The current Coronavirus Pandemic has brought misery to many, and death to over 1.5 million people worldwide. A huge number of businesses are under severe financial strain, or have ceased to trade. The major exceptions are tech companies who conduct all of their business online especially, as I have mentioned earlier, Amazon. As the World has gone into lockdown of various degrees, some other tech winners in the pandemic have been the providers of videoconferencing services, especially the omnipresent Zoom. I suspect most people had never heard of Zoom before 2020, but widespread use has led the company’s revenues to leap 355% to $663.5 million for the quarter ending 31 July, exceeding analysts’ expectations of $500.5 million. In the same period profits soared to $186 million, while customer growth was up 458% compared with the same period in 2019.
My last post dealt with the richest man in the World, and the fact that to qualify as being ultra-rich one would “only” need a net worth of $30 million: a tiny fraction of Jeff Bezos’ $200 billion fortune. We live in a World where millions of people still live in extreme poverty, without access to the very basics of existence. In the UK, one of the wealthiest countries on Earth, an increasing number of families rely on food banks. Even those who have work in this country often have no savings and, as the current pandemic has shown, are one pay cheque away from financial disaster. At the other end of the scale, globally there is an increasing number of millionaires, billionaires, and indeed centibillionaires! What must it be like to go through life never having to worry about how to put food on the table, how the bills are going to be paid, and how you are going to set aside enough money for your retirement (if you live that long)?
I first wrote a blog post about schadenfreude on 31 May 2007 (see “Die reinste freude ist die schadenfreude”). As I stated then, a good translation of the German word is “the malicious glee experienced as a result of someone else’s misfortune”. I made the point that it was, at that time, by far the most popular word listed on Wordie (a fabulous website devoted to words and language which, sadly, no longer exists), and that it forms the basis of much of what we think of as humour. I also expressed the opinion that schadenfreude is one of the main reasons that people still buy our doom laden newspapers.
I recently came across an article on npr.org entitled “Your Doomscrolling Breeds Anxiety. Here’s How To Stop The Cycle.” It refers to the habit that many of us have on social media where we flit on our phones from one depressing news story to another, almost compulsively. It makes the point that the COVID Pandemic has produced a virtually endless supply of bad news stories, and that lockdown has given many of us even more time to doomscroll. When done before bedtime, it is probably a significant contributor to the recent increase in insomnia.