Discussion: Pressure in the Online Book Community

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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!

until next time

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31 thoughts on “Discussion: Pressure in the Online Book Community

  1. AceOfBens says:

    Great post, Taryn! I don’t have a bookstagram account, but I definitely feel some of these pressures over on book Twitter. Starting a bookstagram always felt impossible to me because most the books I read come from the library, and, while some are in really good shape, they always have the barcode on the front cover or the plastic cover on top of the dust jacket, or some other “imperfection” put on by the library. Book aesthetic pictures that feature the physical book definitely shouldn’t be so policed.

    Also, I like that you brought up follower counts. After reading that, I noticed that when I was still active on booklr, I would obsess over getting followers. Yet on book Twitter, I don’t really care, and I believe that’s because even though I don’t have thousands of followers, I still have quite a few people who interact with me. On Tumblr, I was kind of ignored and I guess maybe I thought more followers would bring more attention, but it didn’t. Anyway, I agree that we should focus more on interaction in these online book communities more than follower count!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Taryn says:

      Thanks Ben! I think you should go ahead and make a bookstagram account if you really want to- I’ve noticed in a lot of the people I follow that a lot of people feel the same way about featuring more library books, and it’s 100% possible to take aesthetic pics of library books! And I know what you mean about being ignored- I felt like I had hardly any interaction for something with over 10k followers, which made me realise that followers doesn’t always equal more attention. Anyway, I’m glad you liked my post!!

      Like

  2. readwithkatie says:

    This is an amazing post! I agree that there can be a lot of pressures within the book community, or any community for that matter. I just recently started my blog, and my goal was to post every day, and I began to feel pressured to read more books in order to post more reviews. But then I realised that I shouldn’t be placing unnecessary pressure on myself! I read and am part of the book community because I enjoy reading and I want to share my love of reading, it’s not a chore nor a competition!

    So nowadays, I don’t feel pressured in the slightest, I post whenever I want, I purchase second-hand books and tell people with no shame. I read what I want as fast as I want and post books that interest me on my Bookstagram!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Taryn says:

      Yessss exactly! I feel like sometimes, the pressures in the community are ones we place on ourselves to try to get more followers or fit in more, but the more we stop trying to do things to please other people in the community and the more we focus on ourselves, the better the experience becomes!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. lacyliteracy says:

    Love this post!!

    I do feel pressure to post regularly on Bookstagram and on my blog, but a lot of it comes from me rather than solely the community. I have high standards for myself so when school got a lot I felt really bad for not posting and THEN the added pressure the community gives made it worse.

    Bookstagram is the root of a lot of my frustrations. I don’t like a lot of the popular books, which makes it hard to get likes. That’s not the end all be all for me, but it’s frustrating when I know if I posted SJM pictures it would be so much easier to be more engaged with a large amount of people. It makes engagement difficult when you’re posting only diverse books because people can significantly less about them. The reason why I made a bookstagram was for more engagement about the books I love. It’s easy to get discouraged when I feel like I’m talking to a wall on there.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Taryn says:

      Ah, I know exactly how you feel re: bookstagram! I’ve been on bookstagram for abut 4 years and it was only in the last year or so that I started reading more diverse & lesser known books. My engagement definitely dropped, I found that more people unfollowed me because I wasn’t posting about all the popular books anymore. But I’ve found that I enjoy having less followers and being able to read things outside whats popular because half the time, I wasn’t liking what I read anyway!

      Liked by 1 person

      • lacyliteracy says:

        I can’t imagine surviving on bookstagram for that long 😅.

        I’m glad the change from popular books worked for you! I used to read popular books just because they were what was available at my library/easy to find at the bookstore (hence I’m still trying to bring up my Goodreads rating average which is 2.21). After joining the online book community outside of Goodreads, I got exposed to so many different types of books. Most of what I read is Romance and there’s a lot of.. not so great books but once I started reading Diverse Romances my ratings of books skyrocketed.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Eldrid says:

    Wonderful post that touches on some problems that definitely need to be addressed. Can I just say that I’m starting to feel as an outsider looking in as I barely have had anybody comment on Twitter or my blog. I’m reaching out and leaving comments on blogs and tweets as well. I’m not too sure what in doing wrong. I hope this doesn’t come out as whiny but that is my number one issue..

    Liked by 1 person

    • Taryn says:

      You don’t sound whiny at all! Engagement is half the reason I’m in the community so I know its definitely frustrating when the engagement isn’t there. Sometimes you just have to find your people- it can take a while sometimes but I’m sure you’ll make some friends. Just keep doing what you’re doing- commenting on posts, tweeting, etc. I know when I interact with people a lot, I’m more likely to follow them!

      Like

      • Eldrid says:

        It’s frustrating bc I have a reason for doing this. It’s to engage and it’s not happening the way I expect it to. Though lately o have had more interaction, which please me so that’s good

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Pen & Parchment says:

    Thank you so much for writing this post! I have experienced so many of the pressures you mentioned and it’s actually scary how I’ve had the exact same thoughts over the last few weeks. The one thing that I really can’t get over is how bookstagram pressures people to take dozens of photographs on a weekly (if not daily) basis, post multiple times a day, and interact regularly! As a very involved high school student, I just don’t have near that amount of time. I go to school for 7 hours a day, then spent 4 or 5 on homework, and the rest on sleeping, eating, etc. It’s a miracle if I’m able to post one day or two during the week, even more so if I can do a photoshoot on the weekend. But then I still need time for blogging, and hello, actually READING. I really wish that constant posting weren’t such a high expectation, because as a result I don’t get near the amount of followers, and therefore few of the perks (ARCs, swag, spots on blog tours, etc.) that the “big” bookstagrammers/bloggers get. I’ve sort of accepted that at this point, but it still sucks to experience that kind of unfair pressure and watch my follower count drop. Luckily, I have met some really amazing people in this community, and it’s still a great creative outlet to express my love for books! I just have to not focus on the numbers so much, lol! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • Taryn says:

      It’s really hard to not focus on the numbers, especially on sites that are literally focused around followers. But as long as you’re doing what makes you happy in the community, that’s all that matters! Do whatever you can do, and those people who understand are the ones who will stick by you!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. jamishelves says:

    I love this post! I basically got turned off the bookstagram community as soon as I started because of the aesthetic demands .. its super shitty because when I’m living at uni and not at home I can barely afford to eat let alone buy really nice books all the time, but because of it I feel like I can’t participate in bookstagram as much.

    I hate the pressure so much, but I also constantly worry about if I’m adding to it in any way urgh.
    Anyway loving this post Taryn ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • Taryn says:

      Thanks! And yeah, I’ve gone through so many different themes with my bookstagram- especially now that I’ve moved states and have a tiny fraction of the books I had when I was living with my parents. I lowkey get annoyed thinking about how all the popular bookstagrammers are people who can always afford new books or have time to post all the time, but hey, that’s good for them! I just wish the pressure wasn’t on everyone else to feel like they have to be the same to be popular 😦

      Like

  7. Vijayalakshmi Harish says:

    Such an important post! Absolutely agree with the points you’ve made here. Blogging is stressful even without these added pressures to fit in. And these things can easily make one forget that blogging/bookstagramming is a choice that we make, and not a mandatory act. The most important thing is to enjoy oneself. When these feel like a chore or duty is when we need to step back and take a hard look at the why and how.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Taryn says:

      Yeah, I agree! I’ve found myself feeling pressured to write long reviews on my blog for books lately when I don’t have much to say apart from that i loved it so much and want everyone to read it. I feel guilty not giving them a proper review but remind myself that its my blog, my platform, and *I* choose what to post.

      Like

  8. Josephine Bach says:

    This is a great post, Taryn. I’m kind of grateful that I found people on bookstagram who share my values and my genre interests. Finding new, lesser known books to read or new people to reread favorites with, is one of the best things that have come out of this community for me.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Madalyn @ Novel Ink says:

    You touched on so many of the pressures I feel from this community. I hate the pressure to buy brand new books– it feels really classist to me?? Which sucks, because this is a community that should advocate inclusion. Plus, I’m a big believer in used books and using your library, if you have one. It saves so much money. I also feel pressured to own lots of physical books, because so many people in the community have these huge libraries, and owning a huge Beauty-and-the-Beast style library seems to be a goal of so many people in the community. And… that’s just not me. I only like owning physical copies of books I might reread in the future. Wonderful discussion, Taryn!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Taryn says:

      Thanks Madalyn! And yeah, I know what you mean! I’ve been using my library a lot more now that I’ve moved/don’t have a steady income. They have some great choices and it does save so much money! I wish bookstagram was more inclusive of library & used books. I fully agree with your comment & I’m glad you liked my post!

      Like

  10. thebookishjinni says:

    Thank you so much for giving a voice to people who’ve felt a lot of pressure on bookstagram, Taryn! When I started my account, I was constantly anxious about a lot of factors because I really wanted to fit in. And it was so hard trying to get a lot of engagement too because not a lot of people knew about the books I’ve read. I also agree 100% about what you said that bookstgram is very elitist. And if you don’t have the same photo style or have the same taste in books, you’d probably be alone. Thanks for posting this!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Taryn says:

      You’re very welcome! And yeah, you can definitely tell that the people who are popular in the community read a lot of similar books, which puts pressure on smaller accounts to read those books as well if they want to fit in. When I first started my account, I used to buy whatever was popular but i found through the years that I didn’t like half of them anyway- it was just the hype of everybody liking them that I felt like I had to like them. I’m strict on myself with my own bookstagram theme, but that’s because I really liked using my white backgrounds. I wish people followed more accounts of people who don’t have the best photography or the prettiest theme because they’re just as welcome in the community as everyone else.

      Like

  11. puppapages says:

    I totally get this. I’m trying so hard not to be so obsessed with follower numbers on my bookstagram but seeing people unfollow me just makes me feel terrible. I know it shouldn’t and I need to grow a thicker skin because I can completely see how it will make it more fun as you say, but I’ve just got to get over that hurdle.
    As for Twitter, I only have a handful of followers and only one person I actively engage with (it’s a scary place!) but even seeing people I’d never spoken to before or had anything to do with books unfollow me was kind of a punch to the gut. You definitely see and feel it more when you’re in two digits.
    It’s definitely something I need to work on. Maybe one day it will just click and I’ll wonder why I used to get so hung up over it ☺️
    Thanks for this, Taryn 💝

    Like

  12. Em says:

    This is such a thorough and amazing post!! There is so much pressure to be constant, no matter what is going on in a bloggers personal life. I think it is a very important thing to talk about! During the school year I barely have enough time to do my HW, much less take an hour to write a blog post. And during the summer I have a lot more time, which means I’m more active and my stats go up. I get that not being as active has consequences, but at the same time school will always come first, which can get frustrating at times. Then, when I have a break or its summer time, it feels like I’m starting all over again.

    Like

  13. the (book) supplier says:

    I don’t feel the pressure to blog in any particular type of way because my blog and my booktube channel were created to help my students (who are 8th graders who read below grade level, and most of whom don’t like reading at all) find books they’d be interested in without me having to book talk the same book five times. And that’s where the Sticky Note Reviews came from. I can get my students to read a sticky note, even if they don’t read the back of the book. I think remembering why I created the space keeps me from thinking too much about the pressure.

    Like

  14. Briana says:

    I agree a lot of the pressure can come back to reading quickly. (And I guess I’m just lucky that I do read reasonably quickly.) I see a lot of people commenting that they’ve read 300+ books a year (which I have NEVER come close to), and then it seems like there’s some sort of competition. And, yeah, I think reading quickly ties back to posting frequently because, as a book blogger, you kind of need to have read a lot of books to be able to talk about. Not just to review. Even to write a list like “Top 10 YA Mysteries” you need to have read a LOT to pick from for your list.

    I think the thing to remember is that blogging should be fun. For most of us it’s just a hobby. And people have different life circumstances. Some people can read 250 books a year. Other people just read more slowly. Other people have a lot of real world things going on–work, school, family–and can’t be reading a book a day. I try to do what makes me happy and avoid too many comparisons.

    Like

  15. TheReadersBay says:

    Wow. For someone writing a discussion post for the first time, this was very well-written and 100% true.
    Although I’m not on bookstagram, I did make my own blog a couple of weeks ago. But honestly, I’ve never really cared what books others are reading. For me, book reviews is something personal and different for everyone. It’s all about an individual’s opinion. I hardly ever like the books that everyone else is reading and yes it worries me sometimes because I feel of my reviews are not up to people’s expectations I won’t get followers.
    So your post is very insightful in that sense. If people aren’t following me for what I’m reading, then maybe it’s for the best. Maybe those people aren’t meant to be my followers, you get what I mean to say?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Taryn says:

      100% understand! One of the great things about the book community is that we’re such a diverse bunch of people with diverse tastes. Sometimes having less followers is better because it means you’ve found your little niche in the community ☺️

      Liked by 1 person

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