MANILA, Philippines – Don’t judge a man by his looks, but by his journal. That must be a popular saying somewhere, right? OK, maybe not. But such a feeling is not far off in the age of social media, where every little facet of our lives is made public to the world, even the things we see and read.
Witness: Letterboxd and Goodreads – two social media platforms that cater specifically to film-watching and book-reading habits. What makes specialized platforms like these so appealing to the broader social media user base?
Letterboxd is the ideal place for cinephiles of all stripes to journal, rate and review movies. Then there’s Goodreads, the bookworm’s space with similar features for sharing your current and past reads. Like many online platforms today, both platforms have their own algorithms to recommend you new genres, new stories and new worlds to explore, grow your watchlist and TBRs (to-be-read).
With platforms like Letterboxd and Goodreads, as soon as individual leisure activities are not only made public, we also find a specialized community with like-minded people. Aside from a simple post on Twitter or Instagram, these platforms are the digital journals of our book and movie diets and form a small niche corner of the internet, free from all the other stuff we might be posting on other social media platforms.
Funny honest reviews
Goodreads and Letterboxd are home to people who are probably not professional critics out for money and clout, but average consumers with no intention other than sharing their opinions.
Enzo, a 22-year-old creative and Letterboxd user, shares that the “crazy reviews” found on these platforms have been one of his favorite features, especially on Letterboxd where the review culture is often comedic and tongue-in-cheek.
“People here have more entertaining reviews. There’s less pressure to get polished while writing,” he shares.
There is no obligation to stay on these platforms. In fact, you can even walk viral for funny and vague. Check out some of these reviews:
The reviews have also led to hilarious memes on social media.
If not ironic, reviews are more genuine. For Ina, a 23-year-old student and Goodreads user, reviews from friends and strangers on Goodreads can often prompt her to read a book for its uniqueness, one not constrained by the conventions of its traditional formats.
“I see how creative people can be when they analyze the books they read,” she says.
She adds that these reviews help her connect with the people behind them and learn more about them: “I can see what kind of people they are because I can see their creative process: how they think, how they think theirs Analyze perspective.”
“Extensions to Our Offline Life”
Cherish Brillon, a professor in the Broadcast Communications Department at UP Diliman, believes that the love for these types of platforms springs from a media consumption habit that people already know.
“I think platforms like Letterboxd and Goodreads are extensions of what we do in our offline lives. Like we have friends to talk to about our interests, or join groups in schools that reflect what we like, except apps like this have given us a bigger platform and amplified our opinions and insights into our interests.” she said to Rappler.
“We now have a global audience instead of just our friends. I think what we do on these platforms is part of what makes us human, this idea of socialization based on certain interests.”
Enzo also points out that these platforms offer the benefits of community.
“They make you feel like there’s someone to talk to with whatever feelings you have about certain media. In a way, reading and watching doesn’t stop with the storyline itself, as we’re able to build our safe social spaces around it, and eventually a community in general,” Enzo shares.
What makes Letterboxd and Goodreads different from other community-based platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter?
“Facebook, Instagram and Twitter really aren’t the best sites when it comes to these specific interests as they are heavily geared towards promoting the media industry for specific films and books rather than building a community with very specific types of interests” , says Brillon.
“This community building is very different because it is user driven and not defined by the media industry and/or the mainstream algorithm of these sites.”
Brillon also believes that these online spaces have benefited not only the community but also the artists who produce.
“I think the internet has at least opened up a space for them, we don’t know how big or small that space is, but it’s allowed artists whose work didn’t previously have a chance or opportunity to see that it’s a platform for distribution has,” she said.
While it’s still “focused on big companies” and how they dictate algorithms, “we can’t discount the fact that it’s brought artists closer to their community and audiences,” Brillon adds. – Issa Canlas/Rappler.com
Issa Canlas is a digital communications intern at Rappler. She is a student at the College of Mass Communication at the University of the Philippines Diliman.