Wordle, Wishes, and Boundaries
In the beginning was the Wordle.
Some people liked it, and some people didn’t. And then more people liked it, and they began posting about it on social media, especially Facebook. And so then more people found out about it. Some people liked it, some people didn’t.
So, what can we learn about systems theory from the current zeitgeist of Wordle?
First things to understand:
- There will not be an objective truth that is universally agreed upon. Is Wordle good, is it bad, should people share or not share … this is all immaterial. The issue is:
- What are your wishes?
- What are your boundaries?
A wish is something you’d like, but in healthy relationships, it is not an expectation. It is not a boundary. I sort of wish my spouse liked Brussels sprouts so we could share in my delight, but he doesn’t, and that’s okay. He’s happy for me to eat all of them.
A boundary is something so important that you create a consequence if your boundary is not honored. Boundaries aren’t boundaries without consequences, they’re just wishes.
So … Wordle.
Jane posts her Wordle scores on her Facebook feed. (And that’s okay.*)
John doesn’t like seeing Wordle scores and says so, on his Facebook page. (And that’s okay.)
Jane sees John’s post and takes it as a wish, since he hasn’t indicated any consequences for those posting Wordle scores. She still wants to share her score, so she continues posting them. (Okay)
John posts that if anyone posts their Wordle scores, he is going to “snooze” them for 30 days. This is GREAT, because he is being clear with a) his boundary, and b) the consequences.
But wait wait wait, someone might say. People are posting on their own page! How can he make a boundary about what other people do?
Because that’s how boundaries work. Boundaries do not go through a machine where they are stamped “good boundary” or “bad boundary.” They are a choice that an individual makes. What is is healthy in the above example of John is that he articulates the consequence. By doing that, Jane can now make an informed choice: if she posts her Wordle score, the consequence will be that John “snoozes” her. Is she okay with that consequence? Then post away, Jane!
In this, everyone can make informed choices.
So let’s proceed with the story. Jane continues posting her scores. John snoozes her, but then seethes inside. “If you cared about me, you wouldn’t post your score,” he thinks. The next time he sees her at work, he is cold.
Okay, so that is an unarticulated consequence, based in an expectation:
Expectation: if you want to be my friend, you will do what I want.
Unarticulated consequence: if you don’t do what I want, I will withdraw my friendship from you.
Let’s go another direction. Back where John initially posts that he doesn’t like seeing Wordle posts (but hasn’t yet set a boundary.)
Jane sees his post and feels some anxiety that she’s posting her scores, and he doesn’t want to see them. But she still wants to keep posting her scores. So she creates a Facebook filter and puts John on it. Now he can’t see any of her posts. Great?
Not great. This is overfunctioning, and she is taking choices away from John. She is in his dance space. Now, communication is a great thing. She absolutely could have a discussion with him. “Hey, I saw your post about not liking to see Wordle posts. Would you like me to put you on a filter so you don’t see any of my posts for a while?”
John: “No, I like your posts about communistic anarchy and your new kitten. Can you just stop posting about Wordle?” (Wish)
Jane: “No, I enjoy sharing my scores and seeing others’ scores.” (Boundary)
John: Well, is there a way you can just filter me out of your wordle posts?
Jane: I can try. I usually play in the morning, though, so I’m not sure I’ll always remember.
John: Okay, we can try that.
John has expressed a wish, Jane has given boundaries around what she’s willing and not willing to do. Most importantly, they’ve communicated directly to each other.
And of course, there are many other solutions. John could google, “Can I filter out wordle posts on Facebook” and take responsibility for his own feed. Jane could post her scores on Twitter. They could both decide to go jump on whatever will be the next fad.
Wishes … are just that, wishes. My mom is in her 90s. My sister-in-law and I both play Wordle every day and compare our experiences. I wish my Mom would join us in playing Wordle. She doesn’t want to.
AND THAT’S OKAY.
*Actually, “okay” is a value judgment and unnecessary, but for clarity’s sake about behavior, I’m putting it in.