This title sounds a bit intense, I will admit, but the other day I had a realization that I felt inclined to share--I sat down to read a book, finished it in one sitting, and eagerly reached for my phone to post about it. This is what occurs every time I finish reading a book--I post about it with a pretty picture and an established review and update my book count before relaxing and feeling good about my accomplishment.
Until this specific time, I stopped myself from immediately posting. I grabbed my phone, then put it back down. I asked myself, "What if I just read the book, and didn't post about it? What if I just let it simmer inside?"
Just a week before, I did the same thing. I read a book that was near and dear to my heart, and instead of sharing it, I lied in bed and thought about it, processed it, and tucked it back away on the shelf. Doing this felt amazing. Comforting. I felt full and my mind was alive with ideas and feelings and maybe, just maybe, we don't have to share every book we read.
Okay, let's go ahead and backtrack. What am I even talking about?
My Instagram, @brittney.kristina, started out as a bookstagram/author Instagram. Only recently has it begun to become more personal, centering around mindfulness, general thoughts, and more than just books. If you want to learn more about my evolution, read my post, 5 ways to tap into your intuition | my transition from books to blogging. Otherwise, let's go ahead and dive into this analysis, and discussed why bookstagram has changed the way we read.
Of course, I may be the only one feeling or thinking this way, I don't want to assume. Regardless, like always, I felt the need to write this! Grab some tea (mine today is mango green tea) and enjoy this breakdown!
What is Bookstagram?
Bookstagram is a wonderful place for book lovers to come together and discuss books while also sharing extravagant photos of them. When you follow bookstagramers, your feed turns into this cozy little paradise of books and stories. I began a bookstagram, not only because I love reading, but because I'm a young indie author and was trying to find ways to get my book out there, which happened to be me appealing to book lovers. Next thing I knew, I was sucked into this world of pretty pictures, book counts, and the friendliest online friends I could ask for. Not only was I making sales, but I was also welcomed into this cozy community. Instagram was no longer a toxic place filled with selfies and lavish lifestyles but filled with books.
Over the years, bookstagram has begun getting more and more popular. A new bookstagramer can get over 1,000 followers in a matter of a week. They can earn over 500 likes per photo after just two months of creating their account. They are welcomed to the community, treated with kindness, becoming a part of this little but ever-expanding Instagram corner.
I've come to realize, however, that bookstagram is not all I expected it to be, and in fact, it has distanced me far from reading.
Reading became a popularity contest. A book count. An aesthetic. I was no longer reading for me, but I was reading for content.
Maybe I'm the only one experiencing this, and I'm aware that I'm probably being hypocritical because I will still post about books--I love doing so. But, ever since beginning a bookstagram... I haven't really read for myself. Not in a long time.
Let me take you back to middle school and early high school years. Every other Saturday, my grandmother would take me out to dinner, and then we'd go to Barnes & Noble. We'd order a coffee, then read together. My grandmother is a speed-reading pro, so she'd pick up a classic and tear through it, while I, on the other hand, chose five to ten books I found interesting and read the first chapter of every one of them until I settled on two. We'd stay at Barnes & Noble for hours, just reading, and it was one of the best times of my life. I'd take home those two books I had settled on, thanks to my grandmother's generosity, and devour them that same night.
I was that girl who read at school, and not just in class, but in the hallways on my way to class. I lived in the library, checking out four books at a time and reading them one by one in a matter of days. One year, I read over 120 books. The only reason I remember the count is because I was taking part in a contest at school to read 100 books in a single school year and I went way over.
Never did I post about the books I read. I didn't discuss them with anyone else, either--I rarely even lifted my nose from the pages.
The stories encased me, took me in like a lost child. I was the characters, traveling far distances or fighting in wars and living through historical events. I miss it... I really do--reading for me.
"A book is a dream you hold in your hands."
How book blogging is ruining the art of reading
Reading is, in a sense, an art. It takes work to let your imagination run wild, to come up with conclusions and theories and ideas. Reading is creative, unlike other forms of media where we can't really let our minds run wild or interpret things unlike anyone else. While the author wrote the book, the story is for you to unfold.
Through book blogging, I can't help but feel that the art of reading has been diminished. The beauty and creativity of books are often represented in photos across bookstagram, but those are only the covers--what matters is what's on the inside, among the pages.
Bookstagram, although beautiful and welcoming, is one of the most competitive and silently toxic forms of social media I have yet to encounter. Only the prettiest of photos get the most likes or the most engagement. The book count matters more than the actual books, and if you read a book no one has heard about, you're unlikely to get the engagement you want. To have a successful bookstagram, you need to spend hours crafting photos, read only the popular YA books, or classics, and follow-for-follow every single Friday.
Wow, I sound really harsh!
But, I can't be the only one feeling this way... right?
It has become less about books and more about how you post about books. A lot of my anxiety revolved around my theme and content quality has been derived from the types of engagement people get. Rarely do I see someone say, "Wow, this book review was so great!". Instead, you see, "Look at this gorgeous photo!" or "Wow, this theme is so nice and cozy!". It's like the books are now a showpiece, rather than the stories inside.
Blogging about books is fun. I will admit it. Taking pretty pictures with warm filters and coffee off to the side is one of my favorite forms of artistic expression. Setting up my theme, creating bookish aesthetics, discussing ideas with other people... it makes for a fun time.
But, I suppose I never quite realized what bookstagram was doing to my mental health. I was comparing my book photos to other people's book photos constantly, feeling like I wasn't good enough because the number of followers, likes, and my overall book count wasn't as large in quantity as other people's. Also, my theme was a little too green or a little too pink, I started over, or archived photos I put a lot of work into. I'd get into these long, obsessive spirals over my simple little bookstagram.
It didn't matter what I was reading anymore. What mattered was how pretty my content looked, and how much I had read that month--which is silly in itself. Why is it even important to read a certain amount of books? Why does it matter if you read seven books, fourteen, or none in a month, and how does reading more make you a better reader?
Reading isn't a race. Reading isn't an aesthetic. Reading is a form of entertainment, and one of the rawest forms at that, especially with indie books. It is the author, speaking to you, writing to you, telling you their story, sharing perspectives and ideas, and you are there as the observer, the follower, interpreting it as you wish.
When we share and post about every book we read, it no longer becomes our story, our interpretation. It becomes an achievement we wear on our chest--unless you are a legitimate book reviewer, which most, surprisingly, are not. The story is no longer playing out in our head, expanding and growing, and teaching us something. It's just another book, another character, another number to the book count.
And that's how bookstagram is ruining the art of reading.
How to reconnect with reading
Now that I've slapped you in the face with my seemingly harsh outlook on bookstagram, let me offer some advice as to how we can reconnect with the beauty and art of reading.
1. Read what you want to read
Don't feel inclined to read what everyone else is reading or what's popular. Of course, sometimes we want to read popular books. But, if you want to read a Sci-Fi futuristic alien romance and don't want to read that historical fiction everyone is posting about, go ahead and read that alien romance! Reading is, in the end, your escape, your little paradise. Reaching for what you want to read will also help you reconnect with books and look at them more like entertainment rather than just a way to show off, as it may seem on bookstagram.
2. Immerse yourself into the book, and avoid taking notes or finding things to say about it
Occasionally, I will catch myself reading something and thinking of how to incorporate it into my overall review. Instead of truly enjoying it, I'll make mental notes along the way and read it for the sake of posting about it, rather than enjoying it.
Truly immerse yourself into the books you're reading. Take a mental break, and mindfully take in the story. Reading is a time for relaxation, anyway.
3. Don't post about every book you read
Not posting every book I read feels a bit odd to me, but I also really enjoy it and have already begun to reconnect with my love for reading. You don't have to review or discuss every book you read. Besides, doing so makes the book all the more special to you. It's your thoughts, your feelings, kept inside, and stored safely away. Books become less about content and more about the actual stories within.
4. Let the stories sink in upon finishing them
Don't rush to write a review when ending your current read. Try lying down and processing it all. Wonder where the characters are now, and maybe even journal about it. Keep some of the feelings to yourself, and allow the book to touch you in a special way, just like it used to when I was a child... just as we all did.
5. Ditch the book count
Book counts can be beneficial, as they encourage us to read more and work to set aside time for reading. Heck, I love updating my Goodreads! But, I've come to find out that book counts can be incredibly toxic as well. It's not a race, and in the end, it's not even about how much you read, but what you read. Did these stories impact you, or not?
Read for pleasure, not for the numbers
Also, imagine if everyone had a movie count or tv-show count in their bio. Weird, right?
And, this may sound harsh, but no one cares how much you read. Yep--you heard that right: no one really cares.
That's why it's so important to make reading yours. Make it a hobby you truly love. Reconnect with the art of reading, and remember why you started a bookstagram in the first place. Perhaps it was to take artsy photos and share your book count--that's perfectly okay. But remember: in the long run, the likes and followers doesn't matter nearly as much as the impact books have on our short life.
I do hope this analysis wasn't too crazy! I honestly would love to know if you agree, and whether or not you believe bookstagram and book blogging is changing the way we read. Let me know below, or message me on Instagram about it!
Have an incredible day everyone! Maybe try reading, just for you! :)