We thought doomscrolling had it in the bag: 2020 word of the year. Certainly late on Tuesday, when it looked like Joe Biden had seriously underperformed where some expected a blowout and I was slumped in what had become a familiar repose staring at a cascade of bad news on my phone, there was plenty of doom to go around, and I was pretty resigned to scrolling through all of it.
But the mood, among Biden supporters at least, has shifted since then. After a dicey election night, a faint “maybe we can squeak this out?” feeling that emerged on Wednesday has gradually given way to confidence, and now, near certainty: Biden is going to win this thing. By Friday morning, Biden had taken the lead in four of the remaining battleground states, and one major news source, Decision Desk HQ, had seen enough: It called the election for Biden.
The networks and other major players have not called it yet—it’s not official. There are votes that have yet to be counted. And even though there’s every reason to believe those counts will favor Biden, we’re still in a holding pattern, for now. So I’m still sitting here glued to my feeds like I have been all year, but something feels … different. The doomscrolling clouds have suddenly parted. I’m constantly refreshing my timeline, but it doesn’t feel anxiety-provoking and soul-crushing like usual.
What is this unfamiliar sensation? It’s been so long: What do we even call scrolling that has uncoupled from doom? As a few Twitter users have already wondered, what’s the opposite of doomscrolling?
I think we may need a new word for this behavior. Youths, I am told, speak of “hopium” and “copium,” but we need a word that incorporates the never-ending mainlining of information as well as the positive or negative cast of that information. I humbly submit: gleefreshing.
If you’ve been reflexively reloading news sites but with anticipation rather than dread, then you, my friend, are gleefreshing. If you clicked “play” on videos of people dancing in the streets of Philadelphia and/or sent Gritty or It’s Always Sunny memes to friends and don’t have any plans to stop doing so any time soon, that too is gleefreshing. If you can’t get enough speculation about exactly how miserable Donald Trump is right now, you’re kind of a sadist, but yup, you’re gleefreshing. If you’re fully prepared to sit and wait for the next batch of 10,000 votes to come in while giggling at your screen, you’re in for an evening of gleefreshing. And you really should enjoy it while it lasts.
I fear the gleefreshing will be brief. For one thing, much of what inspired the glee was the prospect of this all being over soon, maybe before the end of the day Friday, which felt intoxicatingly possible this morning and a little less so a few hours later. There’s also something about the in-betweenness of this moment that really enables the gleefreshing: The second the good news is official, there will still be the Senate, the coronavirus, the Supreme Court, and our broken economy to worry about. Biden winning won’t redeem everything, or even most things, about this horrible year. Gleefreshing has no real chance of edging out doomscrolling as the definitive experience of 2020. We will no doubt continue to doomscroll into 2021, whereas who can even say when our next opportunity to gleefresh will be? All the more reason to indulge. ’Tis better to have gleefreshed and lost than never to have gleefreshed at all.