My sister first introduced me to bookstagram in 2018 when we were in our pique book swapping season, and honestly it was insta-love. I was mesmerised by the enormity that was the bookstagram community. To this day, I still find it so unreal yet incredible that there are so many people in the world with such a passion for books that they dedicate an entire platform to it. Bookstagram, Booktube, Booktwitter, and whatever other book communities that are out there where they’ve added book to the name to create a new community. Anything that gets people reading or interested in books just brings me so much joy.
At first, I didn’t really know what I was doing, I didn’t have many followers and I didn’t know what the “rules” were when it came to being a part of bookstagram – let’s be honest though, I still don’t know what I’m doing, my followers are few but fabulous, and I still don’t get the “rules”. But after taking to booktube and watching a grotesque amount of content in a (unhealthy) plunge down the youtube rabbit hole I started to notice what kind of videos I was being drawn to more. Obviously the ranty, negative ones like Caleb Joseph’s video The new hunger games book sucks, and ReadwithCindy’s video WTF is a Court of Thorns and Roses? are going to catch my eye (let’s be real we love the drama and that shit’s honestly hilarious). More to the point, I was really drawn to people I felt were authentic and just felt completely comfortable being real with their viewers. A lot of the videos I ended up skipping over and not really caring for the vlogger’s opinion were the ones with hundreds of books arranged artistically in the background, or had every piece of book merch on display, or were just putting more energy into being flashy and aesthetically pleasing than about the books themselves. But, if that’s what you’re into than I’m down for that, go forth and watch to your heart’s content. I am not about to stop you and I am certainly not about to shame you for it. You like what you like and I like what I like. Simple.
For me personally I just didn’t connect with them as a viewer and didn’t give much care to their opinions on the books they were talking about because they all kind of had the same generic thoughts on the same books… I don’t know, maybe I just caught a bad wave of suggestions from the algorithm gods. Basically I realised I’m a basic bitch who likes basic things, like plain back drops and honest reactions about what people have a true passion and independent thought for.
So in the midst of my surfing through the overwhelming tides of booktube I went and had a look at my own bookstagram, which I had been feeling really blah about for a long time. To the point where I started to kind of resent it and go months without posting or even signing into it. What I saw when I looked at my page was a page of orchestrated posts that wasn’t me. I was saying things I’d seen other people with more likes/followers were saying, putting questions on my posts that I honestly didn’t care if people even answered, and was anxious about the lack of props and book merch in my house for more elaborate and appealing photos. My paperbacks were worn from reading and weren’t as shiny and colourful as everyone else’s… Through all of this I had completely forgotten one thing – I LOVE READING.
I realise now there is a difference between loving books and loving reading. I had just forgotten that it was the inside of the covers that mattered, not the outside. A few times I considered deleting my bookstagram page because it was starting to feeling toxic for me. I couldn’t really understand why I was feeling this way, why I was feeling so much pressure to get the likes, get the merch, get the followers. When on my personal page I don’t give two hoots about any of those things. Like I could get 5 likes on a selfie on my personal page and I wouldn’t bat an eye, because obviously one is my best friend, and the rest are my family and really that’s all I care about over there. In reality though I get heaps of likes (not thousands or anything crazy but considerably more than bookstagram) and I realised it was because I was just myself on my personal page and my people like me for that. They like my hundreds of photos of my cat and my stories about being an alcoholic (margarita Mondays people!) and they love the stupid memes I post that seemingly comes from nowhere. But, they also pay attention and react the most to the things I’m passionate about, like equity rights, plastic free oceans, getting all of our fucking animals off the endangered lists, etc.
So, I needed to bring all of that authentic, lame ass white girl from the bush with a weird obsession for cats, food and heavy metal Japanese bands to my bookstagram. I also did a major cleanup and de-cluttered all the BS from my posts. Minimal, real and book orientated is my jam now, and it’s fucking delicious. I feel so much better (lighter even?) since making the change. I’m spending more time actually reading the books than trying to get a good picture of them. I’m buying second hand books more and loving my crinkled, wrinkled, floppy, faded over-loved books with as much character as the ones inside their pages.
I know a lot of people live for the aesthetics and it’s something that they’re passionate for and work really hard on, and I admire that so much. There’s so much creativity and time and thought that goes into it all, as well as money which is crazy when I see how much some people spend on their multiple editions of the same book they read that one time. I don’t have anything wrong with the glitter and jazzle in other people’s bookstagram (even though it really sounds like I do in this blog), It’s just not something that ended up creating a healthy mindset for me personally. Which is okay. Everyone is different and everyone has different things they bring and take away from book platforms like bookstagram and booktube.
I want you to know that if you feel pressured to do more in your book communities aesthetically just to gain more followers or be seen as a “big influencer” that you don’t have to do that. There are loads of basic bitches like me out there who are going to love your basic real ass page, vlog, blog, photos, whatever. Just do you and own the hell out of it, because it feels awesome and we all got into bookstagram for the books and stories not the stress.
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