Remember back in Early Pandemic, when we were baking bread and taking Zoom yoga and coining new words? One of the new words that gained currency in March was doomscrolling, “obsessively reading social media posts about how utterly fucked we are.” As I wrote in a June post, doomscrolling actually anticipated the pandemic by a year and a half. But doomier days lay ahead.
At least, that is, until November 7 at approximately 8:30 a.m. PST, when the Associated Press broke the news that Democrat Joe Biden had surpassed 270 projected electoral votes to win the presidential election. Minutes later, I heard cheering and car horns in my Oakland, California, neighborhood. The celebration continued for more than nine hours.
There was jubilation online, too, as Twitter users happily thumbed their phones to read the good news. Was there a name for that merry Ding-Dong-The-Witch-Is-Dead activity? Some people took to calling it joyscrolling.
If you wanted a word that applied to mouse-enabled devices as well as haptic screens, you could try gleefreshing, a portmanteau of glee and refreshing.
doomscrolling < gleefreshing pic.twitter.com/XlhsbZVARf— Lisa Bubert (@lisabubert) November 8, 2020
Joyscrolling predates the election: Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Helen Ubiñas used it in a September 15, 2020, tweet and again in an article published the following day (“Take a Break from Our National Pastime of Doomscrolling for Some Joyscrolling”). UPDATE: Twitter user Hugo VK antedated joyscrolling to an un-bylined March 20, 2020, article about “digital wellness” in Myrth: “Instead of doomscrolling, try joyscrolling.”
Gleefreshing appeared in an article by Heather Schwedel (“We’re No Longer Doomscrolling. Now We’re Gleefreshing”) published in Slate on November 6, a full day before the AP broke the news. But as with many apparent neologisms, that isn’t the whole story. A different gleefreshing was defined in Urban Dictionary on April 20, 2010: “The act of refreshing your Facebook news feed constantly to see how many people quote the tv show Glee on their status.” (If you’ve forgotten “Glee,” or never knew about it, here’s a Gleefresher course.)
Glee and joy are old words, which gives them added resonance to our modern ears. In Old English, glee meant “entertainment” or “mirth,” usually with some sort of musical accompaniment. Glee club first appeared in 1814), building on the “musical entertainment” sense of glee. (See Lynne Murphy on glee club.) Joy crossed the Channel from France around 1200; it carried connotations of “sensual delight,” which may explain why we have joy-riding (an Americanism dating back to 1908) and not glee-riding.
Enjoy the moment, but gird your loins for a lot of tough challenges ahead. There are those US Senate runoffs in Georgia, for starters. And, lest we forget, the COVID pandemic is still very much with us.