Wordle and Other Fads

For those on Facebook, all of sudden, we were seeing colored squares everywhere. 

Our friends, one by one, and then in a deluge, were suddenly all posting incomprehensible things that looked like this:

Wordle 206 3/6


The blocks of colors were usually different, but all in some combination of gray, green, and yellow blocks. The only real clue was that first word: “Wordle.” So, like many others, I googled it. And thought – how fun!

And then read an interesting article about it and thought — how sweet! 

You don’t have to be on Facebook to enjoy Wordle. It’s a simple game a guy created for his sweetheart, and then put up for everyone to use. No cost. No sign-in necessary. And no one is tracking you or invading your privacy. It’s a once-a-day game where you guess the 5-letter word of the day. It’s the same word for every person. No worry about it taking over your free time, the creator says you’ll only get one a day. Solving it is part of the fun, and then connecting with others who play it is the other part of the fun. My spouse and I compare notes, and I even got my mom into it. 

It’s fun and it’s sweet. I’m really not surprised that it has become a fire of a fad. 

It’s always interesting to me to see what suddenly captures the attention of a large group of people, whether it’s a game, a new food, or a television series. My first career was in marketing and so I’m always curious about the elements at play, and as a minister of Unitarian Universalism, which can (sigh) feel like the best-kept secret in town, I wonder what it would take for this religion — and our particular church — to capture the attention and imagination of the world. 

Not everyone likes whatever the new fad is, which I understand. If you don’t like word games, you probably won’t like wordle. Me, I’m not a fan of number games, so Sudoku has never interested me. And some people are opposed to being part of fads on principle. I don’t really understand what the principle is, but we each get to decide on our own values. (I would gently point out that this is also the argument some people have against face masks and vaccines, the fear that we are all victims of group-think and falling for a fad.) 

Why is wordle so popular? I think it’s because you get to use your brain, feel the satisfaction of solving a problem, and then share in that experience with others who are doing the same. 

You know, like doing church together!

What makes a fad, what grabs the imagination of people to say, “Hey, I might be interested in this…”? I do know that it’s not usually just one thing, done once. Some combination of repetition and variety seem to be powerful. I didn’t just see those colorful wordle blocks only once, and I didn’t see them by only one person. I saw them posted by a lot of people I know (and like), and eventually, it prompted me to follow my curiosity. 

How did you wind up at Live Oak? Think back. What were all the different things that conspired to get you to give us a try? 

My best friend Katy and I have talked about me bringing her to Unitarian Universalism. But I was actually only one part of the equation. For several years, she’d heard ads about it on NPR, she had another friend who went to a UU church, she’d probably read about it somewhere. And she had this friend Joanna who was always telling her about things they did at her church. And then one day, that friend said, “Hey, come to church with me this Sunday.” 

Here’s what I absolutely believe to be true: 

  • Life for most people is really hard right now. We’ve seen the frailty of our democracy, we’re living through an unimaginable global plague, the climate crisis is worsening. We can’t say with any certainty what life will look like one year from now, let alone 20 years. 
  • We have a human need to make sense of all of this, and to find purpose, meaning, and joy.
  • We have a human need for a village where we are known and loved.
  • Unitarian Universalism is the religion where you can freely plumb the depths of what you believe and figure out how to turn those beliefs into purpose and action with others who are doing the same. And Live Oak is where you go in our area to do this, and it even comes with some nifty perks like people you’ll get to be friends with, probably for the rest of your lives. (And a labyrinth.) 

Now that’s a fad YOU can help catch fire.