Find Pleasure with The Failures of Others

Here is the thing – I talk about never having sustained a ‘lost time’ running injury … and I am willing to bet money that there is someone who will read this post that wishes I would get hurt, either out of spite or so that I would better understand those who are injured. Not any of my friends, but someone.


Schadenfreude is defined as “a feeling of enjoyment that comes from seeing or hearing about the troubles of other people.” It comes from the German roots Schaden (meaning damage) + Freude (meaning joy).

What is Schadenfreude in Real Life?

I am pretty sure all of us have had at least one person in our lives who seemed to function best when others were at their worst. Sometimes this can be a good thing – the person who shines in bad situations, for example. But in general it is the person who seems to ‘be there’ for friends when things are down – but suddenly when you are happy they are either gone or finding fault with your happiness.

For us, there are a few things I could relate, but one in particular – the single person key to Lisa and I being together was not even present at our wedding, let alone a bridesmaid! Yeah, while I was fat and jobless and miserable, and Lisa was in Boston and contemplating moving to Albany for grad school and miserable … she fed off that misery and was ‘there for us’. But suddenly when Lisa and I became inseperable and happy and eventually romantically involved … she wasn’t happy for us – quite the opposite.

Why Would Someone Cheer for Others to Fail?

My first answer is ‘I have no idea’ … but the REAL answer is about self esteem. People can feel better about themselves because of the misfortunes of others. In the case of our friend, while Lisa and I were unhappy, the other woman was able to feel good about herself … but once we found happiness she was forced to confront her own misery – which she funneled into negative energy towards us!

Think about it – it seems easy enough to laugh at the poor woman who fell in this video:

But how would you react if you were there? Hopefully you would try to help and not laugh at her from the side of the road. That is also why I am not a big fan of ‘America’s Funniest Home Videos’ – because the focus is very often on people who have unfortunate things happen and perhaps get hurt as a result.

There are places on the internet that seem to thrive on celebrating the misfortune of others or simply laughing at and belittling others. As I have mentioned, I’ve done reviews for a variety of sites for nearly two decades now. I did a video game review a dozen or so years ago, and this one RPG site really picked up on a comment I made about the way the game represented women as being very positive, non-stereotypical and non-misogynist.

This site had linked my reviews in the past, but the place I was doing most reviews for at the time had strict post size policies (i.e. very short) so there wasn’t the depth that would interest an enthusiast site. But suddenly there were DOZENS of posts on the topic … and ALL of them were completely shredding me in every way possible – from my feminism, opinions and possible sexuality to pretty much everything else.

What Does This Have to Do With Running Blogs?

One good thing about a product review versus a blog is that a review is about something other than you. So while the commenters were rather direct and intentionally mean, their barbs left no mark because ultimately they were about a disagreement over gender representation in a computer game. Who. The. Fudge. Cares. (and, no, I did NOT say fudge πŸ™‚ )

But imagine for a moment that while I was posting my Loves or Fears from my ’10 Days of You’ stuff – some deeply personal items in my life – and I got belittling comments on the site (I have never deleted a comment due to content), or on a different site, or perhaps on a forum somewhere.

And to answer the obvious question – YES there are blogs that seem to exist to hate on other blogs, and perhaps some here will realize there are web forums whose main purpose seems to be to shred blogs and bloggers. I will not provide any of them with links. Because they don’t need the help of traffic … and I have seen a couple of my blog friends on those sites (as targets). It is REALLY sad.

Along those same lines – did you know that some people ‘hate read’ blogs, the same way people ‘hate watch’ some TV shows (reality shows in particular)? Again, neither of those is something I ‘get’ – I don’t wish ill on anyone on TV, especially seeing how many marriages and families have been torn apart in the pursuit of money from those shows. It is sad.

It is sadder still to hear that people read blogs – and I mean even ones in our fun little limited audience community of running and healthy living blogs – with bad intent. HOPING they succumb to eating disorders; HOPING they get injured; SPECULATING on infidelity and marital problems … I mean, UGH! Really?!?

And … ?

Seeing enough of this going on really disheartened me – as did some of the dishonesty and misrepresentation I was also seeing (another topic). Life is hard enough, running and staying fit is hard enough, marriage is hard enough, parenting is hard enough … it is ALL hard enough wihout adding all of that negativity to the mix. That contributed to me stepping back, removing some blogs from my feed, and readjusting my expectations of myself and other bloggers. Since coming back I have focused on my friends and new acquaintences. And on providing as much support and positivity – while keeping it real – as I can. If you guys win – we ALL win!

So what do I ask? If you are hate reading a blog? Stop. If you think someone has problems – talk to them. Maybe the issue is no one is calling them on it and they are feeding the negative habits with all of the positive feedback. I don’t know. Be the change – we want everyone we care about to be happy and healthy. Help them – and for those who are looking for help, reach out. One thing I have learned is that the group that comments here and that I see all around the blogosphere are some amazingly awesome people who would step out for a friend – one they have never and might never meet. Who knows … take a chance, these guys (including me) have got your back. Together we can make this an even more positive experience.

So What Do YOU Think About All of This?

25 thoughts on “Find Pleasure with The Failures of Others

  1. I so totally agree with you. Likewise, I don’t delete comments on my blog, and for the most part, I am rather entertained by the trolls, but it makes me wonder what motivates people to be so hateful. It seems like such a negative existence – horrible really. There are blogs that I haven’t enjoyed (or have even seen offensive content), but I simply stop reading them. I don’t want to open a dialogue that would just perpetuate that negativity in my life. I’m not a saint by any means, I just try to avoid unnecessary conflict.

    That being said, I’m sorry you have to deal with it.

    • Totally agree Laura – why waste time and energy with trolls when there are so many nice people to chat with!?! And I am actually lucky that on my blog I have never had to deal with trolls.

      The site owner for another site I have written for doesn’t do YouTube videos anymore because she was tired of dealing with 90% of comments being unproductive comments on her appearance, hair, make-up, clothes or boobs. Ugh.

  2. My rules for my blog is when I receive a hate-filled comment or a personal attack, it does not get published and is deleted without being read very far. I previously tried to reason with or discuss the merits or lack of merit in their comment and all it did for me was increase the negativity that I was being subjected to. So I decided to stop, get off the troll merry-go-round and moderate all comments on any blog that I am an administrator.

    To me it is not worth providing space for their rants or negativity. Civil conversations and disagreements are fine, but the hate-filled crap (because that is what it is) are not worth my time, effort or worry. Trolls purposely bait and/or belittle bloggers with their snide comments to get a reaction of some sort or drive traffic back to their site – after we want to know what kind of person would be that mean.

    Which I do not have time for and refuse to give them any light of day on my blog.or the possibility of other readers clicking on the link back to their site, when they attempt to see who the person is that is commenting this way on a blog.

    I have a simple rule. Do not feed the trolls, they do not care what you are saying, they are simply out to attack bloggers, to get a reaction from you and will say anything in order to get one.

    It is sad, but if you are a blogger, sooner or later the trolls will attack.

    • So true – and I think of this when I comment on your posts and get the moderation notice … it is sad that this is needed. I would have no problem with heated debate, but hateful and spiteful comments are something else. I have been lucky, I know … and some day I will have to make this choice. Thanks for the comment … and sad you have to deal with morons like that!

  3. That quote from Bambi–“if you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all”–is relevant here. I think it’s natural to harbor some negative feelings and I can’t force myself to have only positive thoughts toward people, but I can stop reading blogs that upset me and I can avoid actually posting negative comments or otherwise making my feelings known. There is no reason to spread my own negativity because it only makes others feel worse, and I genuinely do want everyone to be happy, so I don’t do those things. I don’t go around looking for negativity, but I can’t control my thoughts. Maybe one day I will be secure enough in myself that I won’t have to think bad things about other people.

    • Thanks Rach – I don’t think ANYONE ever gets past having negative thoughts about others, but I personally always try to not take joy when something bad happens to someone else, even if they seem to ‘deserve it’.

      As for comments, I have no problem stating opinions on other blogs, but have discovered it is often not welcome – some bloggers want to simply state their opinion and have everyone say ‘hooray, love this’. Personally if I am off-base, I would rather someone call me out than just be nice. But as you say, it is often had to draw a line when it starts to move from having a different opinion and spreading negativity.

  4. I agree the negativity comes from lack of self esteem. I’m ashamed to say I have felt that way in the past about others ( even my own husband at times, ouch) when my self image and esteem were suffering and I felt powerless in different areas of my life.

    I came into the blogosphere feeling positive and confident but I’m not surprised of course that it’s filled with people struggling and on the edge of their seats waiting to see a blogger fall. I get it but of course it sucks just the same. I haven’t experienced trolls yet so not sure how I plan to handle it.

    I love your approach of “being the change” and I try to live by that the best I can!

    • Thanks Michele – I think we all have these feelings, and the aftermath is not always great as we feel bad about ourselves for being so negative/judgmental. And I personally love the positive space you’ve carved out – because as I have said by labeling your site with the Paleo name you more or less invite conflict, but I haven’t seen it … all of the discussion has been pretty respectful πŸ™‚

      And I think that ‘being the change’ is always an aspiration and journey rather than a destination πŸ™‚

  5. I think it is the classic Mean Girl syndrome. And also a lack of things to say in general + jealousy. People can’t find anything to say, so it is easier to find things to pick at than to find things to laud, because that can come across as either favoritism or being not genuine. Like when people say I LOVE YOU or XOXOXOXO at the end of everything with !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! They are either on crack, or on…crack. I have gotten 1 commentor since I started blogging that has made critical comments. I left one, responded to it, and the next time that they did it (because it was so, so, beyond the scope of anything that could event be considered credible) I ignored it. I think that these types of comments are good for your readers to see and an important moment for you to reconsider things and also to make sure that you are being clear in what you are saying.
    I am lucky, I have to say–my blog is filled with amazing readers who support me, offer advice, and get me thinking everyday.
    And, I think that at the end of the day, some people just suck. I dealt with a great many people at the restaurant who never said anything and then would disappear and complain behind a computer screen. People can be cowards, and the web allows them to be.
    So my rules are: everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but if you are being antagonistic just for the sake of being antagonistic, I will put the kibosh on it.

    • Great comment Susie!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!11111111111one

      [puts down crack pipe]


      But it is so true – I have definitely had some opposing views in comments, and I LOVE them. Because I always say I am wrong more times before 9AM than most people are all day, haha. Seriously, I know I am smart and good at what I do, but there is so much I don’t know, and I am really a rote amateur at running and nutrition knowledge.

      And yeah, Dilbert is one of those things I loved from when it first hit the Boston Globe and have been a fan ever since. Never fails to connect! I was enough of a fan that I watched more than one episode of the Dilbert TV show.

  6. My mother has what I refer to as her “schaedenfreud smile” and it always creeps me out.

    I have to say, I’m guilty of making judgments on some of the blogs I read. I don’t hate read (that makes me feel crazy) nor do I wish people poor performance or injury, but I do speculate when I think they’re doing something foolish or harmful. I do feel bad about it, especially as I’m sure it has more to do with my own insecurities than about the other person. I do try to step away from whatever negativity I’m thinking and ask myself what’s going on with me to be causing me to do it. I guess I’m a work in progress.

    Thanks for the food for thought and reminder of who I want to be.

    • Thanks – and I agree, I think it is natural to speculate. I try to be respectful – and give ‘helpful’ comments about fueling and ramping and resting and so on … they are usually rebuffed, but I have had more than one case where it really felt like watching a car crash coming in super-slow motion, so that when it DID happen it was just sad but I knew I had at least TRIED to give a warning. In those cases I no longer read, because I am fairly certain that not much was learned (in other words, I am not talking about anyone who will be reading/commenting here) πŸ™‚

  7. Oh, and I also wanted to add that I don’t delete comments either (except once in a previous blog when this anti-AA faux Jesus freak started bombing all recovery and 12-step blogs, even though mine in particular spent a lot of time questioning the 12 steps). I’ve only had a handful of trolls, but they seem to drop by once and leave a turd, check for my response, which I usually leave one, and they never come back. One blogging buddy of mine says trolls are afraid of me, but I’ve no idea why. Lol.

    But I guess I’d rather people be honest and question me than worry that they have to be sunshine and rainbows. Dialogues can only exist if people actually speak their truth. And honestly, given how you and I “met”, I’m so glad you misread my comment on Salt’s blog πŸ™‚

    • ha – yes, the mis-read at Salt! We all have moments and reminders that context is never delivered well in text, and again the outcome is wonderful!

  8. I think it’s great that you were able to call out the problem without negatively attacking anyone yourself! I absolutely agree with Laura that if a blog seems to have negativity to me, I stop reading it to keep myself happy. I read more food blogs and GF/celiac blogs. I find more issues with misinformation than actual malicious intent in this case. But, I love reading your blog, and I thought this was a well-written post for a somewhat difficult topic. πŸ™‚

    • This is a good point. I know I get itchy when I see blogs that seem to promote eating disorders. I have to walk away from those because while I find it frustrating and upsetting that many of these blogs promote dangerous eating habits, the blog owners often are closed to dissenting ideas, so there is no point trying to have a discussion with them as any comments that don’t encourage/praise the blogger are deleted.

      • Exactly what I also see – and part of a future topic πŸ™‚ There are some rather popular blogs in the running and ‘healthy living’ space with bloggers who basically promote eating disorders indirectly because the blogger has some fairly apparent issues. And I have seen commenters who try to point things out get attacked and silenced by other commenters on some of those … sad.

    • Thanks Kaila! I also see lots of misinformation presented as fact, which can be dangerous when you start playing with people’s health who are susceptible to influence. And sometimes the ‘injustice’ part of me can’t keep quiet when I see that happening … πŸ™‚

  9. Love this post and couldn’t agree more with the content.

    In my years of blogging, I have deleted only one comment. I left it in my queue to respond for about 2 weeks, debating about what to do with it, before I finally deleted it. It was an attack on my character and questioned my integrity as a person. This I could deal with, but the factor that made me decide to delete it was that it was from someone that I had worked with for years who I considered a friend in the workplace. She brought up our work history, said that my post made her rethink her respect for me in the workplace, and that I was hiding behind internet anonymity. The post she was responding to had nothing to do with my career in healthcare and was a far stretch to tie the two together. I am an open book when it comes to my running/fitness/eating struggles. I share a lot about my family and who I am and where I want to go with my life. However, it is very important to me that I remain vague about where I work and the specifics of my job because working in healthcare, I have more respect for my organization and my patients than to risk putting their rights in danger. I decided that her comments unwarranted, but mostly a jab at me as a healthcare professional, which I do not discuss on the internet.

    It is sad that in a group of people who, for the most part support each other in our failures AND successes, there are still those that attack whenever given the opportunity.

    • Wow … not sure what I would do with a comment like that – I have actually been pretty open with who my employer is, but don’t discuss anything specific about my jobs or other stuff that could be problematic. I can’t imagine if someone came at me like that … ugh!

      I agree that it is sad … but it is the internet, and in some ways I guess we are lucky considering what happens on some places!

  10. There’s a spectrum of misery, and the level of schadenfreude should match. Real, true, life changing misery? Better to be a shoulder to cry on rather than revel in their pain. Watching Uncle Jimbo stand next to the birthday boy’s pinata get whacked in the crotch with a wiffle ball bat? #sorrynotsorry. That’s just plain fun.

    Sometimes its fun to watch people be taken down a peg. The snowy runner just sounds so pretentious stating her quote, I can’t help but chuckle watching her fall. For me it is balanced. If she fell and broke a bone, no good. A bruised tush and definitely bruised ego? Perfect.

    It has to work both ways though. You need to be able to laugh at your own misfortunes too. If you think your sh-t doesn’t stink, all the better when you slip and land in some dog poo. It is among the things I love about my wife, she has incredible expertise at identifying my own hypocrisy with minor schadenfreude and is even more expert at making sure I see it too, and laugh about it.

    • Totally get what you are saying … not that I agree with all of it but that is what makes life great, because I certainly don’t vehemently disagree either πŸ™‚

      And totally agree on laughing at yourself – and having others there to tell you to get over yourself on occasion is also important! It is good we have wives to remind that we actually are NOT all that! πŸ™‚

  11. Pingback: Weekly Faves 6/26/14 | Running Southern

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s