pause before being triumphant and gleeful on Facebook or Twitter—that’s the moment when it rolls out of private experience into something that has serious consequences.

We don’t need to externalise every thought. It’s utterly human and understandable to feel schadenfreude at Trump’s illness and the seductive irony of it. But expressing that thought just fuels the polarisation that’s poisoning politics.

Some thoughts are best enjoyed internally, as a guilty secret…


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Adam is a lecturer, trainer and writer. He's been a blogger for over 20 years, and a journalist for more than 30. He lectures on audience strategy and engagement at City, University of London.