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Words With Friends: Another Stupid Game — Or An Obsession?

Words With Friends: Another Stupid Game — Or An Obsession?


    (Editor’s note: The following is an article written by Larry D. Rosen, Ph.D., author of the book iDisorder: Understanding Our Obsession with Technology and Overcoming its Hold on Us. Rosen is past Chair and Professor of Psychology at California State University, Dominguez Hills. He is a research psychologist and computer educator, and is recognized as an international expert in the “Psychology of Technology.” Over the past 25 years, Dr. Rosen and his colleagues have examined reactions to technology among more than 30,000 children, teens, college students, and adults in the United States and in 23 other countries. He has been quoted in numerous media outlets, including The New York Times, USA Today, Chicago Tribune, CNN, and Good Morning America and writes a regular blog for Psychology Today. You can learn more about Rosen’s new book here.)

    The New York Times Magazine ran a fascinating cover story on April 4, 2012 written with wisdom, humor and insight by Sam Anderson. Anderson’s basic premise is that the concept of gaming has changed. For decades, a special class of teen or young adult gamer would use specialized systems, to play complex multi-player, multi-level games that might last from a few hours to many days or even weeks. Now, however, anyone can play a quick game — what Anderson terms a “stupid game” — any time of the day or night right there on their smartphone that rests somewhere next to their body 24/7. And this, Anderson argues, has changed the world of gaming to ” . . . not just hard-core gamers, but their mothers, their mailmen and their college professors. Consumers who never would have put a quarter into an arcade or even set eyes on an XBOX 360 were now carrying a sophisticated game console with them, all the time, in their pockets or their purses.”

    For decades I scrupulously avoided video games even when my four children delighted in playing them. I think that I once played Pong and perhaps Donkey Kong in a bar somewhere but that was under duress and the influence of a few beers. I have never played a video game that resides on a console although I have watched, fascinated, as young children seem to understand intuitively what actions to take to make the next level or win the game. Just last night I watched my friend’s 9-year-old son sit down at a game console in a restaurant as we were waiting to be seated and without even glancing at the instructions, he popped in two quarters and played.

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    I have, however, always enjoyed card games and board games, particularly those that required thought or cunning to win the game. I consider myself a pretty good Scrabble and Trivial Pursuit player and delighted in winning nearly every Monopoly game with my children (I used a unique strategy that I refuse to divulge as I plan to use it with my grandchildren!). My iPhones (I have owned four of them) have always come with a hefty game center in the App Store, which, as you might guess, I have avoided like the plague. Until someone pointed out Words With Friends!

    Arghhhh! I shall mark that day on my calendar as the day that my life — and my brain — changed. And I am pretty sure that it changed for the worse.

    As soon as I downloaded WWF I was hooked. Now I am playing a dozen games with multiple players (all of my opponents are personal friends, as I think it is a bit bizarre to play with people you don’t know, although it is a good way to meet new people). In his NYT article Sam Anderson relayed a similar situation with his wife: “My wife, who had never been a serious gamer, got one and became addicted, almost immediately, to a form of off-brand digital Scrabble called Words With Friends. Before long she was playing 6 or 10 games at a time, against people all over the world. Sometimes I would lose her in the middle of a conversation: her phone would go brinnng or pwomp or dernalernadern-dern, and she would look away from me, midsentence, to see if her opponent had set her up for a triple word score.”

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    That is so true! Anderson’s wife sounds like me, and like everyone else that I play with. I am beginning to see patterns in my WWF friends (I call them that even though two are colleagues, one is my partner, one is a student in my lab and two are other people that I know very well). At first I said that I was going to “just play at night” after watching Rachel Maddow and Anderson Cooper but before The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. Pretty soon I found myself pausing the news and jumping in and making a few plays, and then returning to the news. Then, I think I said “to heck with it” and left the news on and played WWF with the news as background. Now, who cares about the news. Who cares about anything. WWF RULES!

    I confess that I am now addicted. But is it truly an addiction or is there more to it? I don’t feel like an addict. I am not shirking my responsibilities at home (I still cook every night although one night I had to grab a cooked chicken because I got into a vicious back-and-forth WWF game with someone — and I WON!) nor is my work suffering. I still teach, still write, but something is happening and I think that I know what it is. What I am feeling, I believe, is a compulsion. Somewhat like Jack Nicholson in “As Good As It Gets,” I feel as though if I don’t do a certain behavior — i.e., play WWF — I will meet with some dire consequence. I am not washing my hands constantly or locking and unlocking my doors, nor am I avoiding cracks when I walk in the neighborhood. But I feel anxiety much as Jack did when I spot my smartphone. And the anxiety is “I wonder if so-and-so played a word and I better check and play one, too.”

    As I sit and stare at my phone wondering about WWF, I am not feeling the discomfort that someone feels when he or she has a true psychological addiction. I am not even hoping that playing will bring me pleasure. What I am feeling is an intense NEED to play or rather to check in to see who has played. And when I do play I don’t feel that rush of dopamine, which feels like pleasure. What I feel is . . . nothing. But then my phone beckons to me and I slide to the last page of apps (I made myself put the WWF app on the last page to make it more difficult to get to. What a fool! It must take me all of a second to flick a few times and it literally pops out at me when I get to that page) and press my finger on the icon and, voila, my games appear!

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    So, what do I think is happening? I had some time to think about this the other day. I was at public radio studio, waiting to go on a noontime radio broadcast followed by a TV taping. Since I always arrive early I had lots of time and only my phone to keep me busy. I knew that I was going to talk about this on the air so I spent some time with my phone in front of me trying to analyze what might be going on in my brain. Wow! After just a few minutes of “thinking” I somehow found myself looking at a WWF screen of 12 ongoing games. How did I get there? Well, partially I think it was a habit and partially I think I was compelled to do so in a way that resided just below the surface of conscious activity. Sure sounds like a compulsion to me.

    How do I plan to break this compulsion? I have started giving myself “WWF Time” where I grant myself the option to play for 15 minutes and no more and then put my phone away, out of sight, and do something else for 45 minutes. I set a timer (on my phone, of course) and when it rings I play and when it rings again I stop. Not sure if it will work as I have only been doing this for a week but I am finding that the 45 minutes is going by pretty quickly now compared to the crawling seconds and minutes that appeared to barely move the first few times I waited for my WWF Time.

    Do you feel compelled by your technology? Do certain games or activities that you do on the phone beckon to you? This is one of the main points of my new book, iDisorder: Understanding Our Obsession With Technology and Overcoming its Hold on Us, where I devote two chapters to obsessions and compulsions surrounding technology. Let me know what you think.

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    (Photo credit: The Sandwich Lady)

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    Published on September 25, 2020

    10 Best VPNs to Browse the Internet More Securely

    10 Best VPNs to Browse the Internet More Securely

    When it comes to digital security, public Wi-Fi networks aren’t safe enough, making it much easier for hackers to access your personal data. Whether you are studying in a library or scrolling through Facebook in a coffeehouse, it is vital to have a VPN installed on your device.

    VPNs work wonders when it comes to securing your internet connection. By creating an encrypted tunnel between a remote server run by the VPN service, they protect your personal data from prying eyes. There is a variety of VPNs available on the web, and we have collated a list of the best VPNs that stand out from the rest.

    How to Choose a VPN

    • Free trial period – Free trials allow you to try the product risk-free. The same idea technically applies to those with 30-day full refunds as well.
    • Speed – You want your VPN to be just as fast as the internet speed at home. Good quality VPNs are ones where you see little difference between those speeds.
    • Device connection – Of course, the more devices that can connect to VPNs, the better. It increases the customers’ coverage and the product’s value. You also want to consider compatibility since fewer VPNs may work for Mac or Windows only.
    • Number of servers – The number of servers determines how much capacity a VPN can handle while you are connected. The more servers there are, the more users it can handle without running into potential disconnections or slow speeds.
    • Kill switch feature – Having this feature means that your IP address isn’t exposed if the VPN disconnects for some reason. A lack of this feature is a big deal since the whole reason why you’re paying for a VPN is to hide your IP address, among other things. (Find out how to avoid getting tracked online here: Big Brother Is Watching You Online: How To Avoid Being Tracked)

    Why You Should Trust Us

    Our hand-picked VPNs are incredibly efficient and offer such distinctive features that grant you safe browsing. They outperform many VPNs in terms of both speed and security. Their primary aim is to provide you the utmost security, thus enabling you to surf the web safely and prevent any potential threat from causing harm.

    Among the best VPNs’ many unique features include split tunneling, strict logging policies, high encryption level, and availability of international servers. We have gathered them in this article to enlighten our readers and offer the best pieces of advice before you get one. Therefore, take our word for it, and if you go for a VPN mentioned below, you’d be fully appeased.

    1. NordVPN

    The most popular VPN on the market these days is NordVPN, and it’s easy to see why. It has widespread coverage, offering a selection of over 5,000 servers spanning across 59 countries.[1] Due to the high number of servers, its speed is similar to your Wi-Fi at home.

    Lifehack’s CEO, Leon, has been using NordVPN for many years and wants to recommend it for its remarkable server count in different locations with no-logs policy. The VPN perfectly works with Netflix and Fire TV stick, too.

    NordVPN is also compatible with Mac, Windows, and Linux. You can download the app onto Chrome, Firefox, Android, and Mac OS. Thanks to its massive coverage, it’s easy to connect multiple devices onto these servers.

    In terms of pricing, while NordVPN doesn’t have a free trial period, they argue that their plans are considerably cheaper than those of their competitors. For example, a one-year plan for ExpressVPN costs $8.32 per month, but NordVPN only charges $6.99 monthly.

    NordVPN has a new protocol called NordLynx that is based on WireGuard with speed benefits, though it’s still under development.[2] If you’re looking for general quality and affordability, this is one of the best VPNs around.

    Buy this VPN.

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    2. ExpressVPN

    ExpressVPN is the second-best option out there for keeping your privacy while browsing the internet. Like many other VPNs here, they will encrypt your IP address, offer vast coverage, and can have multiple devices connected to their servers.

    Compared to NordVPN, while the pricing point is higher, ExpressVPN’s biggest selling point is the number of countries that their connection covers. Depending on where you are in the world, this may be the only option you have. They have fewer servers — 160, to be precise — but they make up for the low server count by covering 94 countries.[3]

    Cost-wise, your best bet is to go with the yearly plan where they charge $8.32 a month. They also have one- and six-month plans.

    Buy this VPN.

    3. Surf Shark

    With regards to Surf Shark, you can connect multiple devices to its servers, and it’s compatible with Windows, Linux, and Mac. It is also available on Android, iOS, Chrome, Firefox, and FireTV.

    Furthermore, Surf Shark can whitelist apps and sites, letting them bypass the VPN. This, along with the lines of split-tunneling, is another feature that many VPNs offer. The difference is that Surf Shark allows you to whitelist specific apps or any website, while most VPNs will whitelist all sites or none at all.

    The other consideration for this app is the price. While lower-tier plans are more expensive compared to others, Surf Shark’s 24-month plan is priced at $2.69 a month, so it’s cheaper than even NordVPN’s equivalent plan!

    Buy this VPN.

    4. CyberGhost

    Another top-reviewed VPN is CyberGhost. They’ve been around for 15 years and have fine-tuned their offers and features to stay competitive. They provide the standard package of browsing the web and logging into accounts safely and give you access to regionally blocked content.

    The network also maintains security from hackers, malware, and phishing. Aside from that, you can connect multiple devices, and it’s compatible with all kinds of platforms.

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    What separates CyberGhost from the others is their extensive coverage. They have multiple servers, and the pricing point is still very low. It covers over 88 countries and has roughly 6200 servers for you to choose from, all while charging $2.75 for their 18-month plan.

    Buy this VPN.

    5. IPVanish

    IPVanish’s prime purpose is to give users online freedom by providing fast speeds and private connections. It’s clear that they can meet that promise as they provide many of the features that have been listed previously from their competitors.

    IPVanish is a part of SugarSync now. What is that, you may ask? It’s a cloud-based service that syncs files across devices and computers for sharing, backup, and many more. What this means is that other devices can access various files and videos so long as they are connected to your specific VPN. Furthermore, it can serve as a backup plan if you get hacked or lose your device for some reason.

    Buy this VPN.

    6. Private Internet Access

    Private Internet Access (PIA) is a remarkably generous company in many ways. Aside from the obvious features, they offer great incentives and discounts for people to try out their products. They claim to be the most trustworthy and reliable VPN around, and we believe that.

    One notable thing is that PIA offers a free two-month trial. Compared to other VPNs to this point, none have provided free trials (though all come with a 30-day money-back guarantee). On top of that, small businesses can avail of their VPN at a discounted rate. There is also the fact that their pricing plans go as low as $2.69 a month for two years, and they let you pay with gift cards.

    In terms of specs, PIA has over 2695 servers that cover 47 countries right now.

    These particular aspects make PIA unique and one of the best VPNs to consider.

    Buy this VPN.

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    7. Hotspot Shield

    Hotspot Shield is all about offering protection while you’re browsing the internet or using streaming services like Netflix. The encryption is military-grade, and its speed is ultra-fast. In truth, it is even marketed as one of the fastest VPNs.

    Hotspot Shield offers a plan that only costs  $7.99 a month; however, it’s one of the few in this list to provide its services for free. Like other Freemium apps, the free version comes with limited features. That said, it gives you a much better feel for the VPN.

    Also, take note that the encryption feature is still there, though the limitations in the free plan include connecting to one location in the US and having limited streaming options and speed.

    Buy this VPN.

    8. TunnelBear

    As unusual as a name choice for an online security protection service can be, TunnelBear is nothing short of incredible. It makes our list of the best VPNs for various reasons.

    The biggest one is that the company goes through a yearly security audit. This is notable because many VPNs don’t bother about independent audits to ensure their systems are secure and safe from any issues. This is critical as VPNs have gotten some bad reputation over the years, as TunnelBear has noted in their post about their security audit.[4] The fact that they are doing this annually ensures that nothing is being compromised.

    Furthermore, TunnelBear offers limited services for free, but even their paid plans are pretty cheap. For individuals, you’re merely paying $3.33 per month. The only catch is that you can connect five devices regardless of which paid plan you pick.

    Buy this VPN.

    9. Norton

    Norton has been on the security scene for some time, and it’s actually one of the founders of the internet security industry. It started with virus and malware protection in 1991 and has since branched off to other sectors as the industry has shifted.

    As you might expect from a company that’s been around for a long time, Norton provides excellent services, and a few of their other services have gone into the VPN package. In reality, Norton is the only one thus far to offer a password manager with their VPN services. They provide 50GB of cloud storage as well.

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    Norton has one of the cheapest VPNs, considering you can get their deluxe plan at $49.99 per year. That comes up to roughly $4.17 a month. It might be slightly higher than other equivalent plans, but you get a lot of extra value that makes it worth the price.

    Buy this VPN.

    10. StrongVPN

    The final VPN we want to cover is StrongVPN. Like many others, it’s great at blocking unnecessary web traffic and providing a fast and simple solution to navigating the internet without any hindrance.

    StrongVPN has over 900 servers. It is available in more than 30 countries and compatible with all devices. Beyond that, the only notable selling point it has compared to others is that it also offers Sugarsync services and 250GB of storage, irrespective of your chosen plan.

    As for the pricing, their year-long plan costs $5.83 a month, while their month-long one is $10.

    Buy this VPN.

    Bottom Line

    Getting online protection is important these days, and companies recognize this.

    With more hacks and breaches occurring every single day, the best VPNs can provide an excellent haven for many people who value their security and privacy.

    We hope that by putting together this list, you’ll be able to find the best VPN that you can trust and enjoy using. As you can see, there are several great options with no real wrong one out there. Pick the VPN that’s best for you.

    Featured photo credit: Petter Lagson via unsplash.com

    Reference

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