Keep up with those connections


As I sit down to write this column, Rhode Island is in the midst of a blizzard, the first in a number of years.

The pre-storm hype had whipped our friends and neighbors into a frenzy. Grocery stores were packed and my neighborhood gas station had a line of cars waiting to fill up.

Preparation is important, but staying connected always wins out, I’ve learned from my years of living in a variety of snowy states.

In this season of winter worries, COVID-19 variants and security fears, we naturally gravitate toward family and friends. It’s so important to stay in touch with those we love, near and far.

I’m going to let you in on the latest way my family is staying in touch: Wordle.

In case you’ve managed to avoid the newest craze in online puzzles, Wordle is easy to explain: players get six chances to guess a randomly selected five-letter word. Each time you enter a word on the grid-like board, you get a hint about the letters and their placement. There’s only one puzzle each day, and it’s easy to share your results because, at the end, there’s a convenient “share” button.

The number of people playing Wordle varies according to which report you access. At the beginning of January, the New York Times reported more than 300,000 people playing daily. By mid-January, that number had increased to at least 2 million, according to other reports.

Wordle was developed in October by Brooklyn, New York, software engineer Josh Wardle for his partner. According to reports, he never intended for it to go viral like it did. He makes no money from the game, he says, and it has no ads. It’s only available online.

According to a recent Morning Consult poll, as many as 14% of Americans play Wordle and 59% share their results on social media. Millennials play more often than any other generation (26%), followed by Gen Z (18%), Gen X (9%) and baby boomers (5%).

How does this relate to my family? We are in all age groups and many of us are playing. We don’t share on social media, but we are sharing in a text message group, and it’s become very competitive. And it’s a source of support and connection when many of us are still at home.

Everyone plays at a different time of day, and if we don’t hear from one or the other by a particular time, there is some concern.

My brother is an early riser. Often, we get his Wordle share by 5 a.m. One day last month, we didn’t hear from him. Everyone was concerned and the messages started flying. All was well, he just had another commitment. But you get the idea.

Wordle has become another, regular method of checking in during a time when we might otherwise become disconnected.

Some might roll their eyes at the mention of Wordle, but it’s been a calming influence and a diversion in the past several weeks, in the face of frustrating news.

These days, we all need an outlet for relaxation, as well as a way to exercise our brains.

When I feel my levels of frustration rising, I step back and realize that I am blessed to have a roof over my head, food to share and a forum to share my thoughts.

Whether you try a word game like Wordle, read a good book or take a walk, find an outlet for relaxation. And remember to check in with friends and family.

Editor’s note: A couple of days after I wrote this, Wordle was sold to the New York Times. So, the game that created a COVID-19 distraction for many and helped my family stay in touch will now be managed by the Times, which has a hugely popular games section. 

Fran Ostendorf, Editor

Editor's notes, Fran Ostendorf, Wordle