Thank u, next

How to finally get through your watchlist

Rebooting is a biweekly newsletter about how we can use technology to take better care of ourselves.

When I’m trying to describe what living with ADHD is like, I usually fall back on something I saw on Reddit several years ago: it’s like sitting down to find something to watch on TV and having the channel flipped on you before you even know what you’re watching. No matter how much you want to pay attention to Succession so you can finally understand the references your friends make, you’re not the one with the remote, and the person in charge doesn’t care to hear your pleas.

Up until a few months ago, that inability to focus on any given channel never permeated into my actual TV and movie watching habits. But now, I find myself aimlessly cycling through titles on Netflix, Hulu, or whatever streaming service we silently pray will have something enticing. This hasn’t just hurt my efforts to churn through my ever-growing watchlist, it’s also made any efforts to get through my Pocket queue or reading list a seemingly impossible and exhausting task.

I’ve been spending the past couple weeks trying out media tracking apps and services, including Letterboxd and Trakt, and struggled for a while to find one that really helped. Most of them felt too intricate to not be just another hurdle for me to jump through every time I wanted to sit down and put something on, but Sofa (free on the App Store) seems to be doing the trick thanks to its simplicity and list-oriented system. It’s actually worked well enough for me to reconsider most of my consumption habits.

Sofa’s killer feature is that its lists are totally customizable, and it gamifies your watching habits by letting you turn your watchlist into a Trello-like system with more pleasant color schemes and pretty cover art. It sounds geeky, I know, but bear with me, this might just help you find your new favorite TV show. Plus, unlike Letterboxd, which serves as a sort of Goodreads for film buffs, Sofa’s data is all synced across your iOS devices, and doesn’t share any of your data with other users.

I try not to spend too much time fretting over getting things like this organized just right, but it’s important to have a system that makes sense when you’re dealing with lists. What’s worked best for me is dividing things into what I’m currently watching—right now it’s Close Enough— what I want to watch next, recommendations from friends so I don’t have to pester them when the recs slip my mind, and everything else I plan to watch sorted by genre. The main advantage here is that by labeling things in a queue for what I want to watch next, I’m bracing myself for the inevitable return of not knowing what to put on.

I mostly use Book Track for all my reading, but I still put the books I’m currently reading in Sofa so they’ll show up in the app’s Activity feed, which shows you everything you’ve ticked off your lists. This is super useful if you’re prone to forgetting the names of movies just as you’re about to bring them up in conversation.

I’m not going to lie and say Sofa’s totally alleviated my desire to idly watch another five episodes of Chopped, but on nights where I do feel like diving into something new, it’s been much easier to do since it’s already set up for me to pick something out. Sofa might lack Letterboxd’s user-curated lists, which can be a good source of inspiration, but its ability to set up a queue makes up for that for every second we’ve saved not having to ask someone in the room to step up and choose a dang show.

Unfortunately, Sofa is iOS only, and I couldn’t find an app that’s super comparable for Android. That said, Notion is free now, so you can easily build up a couple nested lists in there and have a similar setup.

📚 Good Reads:

How a $2 notebook helps my insomnia (Wirecutter): Insomnia isn’t a new thing for me, but quarantine insomnia feels different than that of, say, the restlessness before a big job interview. Even after a packed day, the monotony of quarantine paired with the anxiety of everything else going on can make sleep a seemingly impossible feat. Depending on the night, a soothing podcast or a quick bodyweight workout might do the trick, but that’s not always accessible or appealing. A cheap notebook can solve that, and it’s worked for me the couple nights I’ve tried it. Even if it doesn’t help keep you asleep, writing down the things stressing you out is still a calming exercise, and might make you a little less tense next time your obligations cross your mind. 

Parents, take more pictures of yourself (Lifehacker): I’ve been on the iOS 14 beta since it dropped last week, and there’s a lot to love: the App Library has made hiding apps a lot easier (if a bit more sloppy at times), incoming calls don’t take over my entire screen anymore, and I’m pretty stoked about not getting pinged for every message in every group chat. My favorite thing, though, has been having a Photos widget on my homescreen, where I get to see little slideshows of my favorite pictures. Looking through old photos has always been a go-to mood booster for me, but it’s been especially comforting in quarantine, since it isn’t as easy to make such good memories right now. I don’t think they’d be nearly as impactful if I weren’t in at least some of them, though, because the best part of scrolling through my camera roll now is seeing how happy my friends and I were when we could be around each other, and how much I can’t wait to see them again.

Can podcasts cure loneliness? (Elemental): We’ve all felt loneliness from time to time, whether it’s in the form of moving to a new city where you don’t know anybody, being caught in the humdrum of your daily routine, or, yeah, a pandemic we’re all tired of having to talk about. I haven’t been listening to nearly as many podcasts since March, but last year, when I was really struggling with making friends in Long Beach, podcasts got me through some of the toughest nights. When I didn’t have the energy to go out and socialize, I could count on Jonathan Goldstein to tell me a heartwarming story about a reunion between long lost friends, or listen to Jenna Wortham and Wesley Morris shoot the shit about the shows and movies I’ll surely be adding to my list. If you haven’t given it a shot, you might find a good podcast or two that’ll help keep you company when quarantine loneliness sinks in. 

The hidden trackers in your phone, explained (Recode): Good tech gets used for bad things all the time (See: nearly everything Facebook’s been in the news for lately or the latest round of Twitter hacks), but sometimes we get some useful information out of shady tech. In this case, all those hidden ways that companies manage to track your location or syphon other data, like from your clipboard, can be used to help track the spread of COVID-19. That’s great, especially as testing data is increasingly being delayed and even withheld, but don’t get too comfy with the use of information that’s been gathered in sketchy ways. Always be sure to stay on top of all your privacy settings, too. Here are some guides for Google settings, Facebook settings, iOS settings, and Android settings. 

🌐 Just Browsing:

💌 Tired of having to send the same email out every time you get a pitch? Set up a template!

🔐 ICYMI: There was a pretty gnarly Twitter hack last week, so make sure you’ve got two-factor authentication turned on for all your accounts.

💆 Check out Wired’s ultimate guide to self-care when you’re in need of some pampering

📱 Not sure what’s been going on with the talk about banning TikTok? Here’s a good rundown from Ben Thompson at Stratechery, and another from Taylor Lorenz at The New York Times.

💕 And now, here’s something we hope you’ll really like:

An app that lets you build habits with friends: Last year I wrote about how accountability group chats helped me stay on top of my goals. I still think that’s a great way to keep each other motivated, but maybe you prefer to have a bit more tangible data, or just want your friends to be able to see when you’re not actually doing the readings for your book club, SnapHabit lets you create groups to build specific habits with your friends, and see each other’s progress. Think of it like Facebook Groups, but for lifting each other up.

Taking a shortcut

So, you’ve probably gotten pretty familiar with the cute graphics with information on racial inequality, police brutality, and other topical issues on Instagram. I’ve been taking screenshots of the most useful ones, and tried putting together a quick Shortcut to transfer them to my notes app (I use Bear), since I’m more likely to read them there than in my camera roll. It’s not very good, and usually has some messy artifacts I have to clean up, but using Toolbox Pro, I was able to put something rough together. So, if you’d rather keep your resources in a notes app than among your selfies, hopefully this Shortcut helps at least a little! 

Oh, and if you use another notes app, like Apple’s stock option, you can always edit the shortcut and swap Bear for your app of choice, as long as it’s supported.

As always, if you have any questions, feedback, or just want to say hello, feel free to drop me a line on Twitter.

My thanks to Medea Giordano for editing this issue.