Bookstagram: A platform for new voices or eurocentric herd mentality?
Agata Koralewska analyses the emergence of ‘bookstagram’ and explores the pros and cons of the online reading community.
We all know that feeling: the moment after reading a good book, when all we want to do is share the first impressions and thoughts about what we just read. That feeling could partially influence an emerging trend: the so-called ‘bookstagram’ posts on Instagram. The name relates to the trend of posting about books, posing with books and reviewing them. At first glance, it seems like a positive movement that spreads a good habit across the social media community. However, there are some negative aspects of the movement as well.
Social media algorithms are designed to make influencers and their brands as popular as possible- that encourages many to try to stand out, often without any deep reflection or conclusion. Some pick up reading just because #bookstagram is trending again in an act of ‘performative bibliofilia’- a term referring to the way in which many people read to feel clever, different, and superior to those around them. This could be dangerous for the literary sphere as books become reduced to an aesthetic that fits some influencer’s feed.
Social media algorithms are designed to make influencers and their brands as popular as possible- that encourages many to try to stand out, often without any deep reflection or conclusion.
However, social media has done a lot of good for the reading community. The rise of online platforms such as Goodreads brings readers together and allows them to search, rate and review literature. The promotion of reading on platforms like Facebook or Instagram can also help reach younger audiences who are constantly connected to the internet. The alarming statistics that fewer than 3 in 10 children admit that they read daily could be eradicated. The ‘decriminalisation’ of being well-read and the adoption of the habit as a fun way to educate oneself could ultimately make our society smarter.
Some issues arise when having a closer look at the type of literature that gets promoted. The most popularised books in the mainstream are often focused exclusively on Western society and white, Eurocentric problems. Some claim that the literary Nobel prize is not as inclusive in terms of representing authors that write outside of Europe. There is also a trend of representing the cliché of a teenage white girl and her romance problems in young adult fiction, which drives a huge part of the reading market and sets young people’s viewpoints. But some bookstagramers are beginning to find solutions to these inequalities, ensuring their voices are heard Asian, Middle eastern and African books are being promoted more and more on the platform. In this sense, bookstagram is pioneering the way for more diasporic book marketing and more inclusive bookshelves at our schools and universities.