The evils of these five letter words

Jonas DoerrOpinions Columnist

Wordle is bad. I’m not just saying that because I failed the Wordle today. In fact, I solved it in two guesses. Of course, it helped that I looked at the first two guesses of one of my classmates.

Although this might seem only to prove that Wordle has corrupted me, I’m not the only one. A survey by Solitaired found that 10% of Wordle players admit to cheating, and that’s only the ones who are bold enough to say it. Plenty of people aren’t beneath padding their stats by trying their guesses in an incognito window or googling word options. If you haven’t heard of those strategies, you’re probably opening a new tab right now to try them.

“But cheating at Wordle is harmless!” people might say. If only that were all. Wordle is a short, daily puzzle owned by the New York Times Company where players have six tries to guess a five letter word. If you haven’t heard of it before, I solemnly apologize for exposing you to a new evil. 

The game has a couple of hooks to keep people coming back. First of all, it tracks how many Wordles in a row a person solves. This drives people to check when a new puzzle appears every morning to ensure their streak stays alive. Secondly, it allows people to boast about their five-letter-word vocabulary by sharing their daily results on Twitter, via email, or by casually flexing how they “got it in three [guesses]” when a friend says the Wordle was hard today.

The problem with this is that Wordle is a terrible way to start one’s morning. When a hooked user pulls up Wordle to spend five or fifteen minutes playing the geeky equivalent of Candy Crush, they neglect several superior morning rituals. They could have woken up to prayer, meditation, or exercise. Even a cup of coffee would have been better! Instead, they subject themselves to high levels of stress guessing a meaningless word.

Yet Wordle users do not feel like they are wasting their time. They believe they are unlocking long-hidden corners of their vast intellectual potential as they search for the perfect five-letter word. Little could be farther from the truth.

Playing Wordle does not increase one’s vocabulary. The hardest Wordle words to date, based on failure rate, are “parer” and “foyer”. Most people probably recognized the word after getting it wrong. If not, there aren’t many cases where it’s necessary to have a shorter word for an entrance hall to a large building.

Plus, five-letter words aren’t exactly the most intellectual. Playing Wordle might make a person better at playing Wordle, but it won’t make them smarter.

That’s not all. Wordle also encourages egotism and sadness. If a person has a great day guessing the Wordle, they’ll probably share it with their friends. The friends probably won’t appreciate the snobbery, but it will feel fantastic. 

On the other hand, if they have a bad day or even fail the Wordle, they must endure hearing other people talk about their success. At best, they must wallow in their misery until they can find another dopamine rush to soothe them.

What harm is there too playing Wordle? It makes people cheat, it makes people sad and narcissistic, and it tricks people into thinking they’re getting smarter. Meanwhile, plenty of other options for doing something meaningful float around, neglected by Wordle players.

What if those five minutes every day were spent sending a cheerful good morning text to a friend or a family member? What sort of difference would that make in a relationship?

What if those five minutes every day were spent setting goals? How much more could be achieved if people knew exactly what they wanted to get out of each 24 hours?

If it’s essential to play an online game with that time, why not replace Wordle with a game that can change the world? is a website created by the United Nations World Food Programme where users can answer trivia questions for a good purpose. Every correct answer sends ten grains of rice to hungry people worldwide. In just a few minutes, I earned several hundred grains of rice, which added up to be a few bowls.

To quash that need for dopamine, the website even offers badges to overachieving rice maniacs. So next time you’re tempted to Wordle, start a new habit and make your life count the grains of rice you could be earning.

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