In response to the Wordle acquisition by The New York Times, Jason Kottke, a blogger with an audience of around one million per month, has an insightful comment on the mental health cost of trying to maintain a website with a growing, passionate audience. He shares his empathy for Josh Wardle, the creator and former owner of Wordle.
Wardle made a free thing for his partner, it got out of hand, and it became overwhelming. I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but people feel VERY INTENSELY about this game. It doesn’t matter if it only costs Wardle a few bucks a day to host…the psychological weight of it all must be immense. I’ve been running kottke.org for more than 23 years and let me tell you, the financial cost is not what keeps me up at night. (And yes, the site does keep me up at night sometimes.) And I built a site another site, Stellar, that folks loved pretty intensely, and while it never blew up like Wordle did, the strain of keeping it going became too much, I couldn’t see a way out of it, and I had to shut it down. That weight is real, folks, and shutting websites down, even when they are beloved, even when you would desperately love to keep them going, is sometimes the easiest option. All good things, etc. etc.
I have the pleasure of knowing and being friends with several people who have gained a lot of fame in the digital world. Every one of those folks has had to pay some form of an emotional cost from the weight of that attention. Even in cases where some of those individuals parlayed their popularity into revenue, the hit to mental health is almost too much to bear. When it comes to popularity and fame, be careful what you wish for.
This is a good reminder that we all need to be kind to those who create and put their work out there. And don’t forget to say thank you!➵