by Kate Weldon LeBlanc
I resisted playing Wordle. I really did. It started with the mysterious social media posts. These green/yellow/grey squares. Captions like Wordle 157 3/6. At first, I was confused, then mildly curious, then mildly annoyed. What IS this thing? Why does it seem like suddenly everyone is doing it and sharing it? Then I realized it is a word game (duh, as the name clearly indicates), I enjoy word games, and I should be playing Wordle. So now – like I guess seemingly half of planet earth – I am hooked.
Please allow me to share a few of my theories about why so many of us love Wordle.
To me, the fact that there is only one puzzle a day is part of the appeal, though often I do wish I could play more than one. Especially in winter. How many Wordles could I have tackled on this snow day!? But anyway, I really DO think the one a day is a good thing. It is low commitment. It won’t suck us in to a worthless spiral like other games, apps and social media are prone to do.
It gives me something fun to do while I sip my tea in the morning. I have to admit, I get a little excited when I remember there is a new one to tackle. Maybe like “Today is a new day and there is a new Wordle”?
It challenges our brains, but it is not impossible. A wide age range can play.
I like hearing people’s Wordle habits and strategies. Do you use the same starting word every time or often? Do you have a few favorite starting words? If you get letters that “hit” with your first word, do you use them in the second word or do you try a whole new word to find more successful letters? Do people really wait up to midnight to play the new puzzle? (I am not here yet and probably/hopefully won’t be.)
But here is the theory that made me want to share these ramblings – sorry? – here. I think Wordle is so popular because in a strange way it is making us feel connected – at a time when many of us are still desperately craving connection – even if it is of the distant, abstract variety. Winter in New England and continued Covid-19 challenges (and surges) have me feeling pretty isolated again. And I know I am not alone – pun intended? – dealing with these emotions.
However, the pandemic has also helped us see that we can still have real and meaningful connections even if we can’t be physically in the same place. Our virtual RNE support groups regularly show us this in a very powerful way. And even though Zoom fatigue is a real thing (sigh), I am so grateful that platforms like this exist. I treasured the Zoom trivia that my dear friends played faithfully throughout the pandemic, and in some ways those games have made us feel closer to each other than ever.
I am not suggesting that it is a deep experience to just see on Facebook that your friend solved today’s Wordle in two tries (wow! And how?). I actually don’t even share my stats on social media. But I’d argue that Wordle is a form of community. I do love the idea of so many of us playing the same puzzle on the same day, wherever we may be, with whatever else we may be doing or feeling that day. Connected. Even how people honor the sacred rule of not sharing the day’s word – EVER – unless someone declares it safe to discuss (or admits to wanting a hint).
It can feel emotionally exhausting to acknowledge that it has been two years of dealing with this pandemic. There really are not words that adequately describe how difficult this time has been. I don’t think I even need to try because we’ve all endured it in similar and distinct ways. However, it has taught us – sometimes painfully – how being connected to other people is THE most important part of life. We still might have to be creative to stay connected, but it is definitely worth the effort.