IF you have been on Twitter in recent weeks you will have probably noticed the green and yellow squares of the Wordle convert.

I spent a long time ignoring them, steadfastly refusing to investigate what this latest online trend was all about – mostly out of fear that it would be yet one more thing that demanded my time or money.

But then I read how this remarkably simple word game was born and I found I could no longer resist. The New York Times reported that Josh Wardle, a software engineer based in Brooklyn, invented the game as a gift for his partner. She loves word puzzles and so he created one for her.

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It might be that I’m still in the throes of the post-Christmas emotional hangover but I think that might be one of the most romantic things I’ve ever heard. I wonder if Josh has a brother … From that incredibly sweet gesture emerged an unlikely online phenomenon. Wordle’s popularity has sky-rocketed in a remarkably short space of time.

On November 1, 90 people were playing the game. Last week, that figure had risen to 300,000. If my Twitter feed is anything to go by, I’d bet it will break the one million players mark at some point this month.

Its popularity shouldn’t make sense. Digital spaces offer us pretty much anything we could possibly dream of. When it comes to games, we have any number of hyper-realistic, full-technicolour fantasy worlds to choose from.

If you wanted to, you could fly to space and fight an alien army. You could be cast as a dragon in an epic magical saga. I’m sure, somewhere in the digital universe, you could even spend time in a world where Scotland is independent and Boris Johnson is a distant memory.

Yet hundreds of thousands of people are heading to a 1990s-style webpage every single day to guess a five-letter word. That’s the entirety of the game. There are no fancy flourishes, no levels and no perks for those who guess the word in the shortest space of time. Its analogue simplicity is one of the reasons it works.

How lovely it has been to take five minutes to solve a puzzle without adverts, without pop-ups and without the option for in-app purchases. Aside from my daughter shouting her guesses too close to my ear each day, playing it is a blissfully calm experience.

There are no chirping notifications to remind you to play each day. As crazes or fads go, this one is reassuringly low-maintenance.

I wonder if it would have taken off in the way it has in pre-pandemic times. I suspect it wouldn’t have.

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I know both from friends and my own experience, that, over the last few terrible years, it has felt like my ability to concentrate on anything for long periods of time has been impacted. During the first lockdown, when my work dried up and I had nowhere to go and nothing to do, I found myself reading less than I usually do. I’d start projects and abandon them halfway through. I flitted from one time-filler to the next, never lingering for very long.

It was the oddest feeling: to have all the time in the world and no motivation to do anything with it.

That might be one of the reasons that Wordle has been so successful now. Our harried minds are craving simple pleasures: ones that require less effort and skill than bread making. It was designed for pleasure, not profit. As such, there’s no option to while away endless hours on the game. Only one word is released per day, so the most it ever asks of you is five minutes of your time.

I’m sure something new will come along soon that will take the internet by storm. Just like all other internet trends before it, Wordle will burn bright and then fade away.

Its creator might find the allure of riches too difficult to resist. Nobody could really blame him if he did. With such a huge volume of traffic heading to the site each day, he could make a lot of money very quickly if he capitalised on his creation’s current popularity and enabled adverts.

But, I hope it remains in all its wholesome glory for a little while longer.

January is a miserable month at the best of times, let alone when we are grappling with a global health emergency. Omicron has swooped in and destroyed much of the optimism and hopefulness we had after the vaccine rollout.

It might be annoying to see your social media feeds cluttered up with wee coloured squares, but they are immeasurably less irritating than the usual arguments and silly spats that Twitter is filled with.

Now, if you don’t mind, I’m off to make a cup of tea and solve today’s puzzle.

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