Bookstagram – losing ourselves in pretty pictures

in life •  last month

A few days ago, I was talking to a reviewer for Grimmest Things, who suggested that despite my dislike for Instagram, I reach out to some “bookstagrammers” as that would really help my book visibility. I have no doubt she had good intentions or that she was probably right in her suggestion. I suppose that is the way you get noticed in this new-found world of ours. Through pretty, meaningless pictures.
I did my best to follow through, reaching out to “bookstagrammers” (basically, people who take “artistically striking” photos of some cute book beside other cute things like a cat, or a hot chocolate in a sweet mug, or a nicely colored blanket etc), following their Instagram accounts and liking their photos. As much as I could go through them, as I got bored of it pretty quickly and moved on to something else, promising myself I'd get back to this tomorrow.
I'm not saying the pictures aren't nice, because they are, you know, they're decently well thought out and some are quite pretty. But how many can you take?
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Well, according to a quick Instagram search of the tag “bookstagram” not less than 23.2 million posts. I shit you not. For some reason the first result for this search is a video of an Asian couple kissing and him fondling her breasts, so I assume not all of those posts are tagged correctly, but still – twenty-three MILLION posts?

Come on, you've gotta be kidding me, who has that kind of time on their hands? And how does it benefit these people? I mean, I get what this kind of exposure can do for people such as myself in terms of book promoting, but most of these bookstagrammers are not authors. They just photograph other people's books (generally with cute covers, you won't find any plain, just-the-title editions here) and get likes for that.
Well, I assume the logic behind this is pretty much the same one as for regular Instagram users – they feel popular, loved, wanted etc because a lot of people appreciate their pictures.
And I mean a lot of people. Many with hundreds or even thousands of likes per image. And I doubt it's a different 500 people for each picture, you know? I don't know what's more worrying here – who's taking all these photos or who's liking all of them.
I suppose it beats butt pics, but not by a lot. Actually, scratch that (no, not the butt), I think it's worse, in a way.
Because the people who are liking all those photos of you in your bikini or you in a dress that looks really sexy or whatever – they're either jealous because they wish they looked like that (so that they too could get a lot of Instagram followers and likes, don't get any ideas) or they want to fuck you. It's pretty simple.
So, they wish they were you or they wish they were between your legs. Anyway, they wish they were something other than they are.
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Same with all these bookstagram lovers, in my opinion. But worse. Because many of those people who like such posts wish they were people who read those books. They're people who think that if they associate themselves with the right “literature” crowd, that makes them smart in some way, but it doesn't. Just like liking her butt pics won't make you her, liking a book pic won't make you a reader.
Surely, some of those people also do read. But a lot don't. They just like the idea. I've met this phenomenon on other social media platforms, only in smaller quantities. The kind of people who'd share ten videos and smarty pics about culture and reading, and yet wouldn't open a single book.
These imagined literati seem to be everywhere, yet they appear to have condensed around Instagram. Why? Because it's easy. Images spread much faster than words. It's the power of visuals. And this particular platform doesn't even try to hide it.
Of course, it's ideal to put in some words (and some beloved tags, because otherwise, how will people find your cute pic of the book you'll never read?), but not essential. Most don't bother to read the words.

They just like your photo, feel cute and smart and all that and then, move on to the next one. It's the way this world works and it's beyond irritating.

I know what you're thinking – that I started this by telling you I was looking to join these masses. In a fashion, I am. But for very specific purposes. Instagram, for all its faults, is an amazing marketing platform and I figure I should try anything and everything that I can to see what works and what does not, if I want to make it in the business. So yeah, I admit I'm trying to get into this whole thing and that no one is forcing me. But this is not about that. I'm not complaining for myself.

I'm complaining about humanity in general. Seriously, do you see where we're going? Culture and education are dying and we're probably taking snapshots of it.

And you know what irritates me most about this? That, as I said, if you want to make it in the business, you probably have to be part of this merry gang of fakers. These people can help an emerging writer, such as myself. A lot. They can provide visibility, which is something I desperately need. But it sucks to think you need to do this, in order to make an audience, to get people to know your name.
When Grimmest Things came out, I started reaching out to book bloggers, to get reviews for the book, you know, to get the word out. And now I look at it and I think that maybe I was wrong – maybe nobody cares about the words. Maybe all they care about are the pretty pictures.

It's frustrating.
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Because our civilization is dying. We're losing ourselves in all this social media bullshit and we're becoming more interested in the image of ourselves, rather than our actual selves. It doesn't really matter if I read, what matters is if Instagram thinks I read.
Or maybe we were always like that and these platforms are just helping it out of us.

We want to give the impression we're well-read, we build the illusion in the hope that one day, we can believe it ourselves. And many do.

I'm not talking about all people who do bookstagram here, I know there are some who are indeed avid readers. My post is not about you. My post is about all the fakers out there.

And to quote my beloved Hank Moody once more,

We have all this amazing technology and yet computers have turned into basically four figure wank machines. […] You know, it just seems to me it's just a bunch of stupid people pseudo-communicating with a bunch of other stupid people in a proto-language that resembles more what cavemen used to speak than the King's English.

(and I think the rest of the quote is also quite appropriate here)

Host: Yet you're part of the problem. You're out there blogging with the best of them.
HM: Hence my self-loathing.

Thank you for reading,

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Culture and education are dying and we're probably taking snapshots of it.

Well said!

These imagined literati seem to be everywhere, yet they appear to have condensed around Instagram. Why?

It's one of the easiest ways to earn money nowadays (besides tweeting). Money coming from other people who need promotion for their products.

I've read of Instagram folks who have millions of followers that can earn 50k easy just for posting a picture of themselves with whatever product.

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I know. I guess that's the advanced form of modeling or something. You don't even have to get out of the house anymore. And I know it's a way of making money and one of the reasons I'm against approaching bookstragrammers for my book is that they probably want money to take one stupid picture.

But my question was also about the followers. Because sure, there are those with a lot of followers who make money off of this, but surely not all are in that boat. There are many who just like these photos, people who don't see a nickel (because srsly, why pay someone with 2000 followers?) and my question was also about them...seems weird to me.

Anyway, I saw today in a writers group on FB, there was a discussion about why people use bookstagram and someone actually said 'it's not essential to reading a book, but you might find a community bla bla bla'.
Someone actually felt they needed to stress that bookstagraming isn't essential to reading. Who would've thought?

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Marketing's a bitch, especially in an over-saturated market as the book publishing one. Glad I didn't pursue writing as something to earn money from and stopped after my first and only published book.

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I never knew you wrote a book - what was it about?

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I had a crush on someone, in what seems another life, so I wrote this "thing" (which some call a "book") which is filled with one thousand ways to say "I love you!". It was silly then and it's even sillier now when I think of it.

You saw a picture of the original copy of "the book" (the one written by hand) when you challenged me to that b&w thingy last year. Or this year. I don't remember. :-)

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Nice post i like it and thank you for sharing this beautiful post with us

You got a 41.27% upvote from @ocdb courtesy of @honeydue!