Letterboxd: Is it time to logoff logs?

Is Letterboxd a fun sub-hobby for cinephiles or a pressure for productivity? Our writers discuss

multiple writers
1st December 2020
Tracking sites are no new creation on the world wide web, but their growing user base has seeped into the many realms of social media - and none as much as Letterboxd. But is this high-profile film-logging app a welcome inclusion to the world of Cinephilia or simply a means of productive gatekeeping? Our writers sound off!

Gives order to the chaos

As social media slowly takes over our lives, turning our phones into a mass of homogeneous marketplace apps with ‘stories’, one service stands out from the crowd: Letterboxd. A unique social media company that targets any and all film lovers, Letterboxd offers its users the chance to create their own personal journey through cinema.

Image: @dselwyns on Letterboxd

With a database to rival IMDb, Letterboxd is a cinephile’s dream before you’ve even had a chance to create an account. Once you’re up and running you can log and review each film you watch, slowly filling out your ‘diary’. The app also allows users to curate their own lists of favourites, as well as browsing other’s creative, and often comic, catalogues. Lists serve as a great way of finding films you may not have heard of before and are often made to promote lesser known minority filmmakers.

The encouragement to give your thoughts on each and every film you see via reviews is a wonderful incentive to further your critical engagement with cinema. Pro members can also track their stats each year, creating their very own personal database. These surprisingly deep stats help highlight gaps in your film watching, be it genres, countries or decades, encouraging you to further explore all aspects of cinema.

Perhaps the biggest barometer of ‘success’ on the app is the number of films watched

Many users choose to keep their account as a personal film diary, minimizing the performative nature associated with social media. Perhaps the biggest barometer of ‘success’ on the app is the number of films watched, and encouraging people to watch and engage with more films, therefore ultimately widening and diversifying their cinematic interests is much more positive than the ‘likes’ of Instagram or ‘retweets’ of Twitter. There’s no messaging service either, so no creepy or offensive DMs. About time.

Owen Herman

Creates chaos out of order

My dislike of Letterboxd mirrors my views on similar sites like Goodreads. When noting down everything I’ve watched, or checking off titles from lists of “films to watch”, I feel myself subtly and slowly shift away from enjoying films, to seeing them as things I need to consume and complete. I become suspicious of my motivations for watching something. Am I watching this for leisure, or because I’m trying to watch X films this month?

Image: Goodreads

I’m not criticising tracking websites without basis; for two years, I jotted down every show and film I’d watched, and every book I’d read. It took the excitement out of watching film to relax, as I felt I was up against some kind of quota of what I needed to watch and a pressure to document what I was doing. It became a chore.

I also have a shit memory: I became reliant on this list to perhaps prove what I’d watched, even if it was so unmemorable I’d forgotten seeing it entirely. If I couldn't recall the plot a year later, what's the point of adding it to this list in the first place?

If the only function of the site was this social feature [...] I might consider using it

I’d record this list on paper, without the other element websites like Letterboxd offer: comparison between your social networks. Great, another way to feel insecure about how little I may have watched / read / done in comparison to everyone else. If the only function of the site was this social feature - chatting to people about what you’ve thought of a film, and removing all the statistics and tracking, I might consider using it.

Obviously it’s all about personal preference, and clearly enough people enjoy tracking film enough for these sites to exist. I have nothing against Letterboxd’s users; maybe I’m even jealous of their ability to separate this notion of listing leisure and this pestering presence of productivity I'm always feeling pressured to adhere to.

[P]erhaps it’s just my mind which has associated any kind of data tracking or checklist with this culture of productivity

I think about this wasted list I made over two years, and how I never refer back to it and how it fringed on taking the pleasure out of watching film. Perhaps I’m thinking too much into it, perhaps it’s just my mind which has associated any kind of data tracking or checklist with this culture of productivity I feel barraged with by university, the internet, my friends. But ultimately I just don't see why we can't all watch something good / bad / fun / interesting / whatever, without ticking it off a list immediately afterwards.

Maud Webster

Featured Image: Wikimedia, Pixabay

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