It’s fair to say that everything evolves. Nothing ever stays the same. Bookstagram, the not so little book community on Instagram, is no exception. I have been a part of the Bookstragram community for three years and have witnessed its changing face in my time there. However, there are book lovers who have been in the community longer than me, at its beginning stages, in fact. I often wonder if when I joined did they think the same thing then that I think now. Not anything negative, but just that there is an obvious shift. This shift has birthed varying opinions, sometimes controversial and contentious, which has lead me to my personal perspective on the whole thing.
Over the last few months or so, there have been some statements made and questions asked about the community as a whole from both “members” and “non-members” of bookstagram. There is a looming cloud about the state of bookstagramming and if it’s still a place where bibliophiles from all over the world can get the best book recommendations. It cannot be denied that bookstagram has a voice. It’s changed the way publishers and authors market books, but the question remains: Is it straying further from its foundation? I had to think long and hard about how to articulate its recent change, so I decided to do a breakdown of my many thoughts leading to a final conclusion.
On the rules…
Instagram is a platform where you are allowed to express yourself by way of thoughtful captions, creative photos and regular ever day life happenings. Within Instagram there are different communities to suit your personal taste; memes, fashion, beauty, social political, books; it spans the whole gamut. The truth of the matter is, is that there is no “bookstagram” decree stating that only books should be posted at all times. It is possible to post LIFE in between reading. It seems the expectation is that EVERY post needs to be the book you finished and EVERY caption needs to be a review of that book, and if it’s not, you are not really reading. Enter into the “if you didn’t post it, it didn’t happen” era.
It is illogical to assume to know what someone is doing in their personal time through a phone screen, in general. I am a firm believer that people make time for the things they want to make time for, obviously. That includes reading. However, unless you are fortunate enough to be able to sit at home all day and read to your heart’s desire with no other responsibilities, or other interests for that matter, not every single post is going to be book related. I don’t believe that this takes away from Bookstagram’s foundation at all. The dynamics of social media make it easy to forget that there are humans behind the accounts so in between what is deemed very specific content i.e. posting books, there will more than likely be non-book related posts.
From my observation, bookstagram is the only community that seems to struggle with this idea of only posting or not posting books on both sides of the conversation. Fashion bloggers can include travel, family, social activism & advertisement and no one bats an eyelash, but in the book community there is some apprehension posting only books or not posting books. People may counter the idea of the book community posting freely by saying, “Well, if everyone posts whatever they want, there will be no online book community.” This is absolutely untrue. Bibliophiles are too vast a group globally and use other platforms aside from Instagram to talk books so a few, even many, posting non-bookish content will NOT cause bookstagram’s extinction. There are no rules.
On Props, Photoshop & Aesthetics…
Having a themed account, a focus on aesthetics or using props while also giving a review or discussing your never-ending TBR are not mutually exclusive. These elements CAN exist together. There are no rules, remember!? Yes, Haruki Murakami can be styled in a beautiful flat lay. Donna Tartt’s book can float into the atmosphere with photoshop magic. Beloved by Toni Morrison can lie on a coffee shop counter next to a pumpkin latte and a candle. There are also endless filters and apps to bring bookish creative visions to life. This segues into another growing trend in bookstagram which is book art; using books as props and stacking books in a way to tell a visual story.
Since this trend has surfaced so has the question, “…but are you reading them!?” My response to that would be to read the aforementioned. People have the right to use the books they purchased with their income whichever way they please and it is not the place of others to judge whether the books their using have been read or not. This means someone may post a bookish phot while talking about what they had for dinner in the caption. Art and aesthetics are undeniably a huge part of the bookstagram community. It gives bookstagrammers the chance to combine the books they love with eye catching visuals to captivate their followers.
On the flip side, everyone’s account isn’t themed. Everyone’s account isn’t artistic. Some people post books with no props, no aesthetics and focus more on reviews, but that doesn’t put them at a certain level of reading than someone who does the opposite and vice versa. How often and how much someone is reading just cannot be determined on either end. What matters is inspiring someone to read and that can come from the words, the art or both.
The email, the conundrum and conclusion…
Even in the most positive of spaces, everyone is just not going to be pleased with everything. Bookstagram is made up of so many bookstagrammers sharing authors of all different backgrounds and books from all different genres in a variety of bookish styles. If there is some dissatisfaction with what someone is posting, the options are endless no matter what kind of reader you are.
I received an email not too long ago from someone who complimented me on my blog, my reviews and my Instagram account and within the email this person also stated how they’ve read a few books that I had recommended. This really meant a lot to me as a book blogger and reminded me of how important my own voice and the voices of my fellow bookstagrammers are when it comes to what we read. People still look to the community for book recommendations. That’s important so I thought I’d share eleven accounts, among many, that changed my reading life with their book selections as well as their smart and insightful reviews. I do hope you give them a follow.