Why So Much Schadenfreude?

Okay, let's start with a definition just in case you've rolled right over this word about a thousand times in your life without bothering to look it up. It means taking pleasure in someone else's misery. It's German, and I applaud any language that can come up with a single word to express an idea that takes my native tongue half a dozen words to express. Look, you can say all you want about the German bit - something no doubt along the lines of, "Leave it to the Germans to come up with a word for such an odious mind set" - but the fact of the matter is, there's way too much schadenfreude in our own culture these days. Maybe it's always been that way, but I don't remember the amount of persistent and pervasive glee over the hardships, small and large, of others dominating our cultural exchange in the past the way it currently does. Just go on any internet "news" site; there's this steady diet of photos and videos of people whose misery is somehow supposed to entertain us. I just saw a typical story (I swear I didn't click on it) the headline of which was along the lines of "Stars Who Haven't Aged Gracefully." What? Why did someone put that story and, presumably, those pictures together? Videos of people embarrassing themselves in public, and the net is full of them, are common fare for what reason? Videos of people injuring themselves, with the usual "warning" that is in reality an enticement to click and enjoy, must be popular because they keep showing up, their producers hoping no doubt that they'll "go viral." Why do so many of us obviously revel in the misery of our fellow human beings? Is it because we like seeing people being "taken down a notch"? If so, why do we like that? Who cares if some people by virtue of their wealth or fame or whatever think they're better than me? Is that an excuse for me to take glee in their personal misery? And what about the misery, embarrassment, or misfortune of my fellow everyday citizens? Why, if I'm right about this trend, is taking pleasure in their pain such a growth industry? It's a nasty trend that's probably a symptom of a much deeper social ill. I'll leave that to the sociologists. Personally, I'm tired of it. Life's hard enough for most people without hundreds of thousands or millions of virtual viewers getting a cheap, mean-spirited laugh at their expense. It might not be that easy, but I'm going to try to keep my schadenfreude in check from here on out. Wish me luck.