Learning to let go of your entertainment backlog

Learning to let go of your entertainment backlog
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There is simply too much entertainment happening all the time. There’s new movies all the time. New TV shows and series. New podcasts. New video games. New books. It never ends.

With the proliferation of online streaming services and platforms that allow indie creators to publish their work online, there’s more entertainment to stuff our eyes and earballs with than ever before. It just keeps coming, and pretty quickly everything starts to pile up and become difficult to follow.

One September evening you think to yourself, “I’ll catch up on The Walking Dead during the winter break, watch these episodes before the mid-season premiere,” and all of a sudden you’re six seasons behind, you have a new job, you’ve moved into a new place, and you no longer recognize 80 percent of the characters.

And it’s not just the new things. Surely everybody reading this has a list they’d like to get to in the near-future. Maybe you missed The Wire and want to go back and watch. Maybe you never got around to checking out The Godfather or Citizen Kane. Maybe you bought Bioshock for $2 on Steam and just never really got started on it. Maybe you haven’t read the Bible yet.

At one point in my life, I had a notebook where I wrote down a bunch of movies that I wanted to watch. There were dozens. Sure I got around to seeing some, but I still haven’t seen Citizen Kane, Jaws, Memento, The Shining, or about 100 others that I’d like to watch. Don’t get me started on all the critically acclaimed movies from the past five years that I haven’t caught up on.

I haven’t watched The Sopranos, Twin Peaks, True Detective, or Archer. I haven’t read The Da Vinci Code. I haven’t played Half-Life 2, Mass Effect, or Earthbound despite owning all of them.

But I’ve stopped caring. Because you know what? It doesn’t matter.

If you let it, entertainment will make you feel like you’re in a constant game of catch-up

At this point in time, there’s too much content being pumped into pop culture on a daily basis. There’s no way to keep up with everything that’s deemed important by the dominant culture. 

The average American doesn’t watch absolutely every Marvel movie and TV show that comes out. The majority of people on Earth don’t watch Game of Thrones. Some people haven’t read a single Harry Potter book. A lot of people never listened to Serial.

And that’s ok.

It’s ok that you missed a Thor movie and never got around to watching The Punisher on Netflix. There’s no rulebook that says you must have watched this much content or played this many games to participate in society.

There’s not enough time in the day to stay on top of absolutely everything. It’s ok to be selective and only watch, play, read, and listen to the things that you think will bring you the most joy.

For a while, when people asked me if I’d seen the latest movie or played the latest game, I’d feel guilty when I said no. Aside from the fact that it costs a lot of money to go to the movies and buy new games, there just wasn’t enough time in my life to see every Oscar-nominated movie and play every critically acclaimed indie and AAA game.

I used to force myself to play and watch things that I just wasn’t in the mood for because I felt like I was supposed to. A few years ago, I tried to play the Nintendo 3DS remaster of 2000’s The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, but it just wasn’t sticking with me and I had too many other things going on. It weighed on me that I never finished it.

If you let it, entertainment will make you feel like you’re in a constant game of catch-up. 

I got to a point where I was constantly feeling guilty, constantly feeling like I was behind on everything. I had to let go.

I’ve never felt better.

I am behind on a dozen podcasts and I don’t care. I still haven’t seen Spider-Man: Homecoming and that’s fine with me. I haven’t gotten around to playing Cuphead and that doesn’t faze me. I haven’t watched a second of The Good Place and I don’t really plan on changing that.

Sure, I stay current with a lot of things (I am an entertainment reporter after all), but I don’t lose sleep anymore if I don’t finish a new game quickly or miss the theater run of a new movie. I watch This Is Us. I saw Black Panther. I am currently playing the new God of War. But that’s a drop in the bucket.

For every one thing I consume, there are a dozen things I never touch. Add to that all of the stuff that came out before I was born or missed while I was busy doing something else, and that list is absolutely insurmountable. 

My life probably won’t change that much whether I watch La La Land or not. And neither will yours.

Whether your entertainment backlog is a constantly updating list you have stashed away in the back of your mind or a an actual physical wishlist of things you want to consume, I urge you to get rid of it, especially if it’s causing you stress. In these trying times, we don’t need anything else weighing down on us.

It’s important to remember that entertainment is just that: Entertainment. Movies, shows, games, books, podcasts; they’re all there to entertain us and help us escape from the everyday stresses of real life. If you turn entertainment into a task, it is no longer entertaining.

And that sucks.

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