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Why I Log My Media Diet

TL;DR: Why do I habitually log and rate every TV show, movie, video game, book, and comic that I consume?

Image credit: Daniel Herron

Annie asked me the other day if I kept journals as a kid, or in some other way recorded the books I read and movies I watched. I was stumped. I don’t recall ever doing such a thing. My mom keeps calendars where she records the events of the day and the weather, and I remember always finding this a bit odd. When would I ever need to know what the weather was like on a particular day years ago? And yet, here I am, with dedicated accounts across five different websites to track all the books and comics I read, games I play, and shows and movies I watch. How did I get here?

It all started with Netflix in 2004. We were living in Puyallup, Washington, had no kids, and I’d watch several movies a week. With each, I’d give it a 1 to 5 star rating on Netflix. I didn’t particularly care about the ratings, but Netflix had a recommendation algorithm that got more accurate the more movies you rated. So I started not only rating all the movies we rented but also everything I could ever remember watching. The recommendations became startlingly good as a result.

I was surprised to find a bonus reason to rate movies. I have a terrible memory. More than once, someone recommended a movie to me, I’d put it on my list, rent it, and then realize I’ve seen it before, but forgot. Now, with Netflix, I would go to put it in my queue, and see that I’d already watched it a few years ago, and rated it. “Ah, only 3 stars, that must be why I don’t remember it.” This happened many, many times.

Rating books came later. I’ve always aspired to be a voracious reader. My dad devoured science fiction novels, and the walls of our house were covered with shelves of cheap paperbacks stacked two deep. But as a poor college student and then as a poor college graduate, I didn’t have a big budget for buying books. I switched to ebooks as a necessity, because they were much cheaper.

I created a GoodReads account in 2013 when I noticed that Kindle had a feature to automatically mark as read on GoodReads the book you just finished, and prompt you for a star rating. Already being in the habit of doing this for movies on Netflix, and knowing how useful it was there, I started doing the same and found it just as useful.

Another thing GoodReads does that I love is their annual reading challenge. You set a public goal of how many books you want to read in the coming year (I’ve set a goal of 24 for a few years running), and it helpfully displays your progress when you visit the site. I actually find it really motivating to see “you’re one book behind schedule,” and it can help motivate me to make a little more time for reading.

In 2017, Netflix announced they were switching from a five-star rating model to a simple thumbs-up/thumbs-down system, and I had a moment of panic. I had over a decade of movie ratings that were about to disappear. I went down a rabbit hole and ended up writing a blog post called How to Export Movie Ratings from Netflix and Import into IMDb. The end result was I preserved my ratings. I didn’t really like IMDb, though. It was good for looking movies up, but less good for keeping a record of what I watched.

In 2018, I discovered Letterboxd, which conveniently had a system to import ratings from IMDb, and I switched over. Since then, every movie I watch gets a rating on Letterboxd.

In 2021, I was looking at the cool year in review page that Letterboxd automatically generates for you, and I realized I wanted something similar for TV Shows. I spent some time checking out the options and ended up creating an account on Trakt, where I now record all the TV I watch.

And then I thought, if I’m recording books and TV and movies, I should probably record the video games I play. So I set up an account on Grouvee. I don’t love Grouvee, but the other options are all flawed in some way, and I finish games infrequently enough that it’s not a problem. Still, if I found something better, I’d probably switch.

Most recently, a few months ago, I was complaining about how my iPad is too old to run the Marvel Unlimited app, so I have to read comics on their website, which works, but means I lost the to-read list and reading history from the app. So I started looking for where people track their comics, and now I have an account on League of Comic Geeks.

So… That’s how I arrived at this point. I wasn’t always a data nerd, and I still don’t think I am, really. But I do habitually log and rate every TV show, movie, video game, book, and comic that I consume.