It’s time to have an honest talk about Bookstagram

Two days ago I logged into twitter and the first post I saw was from someone saying they were quitting bookstagram because it was too competitive. This made me sad and has played on my mind ever since. I’m usually very protective over bookstagram, I know many people feel it’s a toxic environment but I had always found it a fun, community place to be. I love looking at pictures of pretty books and discovering new editions and more importantly, friends.

But over recent weeks I’ve seen a rise in culture that does make me sad. The background of bookstagram has for a large part been to get the follows. Big follower count means big publishers will send you arcs, right? Companies will send you free stuff as a rep as your reach is huge? But whilst previously that way of approaching bookstagram sat happily alongside those who were just in it for the pictures, this last week or so my feed is just full of “follow trains” and “shout for shout out” posts – it feels like the need for follower counts over content has grown more than ever.

Lets talk about engagement groups. They fall into 2 factions, the “likes” groups where you simply scroll down a list and like everyone else’s post (regardless of whether you actually do), or groups where you like and also comment. When these were set up they were a way for people to help beat Instagram’s algorithm and get their posts seen by more people. In reality, has that led to bookstagrammer fatigue? Personally, yes. Whilst I have cut down on the amount of engagement groups I’m part of, by the time I’ve liked over 200 posts and made 20 comments, I’m done. What does this mean? Well it meas that I’m essentially dropping my posts doing my engagement and that’s it. I’m not talking with anyone, I’m not scrolling my feed for fun and to legitimately like a picture I actually like, or answer a question of the day that I’m interested in. In short I’m no longer connecting with people in the way I was a couple of years ago.

What does that mean for content then? Again, personally, it means that my content isn’t up to the standard I would like. I feel that I have to post daily, because I still have to comply with the rules of the engagement group whether I post or not. So, I may as well chuck something up there because it then validates the engagement that I’m doing in return. At the end of a long day at work with zero natural light isn’t the best environment to get creative in, but it doesn’t matter if it’s bad because at least 200 people have to like it, right? My feed makes me sad because I look at these “just for the sake of it” posts against the ones that I have had time and light and creativity to make and it’s a stark comparison which you can see here:

Which lead on to follows. Follow for follow has always been a big part of any social media outlet, but it feels like it has become aggressively ruthless with instagram at the moment. So. Many. Follow Trains. I did one as an experiment last week and guess what?  The majority of those that I followed from it didn’t bother to follow me back and most of those who did had unfollowed within days. Genuine interactions I have had include, someone liking 50 of my posts, so I thanked them in a DM and invited them to follow me as they obviously like my content – within minutes I was blocked. People who are not even mutuals DM’ing me to ask me to give “their friend” a shout out in my stories. Following for love of content and connection feels like it has disappeared. Followers have long since failed to be an issue for me and I’m used to the fluctuation in my count from those who unfollow when I don’t follow back. I’ve become more selective about the kind of content I want to see in my feed. If you post mainly contemporary romance I’m not really going to be bothered no matter how pretty a picture you create. But I can see how that can be so disheartening for people who are just starting out.

So yes, I can see why people who are new to bookstagram feel the way they do and I do feel desperately sad for people who want to create beautiful content but feel disheartened that their content won’t get seen. I can also understand why people are wary of someone with 16k followers following them, if they are only following 150 people in return. In my experience, it’s pretty much a foregone conclusion that they wont be following you for long. We can sit back and blame the algorithm as much as we like, but we also have to factor human nature into it too. I know that will be an unpopular view to take, but I have seen so much selfishness recently and also an element of brazen ruthlessness. I’ve looked at bookstagram with fresh eyes this week and I feel like I can’t be as protective of it as I once was, however, there are still many, many pockets of people who are just in it for the love of books and I’m glad to be part of some of those. Writing this post has resolved my into leaving my engagement groups as it will take the pressure off and I can then go back to creating the content that I feel happy with, when I’m feeling happy enough to do it. It also means that I can go back to liking posts in my feed as I will have the time to, and hopefully make some new bookish friends along the way.

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