Hi everyone! This is actually my first time writing a discussion post on my blog and I’m very excited (though admittedly nervous as well). Pressure in the book community is a very large topic to unpack and I want to apologise in advance for not being able to unpack everything in this blog post. I’ve been a part of the online book community for almost 4 years and have primarily been on bookstagram, so that’s where I’m going to focus this discussion today.
The idea for this post came from some discussions I’ve had with friends recently- one in particular about reading speed. One of the pressures I’ve seen in the book community is pressure to read a lot of books in the year. This is not only exclusive to bookstagram but something I’ve seen across the board, especially with the Goodreads Reading Challenge. This won’t be the same for everyone, but I find it easier to post on my bookstagram when I’m reading a lot of books- updates on what I’m currently reading, another post when I post a review to my blog, more posts if I recommend it. The act of reading faster increases engagement within the community. In saying that, it’s also important to look at the ages of the people reading a lot and posting a lot. One of the many problems in the YA online community is that it is dominated by adults (20+ years). Whilst adults obviously have their own priorities, we have to remember that the teens in our community have school, uni, after school activities, exams, jobs, etc. Basically, teens are very busy and cannot afford to spend lots of their time reading. To lift up the people in our community who have more time on their hands and can read a lot each year and always post regularly is to put unnecessary pressure on the teens this community is supposed to be for. We need to start being more considerate of the fact that not everybody in the community can read really quickly and that’s okay. Read at whatever pace you can read at and don’t give in to the pressure of needing to read more to fit in. You’ll just make yourself unhappy and ruin the reading experience.
On a related note, there is a lot of pressure in the book community to post regularly, whether that be bookstagram posts, blog posts, booktube videos, etc. You’re more likely to gain followers if you have a regular posting schedule, but similarly to points made in my first paragraph- some people just don’t have the time. I don’t currently have a job so I have all the time in the world to take photos, edit them, upload them. I also have time to sit and write blog posts. But taking the right picture, editing it, sitting down to write a blog post- posting is very time consuming and it’s okay if you don’t have the time or energy. I’ve previously had a bad habit of unfollowing people if they didn’t post for a few weeks at a time, but I’ve realised that I shouldn’t be doing that because they’re probably just really busy with life. There are more important things in life that posting in Instagram and we shouldn’t be punishing people for having a life outside of the book community.
I guess this can also go hand in hand with another pressure I was going to talk about- the pressure to take the perfect bookstagram photo. I used to stress about my feed so much to make sure my feed looked perfect and that I loved all of the photos that I uploaded, but now I’m more indifferent about it. I still keep a theme, but my background is white so I can literally just put my book on my bed or hold it up to a wall and take a photo. I think this pressure to take gorgeous photos is mostly a bookstagram thing because you do follow bookstagrammers for their aesthetic. But bookstagram is supposed to be a fun place and if you’re constantly feeling pressured to take your photos a certain way instead of just doing them how you’d like to do them, you’re not going to have a fun experience. Furthermore, you should be taking photos of whichever books you want to take photos of. Similarly to the pressure of taking the perfect bookstagram photo, there’s pressure to take photos of only the popular books. I’ve noticed a over the last 10 months that once I started posting photo’s of lesser known books, I lost a lot of followers. That made me feel really bad and I felt a little pressure to go back to reading the way I was before to I could “fit in” as such, but it’s important to remember that you’re on bookstagram to do your own thing. If people unfollow you because you’re not reading the books they want you to read, that’s on them. You upload whatever books you want and remember that the main thing about bookstagram is to have fun. Take whatever pics you want and try not to worry what other people think.
One pressure I really wish would disappear is the pressure to constantly buy new books. This isn’t just new in the sense of new releases but also just brand new books that’ve been out for a while. Bookstagrammers have a problem of shaming readers for having books that aren’t in perfect condition and therefore that causes pressure to constantly be buying new books rather than secondhand books or borrowing from the library. The reality of the matter is that not everybody in the community can afford to be constantly buying new books and we need to get away from the elitism in the bookstagram community. I saw a bookstagrammer downrate a book because the book mentioned a character dog-earring a page. I’m not here for that elitist bullshit. We shouldn’t shame readers for what they do with their books, and we need to start showcasing more secondhand/library books to show people that they’re welcome in the community as well. Meleika @ Endless Yarning created the #BelovedBooksProject which I think is absolutely amazing and if you haven’t checked it out & participated, you definitely should!
I mentioned that the pressure to constantly buy new books wasn’t just about new releases, but there is pressure to buy/read/review new releases & other books to fit in. There’s nothing quite like fangirling with a bunch of people over a new release book we’re all excited to buy, read and review, but a lot of the time people can’t get the book as soon as it’s released. New releases are usually released exclusively in hardcover books, which are very expensive and new releases can take months to come in at the library- and if they’re popular new releases, there’s probably going to be 435842074 holds on it at the library. I think part of the pressure to read new releases as soon as they’re released is also about avoiding spoilers– I know if I’m anticipating a book that seems to be relatively popular, I want to try to read it ASAP so I can avoid spoilers. Which is a shitty pressure to feel because I just wish people didn’t need to be assholes and could just not spoil books for people. And there’s also the pressure to read what’s popular in the community in order to fit in. If you have a look at most of the popular bookstagrammers, most of them are reading the same (if not, similar) books. You gain more followers when you’re reading what everyone else is reading and sometimes you just want to be in with the crowd. But I found that for so long I was buying whatever was popular in the book community and I didn’t even read half of the books because I lost interest as soon as the hype died down. And when I did read the books, I found half of them to be mediocre, anyway. I was really worried people would hate me because I didn’t love their fave book but tbh, if someone doesn’t like you because you don’t like their fave book (for valid, non-problematic reasons), they’re probably not a great person to want to be friends with anyway. Reading what you want to read because you want to read it and not because everyone else is reading it is always best. If you’re buying and reading books because other people want you to, you’re not going to have a fun time reading.
Lastly, I want to talk about the pressure to have lots of followers. I personally care more about engagement than followers, though I know in the past I used to stress a lot about my photos and when people would unfollow me. But the community becomes a much more fun place when you stop worrying about how many people are following/unfollowing you and just focus on reading what you love, posting what you love, interacting with the people that do follow you. The book community is supposed to be all about fun and if you’re constantly stressing about now having followers then it won’t be fun. The book community isn’t a competition. Everybody is in the book community for one reason- to share our love of books with people who also love books. Focus on making friends (if that’s what you want to do), posting about what you love and your experience in the community will be so much better. I had 10.6k followers on bookstagram at one point and let me tell you- most of them weren’t even active. I got around 300-400 likes on my posts, even less comments. Followers aren’t everything. You’ll have a lot more fun when you recognise that!
And there we have just some of the pressures I’ve seen in the book community over the last 4 years. This is certainly not the whole list- there are many more but these are just the ones I felt like discussing today! When I was worrying about all of these different things, I wasn’t having as much fun with my blog or my bookstagram as I have been now that I don’t worry about it as much. Have you ever felt pressured to do anything specific in the book community? If so, what? Feel free to leave a comment and we can discuss other pressures you feel are in the book community.
Thanks for reading!