My Struggles With Bookstagram

I usually “rant away” on my Tumblr, but as I was typing up this one, I felt like it wasn’t enough to just post it on there. Here’s the thing: I love Bookstagram. I absolutely love creating beautiful photos for both my blog and my IG. However, I’m also really struggling with the platform. If you follow me, you might know I’ve been posting terribly inconsistently. Until recently, I couldn’t quite put my finger on why I struggled so much.Then I read this thing on Twitter and I was like “Ooohh…” It’s not just one thing that bothers me or that I struggle with. There’s more.

What I Read on Twitter

The “inspiration” for this post came from some tweets I read on Twitter over the past couple of months. There’s not really one tweet or thread I could link here to make my point or show you what I mean, because mostly they just made me think and that made me come to my own mind. Everyone knows Instagram’s algorithm is the worst and it’s actually getting even worse soon because apparently we’re getting Suggested Posts from people we don’t follow. (Ugh, really?) Anyway, there are many complaints about the algorithm, and I 100% agree!

The other thing I struggle with – but it’s mentioned a lot? – is how Bookstagram is such an expensive hobby! Like, seriously, have a look at the popular Bookstagrammers. What do they all have in common? A massive amount of props from fake flowers to daggers and swords (Yes, SWORDS!) and they have stacks upon stacks with the latest releases in hardback. Oh my goodness, have you even seen their bookshelves?! Basically, Bookstagram is all for those who can afford it. It doesn’t reward the things that make books accessible like library books or eBooks. I’ve recently found a few people who use more of those, but let’s be real; there aren’t many of those around. This tweet/reply I found on Twitter is still stuck in my head. “It’s wealth on display.”

My Experience With Bookstagram

I’ve realised lately that I don’t go on Instagram as often as I used to. The most beautiful photos get the most likes and interaction, so if the algorithm were a sea, they’d float on top. I don’t see anything from the people with minimalistic and inexpensive feeds I follow. I envy those with beautiful fake flowers, pretty backdrops, tons of props and the biggest stacks of newly released hardcovers. I used to “network” on Instagram by just going through my feed or the explore feed for fifteen minutes to comment and like pictures. I don’t do it anymore, because it’s become upsetting.

I’m not saying I want to get tons of likes on my photos. Or actually, I do, but that’s not why I’m on Bookstagram. I’m on Bookstagram because I like pretty pictures and to share my own. But every time I see a photo with hundreds of likes and see how mine only get 50 max, it’s discouraging. I’ve been at it for almost two years now, and I just can’t seem to gain likes and followers.

Bookstagram is Expensive

Like I said before, Bookstagram is expensive. Though I never realised just how expensive it was. It’s also subjective, because not everyone spends money on Bookstagram. Some people simply enjoy sharing pics of their current reads! But think about it, the things you need for a Bookstagram photo; 1) books. 2) a backdrop. 3) props. Again, it doesn’t have to be expensive, but eventually you probably will start spending money on your bookish photos. (If you can, of course!) I mean, I started out only with what I had around the house. Eventually, that got a bit boring. I got myself some MDF boards and marble contact paper off eBay. It might only have cost me about €10, but all the little things add up.

Looking at the “big” Bookstagrammers, their photos are so expensive. There’s usually some fake flowers, which I know can be super pricey. Then there’s usually a stack of hardback books (say it’s a stack of 6, x €15 = €90… Yikes.) And then we haven’t even talked about the backdrops and props beside those (pretty but expensive) fake florals. Or the equipment used. I don’t mean to “ruin” Instagram for you by giving you a full anatomy of a Bookstagram photo, I’m also not trying to discredit people who spend money on making beautiful photos and I’m definitely not saying all photos are like this. It’s just the main part of my feed is like this.

Demographic

More and more (YA) Bookstagrammers have started showing their faces, whether that’s in the photos on their feed, or on their stories. I feel like most of the people on my feed are adults. Girls/woman with husbands, kids and (probably) lots of free time and money. I mention the free time because it takes so much time to create a “standard” IG feed with beautiful photos. How often do you see “Looking for teen readers/bloggers” on Twitter? Because at this point, finding an actual teenager who reads/blogs about YA seems rare. There’s nothing wrong with that, I think. It just explains why Instagram can be so expensive. Adults usually have more money to spend than teens and college students. And what about people with part time jobs or who work from home? They can spend so much time perfecting their feed while students are in school!

Am I Not Contributing to This Problem?

When I was writing my post on Tumblr, I nearly deleted it. Am I not the exact same at those I’m “complaining” about? I mean, I use quite a few props in my photos. To me, it doesn’t feel like I’m “the same”. Over half of what’s in my “Bookstagram cart” (an Ikea Räskog) is stuff I already owned or got from my family. The flowers I purchased were all less than €5 and I think the most expensive “prop” I ever bought was a rose-shaped candle holder for around €8, that I didn’t even buy specifically for photography, but to light candles in my bedroom. My iPad was a birthday present years ago, and for the longest time I used it only for college, since I only started reading on it about two years ago. But does this matter to “outsiders”, the people who don’t know where I got my stuff? No, it doesn’t. I don’t know where anyone got their props from. Maybe someone just has a lot of pretty stuff in their house? Maybe it’s from a cheap store and it looks like crap in real life, but pretty in photos!? In the end, everyone’s just taking photos they like to promote books they love. Who am I to complain about that?

We Can’t Really Fix This

Unless the “expensive” Bookstagrammers on my feed suddenly quit Bookstagram tomorrow, there’s nothing we can really do to fix the problem. Is it even okay if I call it a problem? What we can do, though, is try and use those eBooks, library books, old books, borrowed books, etc. in our own photos. Let’s break through this “standard” of making bookish photos look expensive. Literally anyone can become a Bookstagrammer as long as they have a phone and a book. You don’t need stacks and stacks of hardbacks, you don’t need the latest releases and you don’t need all the props. It’s difficult to kind of… ignore the fact that there are some very beautiful (but expensive-looking) feeds out there, but you just gotta do you. If that means using library books and no props, so be it!

What do you think of Bookstagram? Do you agree with what’s in this post? Let’s chat!

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