This week in the Guardian, writer Rachel Sigee pondered the question of why so many of us frequent sites like Goodreads and Letterboxd to record our media consumption, and offered an answer that seems obvious in retrospect: It’s dopamine.
Yes, the same addictive brain chemicals that cause our neurons to fire every time our phones turn on with a notification are what allow us to mark our progress in the books we’ve read or assign a grade by stars to every movie we have watched or followed. the hours spent in a particularly immersive video game. Or (and this is where things get a little insidious), to build lists of all the things we want – or think we “should” – read, watch or play.
It’s worth asking (as Sigee does) whether it’s healthy to ‘gamify’ what is essentially a leisure activity in this way, and as a die-hard media journalist, I admit to sometimes feeling a of exhaustion contemplating the long lists of all the things I want to consume and that I will probably never have the opportunity to use. Unless I find a way to live forever and also give up my job and family responsibilities.
But I’m not going to stop doing it either. Even before technology introduced methods to make things easier, I intermittently kept lists of, say, the movies I watched with my then-girlfriend, now wife. Like scrolling through photos in my phone, just seeing the name of a movie on this list would trigger my memories of where we were when we saw it or the conversations we had afterwards. Much of everyday life is fleeting; keep track of any given day, even if it’s something as insignificant as finally looking Weekend at Bernie’s (a surprisingly weird movie) can give you an anchor to hold on to.
So, with all that nonsense aside, here are some of the best sites and apps to help you start tracking your own media habits: books, movies, video games, and music.
The best apps to record your reading
Goodreads is by far the most used book tracker, but there are alternatives if you do not want to provide even more of your data to the Amazon business owner.
Good readings. You know this one. Goodreads has been around for two decades now, and since its acquisition by Amazon in 2013, the site has amassed some 90 million readers eager to catalog what they’ve read and provide updates on what they’re reading. In many ways, it set the standard for these kinds of social cataloging apps, allowing you to customize your books across various shelves, write and read reviews, make friends, and follow stories. other users, to create lists of recommendations, etc. It’s not perfect – the UX is basically unchanged from the site’s debut, the design is cluttered and unintuitive, and the mobile app is incredibly slow – but you’re probably using it anyway.
LibraryThing. Founded in 2005, a year before Goodreads, LibraryThing has always been that site’s somewhat stuffier, more serious competitor. Originally run through paid subscriptions, it has since moved to a free-for-all model, but still aims to deliver the goods without overwhelming you with ads. While it offers many of the same social features as Goodreads, it’s certainly geared more towards the serious business of tracking and cataloging your own reading.
The best apps to save the movies you’ve watched
When it comes to tracking your movies, there’s a clear winner (which also happens to be one of my favorite sites on the internet).
Letter box. This app-based and web-based movie-tracking social network has amassed a user base of over 20 million moviegoers, and for good reason: it’s incredibly easy to find and save all the movies you have. seen, add viewing dates (I recently found a stack of old ticket stubs and saved a bunch of movies I saw in theaters 15 years ago), pen reviews and follow up other users. You can create lists based on any esoteric, hyper-specific qualifier you can think of. Plus, there’s a view that shows you the posters of every movie you’ve connected on a single screen, which is nice. (Stop by and say hello!)
SIMKL. This lesser-known competitor to Letterboxd has many of the features and strengths of that site, with a big bonus: its database also includes TV series and cartoons (Letterboxd generally eschews TV altogether, except for some “event” mini-series like Wanda Vision). You can mark an entire series as watched or keep track of which episodes you’ve seen and how many you have left, making it much easier to manage the glut of streaming series you try and fail to watch. follow. But the coolest feature is the Chrome extension that integrates with your streaming service’s viewing historyallowing you to save your viewing history in SIMKL without ever leaving Netflix.
The best sites to save your video games
There doesn’t seem to be a definitive video game alternative to Letterboxd or Goodreads – and while I’ll discuss comparable options to these services below, none have reached the same level of awareness. Maybe it’s because…
Your system probably does this for you. Most modern consoles make the need to log your games obsolete as they already track what you play and when, although you may have to dig through your system menus to find it. The Nintendo Switch, for example, keeps track of the games played by each user profile, but if you want really granular details, including exactly how long a particular game has been played on a particular day, you’ll need to download the Nintendo Switch Parental Controls App. here’s how see your hours played per game on PlayStation 5 and Xbox.
If you want a more complete accounting than the time spent on a given title, it is better to use a separate service.
Arrears. Backloggd is the closest thing I’ve found to a “video game mailbox” (hence the name, probably). Currently only available via the web (although an app is apparently under construction), the site allows you to catalog games as completed (as well as you’ve “mastered” or “abandoned” them, or a few other options), pending (meaning you own them but haven’t yet played), games you are currently playing, or add games to a wishlist. You can record “playthroughs” (the dates you actually played a game), review games you’ve marked as played, and browse and follow other users’ profile pages if you like. The site is continually adding new features, but it already offers almost everything I’m looking for.
Grovee. This one seems to have been inspired by Goodreads. You can mark games as played, playing, pending, or wishlisted; writing (and reading) reviews; and mark your played dates. What sets this site apart is the ability to add status updates for games in progress which is a good idea if you want to know when you beat a particular level or boss or whatever else.
The best app to record the music you love
As with video games, there’s no such robust music recording infrastructure, probably because services like Spotify and Amazon Music keep track of it for you. Still, there is at least one social network for music lovers worth considering.
Music table. Musicboard bills itself as “a social platform that lets you keep track of all the music you listen to and grow your passion for music with friends” and, of course, it does. You can use it to create a profile, keep track of albums and songs you’ve listened to, write reviews, and follow other users. There are some cool tools to show your listening history, track upcoming releases, and (if you’re willing to pay $3.99/month for a paid subscription) view super granular stats about your listening habits.
Or just use a spreadsheet (or notebook) to keep track of everything
The most versatile and easiest way to keep track of everything you read, watch, or play is, of course, to just manually log it into a spreadsheet (or a notebook, if you like that tactile one,” real crap of objects”). This is certainly a valid method—we love spreadsheets here– but you’ll sacrifice the visual and/or social sharing aspects of other app-based options.
Maybe you’re okay with that – let’s be honest, chances are you’re the only one who cares about your media habits anyway. Personally, I like the incentive of things like taking a Goodreads reading challenge or filling out my Letterboxd journal to keep me on track; past attempts with pen and paper have failed to stick, resulting in years of lost data. On the other hand, a reading site that I frequented, Musketseems to have disappeared this year without warning, and there’s no way your laptop will stop working.