I'm not one for morning rituals. There's no sun salutation, no skincare routine. All I need in order to interact with other humans is to drink two black coffees in a row and unpeel my eyelids from each other so I can appear slightly interested in the world around me.
Recently though, I've added something to my mornings. Before I begin my endless cycle of daily doomscrolling, I open Wordle and have a go at trying to guess the five-letter word for the day.
It is strangely soothing to have a dumb little game to do before you let the world hit you with whatever it is going to hit you with that day. I get a little dopamine hit with every green square and it's an honest and wholesome reprieve from pandemic news and all the other catastrophes that seem to surround us these days.
I love Wordle. I love it when I guess it in a couple of attempts and I love it when it drives me nuts and I have to walk away from it for hours before remembering it again during a bathroom break only to have some sort of mild epiphany and guess the word at the sixth and final attempt.
I love the story behind it - how the developer created it for his partner, who loves word games. How it went from being this uber niche game with a couple of dozen players in November to now having more than two million users worldwide. How it gave us all something else to focus on that isn't Covid-19, geopolitical tensions, the housing crisis or the climate emergency.
I love that you can only guess one word a day and it's not up to you when you start a new game. In a world of same-day deliveries where we no longer simply consume but rather "binge" everything, the slow pace of the game feels radical.
It is also incredibly simple. You don't have to sign up to anything in order to play. No one is levelling-up, there's no need to self-optimise and no way to jump through hoops to get ahead of anybody. The day begins, we all get the same word to guess and the same number of attempts at guessing it. The next day, we rinse and repeat.
But perhaps my favourite thing about Wordle is the social contract that exists among those who play the game and share their results online. People will post the little grey, yellow and red squares and the number of attempts it took them to guess the day's word but they will not reveal the answer. Wordle players refuse to spoil the fun for anyone else, no matter how much time is left in the day to complete the puzzle.
Seeing other people sharing their Wordle results is the level of community interaction I need right now. I feel bonded to these people by a shared interest, the funny memes that come from it and the low-stakes competition in our shared results, but we don't have to talk about it any more if we don't want to. In this community, you adjust the dial of how much you want to take part in. The only rule is that you don't spoil it for others by giving away the actual word.
Seeing people quietly upholding this unspoken social contract is a small reminder that we all do respect each other and no one (okay fine, not many of us) are out there looking to spoil the fun for others.
Wordle is proof that you can find wholesome communities online, sharing things just for the fun of it. And, at a time when so many of us around the world are isolated, we need that more than ever.