THE RISE OF BOOKSTAGRAM IN A COVID-19 WORLD

Books, books, and more books! Junior Bailey Captain can’t get enough of them.
Photo Courtesy of Bailey Captain.

Bookstagram. Surely you’ve heard of it? It’s the latest quarantine craze and it doesn’t take an avid reader to put two and two together. Don’t get it twisted, bookstagram isn’t some newfangled app for people to read actual books on. No, bookstagram is a place for people to, well, share their love of books on Instagram

Quarantine has kept everyone inside all year, so some people have taken the time to delve into the wonderful world of books and bring that world to life through bookstagram. 

Freshman Lauren Thorburn takes a selfie surrounded by books.
Photo courtesy of Lauren Thorburn.

Freshman broadcast journalism and documentary major Lauren Thorburn is an avid reader and bookstagram aficionado.

“I enjoy seeing the creative videos people make about books that I’ve read, so booktok and bookstagram have been a constant network I’ve been a part of the past couple of months.”

Booktok is essentially the same thing as bookstagram, except that people are sharing book related content through quick TikTok videos and don’t have the option to post photos. The style of videos found on booktok is often the same as those found on bookstagram. 

Many bookstagrammers have been making good use of Instagram’s relatively new reels feature by making quick videos of their book recommendations, or creating aesthetics of various book worlds by putting together beautiful images and music. 

“Often, non-readers do not understand how readers feel when reading books, so bookstagram offers a community where you can just talk nonstop about your favorite books,” said Thorburn. “No matter what genre you usually read, you’ll find someone to chat with and it’s honestly such a fun environment to be a part of.”

During a stressful and draining year of COVID-19, Thorburn has found cause to reignite her love of reading.

“Escapism. I think that’s the easiest way to describe why I love to read. Books offer a source of escapism that I really need, that I especially needed at the beginning of quarantine,” said Thorburn. 

Thorburn remembered how much she enjoyed reading as a kid but lost interest when schools made it feel forced. Once she started reading again during quarantine, she hasn’t been able to stop. 

“During quarantine I began reading book series rather than stand alones. Reading book series allowed me to connect with the characters for a longer period of time and really delve deeper into whatever world I’m reading about,” said Thorburn. 

Thorburn recalls that when the Hunger Games sequel, A Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, came out earlier in quarantine, she gained a sense of comfort as she reconnected with one of her favorite book series. 

Bailey Captain, a junior majoring in cinema and media arts and minoring in business administration at Biola University, started up her bookstagram, @baileys.bookshelf, in July 2020.

Junior Bailey Captain gets away from the real world as she enters the magical world of books.
Photo courtesy of Bailey Captain.

“Quarantine really made me fall back in love with reading. Around February 2020, my roommate got me into reading again. I stopped reading once I got to high school so I am thankful my roommate encouraged me to start again,” said Captain. “ Then COVID hit and with class going online and so many things getting canceled, I was able to have all the time in the world to read.” 

Now before you dismiss bookstagram as some boring thing, know that there is so much to it, and its increasing popularity is proof of that. Bookstagrammers post reviews and recommendations, gush about their favorite characters, analyze outrageous storylines, discuss fan theories, the list goes on. 

“I share a lot of book reviews, book clothing, and bookish things. This can be me at a bookstore, showing what book I read that month or maybe a cute new bookmark I got. I sometimes share about my experience as a college student who is juggling a lot of things,” said Captain. “As I have had the account for more time, I feel closer to the community and often share more personal things like that.”

Like the sticker says, “Bookstagram made me do it,” so your book addiction is totally justifiable.
Photo courtesy of Bailey Captain.

Senior screenwriting major Davis DuBose-Marler, while not strictly a bookstagrammer, has been posting book reviews on her Instagram page, @save_the_dave, since 2018. 

“I just started posting book recommendations after I realized that so many people my age are reading less simply because of the sheer volume or options out there. It felt like an accessible and low pressure way to give my followers some books they could check out,” said DuBose-Marler.

Senior Screenwriting Major Davis DuBose-Marler.
Photo courtesy of Davis DuBose-Marler.

This past year has been rough, so reading books and discussing them in creative ways with peers has definitely been a way to alleviate some of the pain and suffering endured. Many of us have found solace in books. When reality became too difficult to bear, escaping to a magical world became a safe haven.  

Life Coach Sharleen Bazeghi advocates for reading as a positive mental health tool.

“Reading could be a good coping mechanism for people who are struggling right now. Throughout history, books have shown to be vital for personal enrichment and education,” said Bazeghi. “I think books will always play a role during our lives, during struggle. To gain perspective and not be so narrow in what we’re dealing with in our daily lives, absolutely reading is a great escape.”

Reading has certainly helped Captain break away from the daily Zoom grind.

“When Zoom fatigue is too much to bear, reading always is a great way to escape. Books were the one thing that I could control and depend on. Books also allowed me to read a story at my own pace and on my own time, and with so many things being out of my control, this was fundamental to my survival of quarantine,” said Captain.  

We find ourselves and the people we love in our favorite books, in our favorite characters. We resonate with them and learn from them. Books broaden our minds as we build intricate fantasy worlds and place ourselves in imaginary scenarios.

Life Coach Sharleen Bazeghi.
Photo courtesy of Sharleen Bazeghi.

“Reading isn’t hyponormal stimulation. It’s not passive, you have to be interactive with it. And that has all the obvious benefits. It stimulates your imagination, expands your vocabulary, makes you a better conversationalist, allows you to put yourself in other people’s shoes, feelings, countries, experiences that you never would have,” said Bazeghi. 

Captain confides that books are very special to her and bring about nostalgic memories.

“As a film student, I clearly have a deep love for storytelling, this did in fact start at a young age through my love of books. Ever since I can remember, my mom would bring me to the library to get a new book. I love listening to stories, learning from them, analyzing them, and of course telling them,” said Captain. “Reading is such a unique form of storytelling that really depends on your own imagination. Reading also helps me relax and escape from any current trials or feelings of stress and anxiety. I love reading because it brings me so much peace.” 

Since it’s not the same as engaging in passive mediums like watching a video, reading stimulates your brain in unique and rewarding ways. According to Bazeghi, reading calms you down and produces health benefits.

“It helps to fight depression, lowers blood pressure and heart rate, and reduces stress. Getting into another reality and seeing the bigger picture in life and feeling that you’re not alone can help with stress. It’s also a better aid for winding down before sleeping. Reading helps us modulate,” said Bazeghi. 

By incorporating reading into Instagram and forging meaningful relationships with like-minded people based on books, social media becomes less toxic. 

“I see bookstagram being a better use of Instagram than the traditional superficial uses. It’s taking it and co-opting Instagram by being just about books instead of looks,” said Bazeghi. 

Bookstagram, in transforming social media to become more positive, gives a platform for people to talk about stories and issues that matter.

“Throughout the BLM movement, many bookstagram accounts would highlight Black authors and stories. Obviously reading books isn’t going to magically remove racism, but I think it helps educate others to point where they can act,” said Thorburn.

DuBose-Marler has been raising awareness on her Instagram by posting books by Black and AAPI authors and sharing helpful links to Black owned or Asian owned bookstores.

Davis DuBose-Marler shares a powerful book recommendation on her Instagram account.
Photo courtesy of Davis DuBose-Marler.

Reading turns more and more people over to important, educational stories that can give rise to genuine change. 

The bookstagram community is most certainly a fun one. Both Captain and Thorburn have used the word “nerds” lightheartedly to describe this wonderful community of people. Bookstagram is a great way to break the ice and be exposed to new things. 

“I would 100% say that bookstagram is a positive use of social media. There have been times where I take a break from my personal Instagram account for extended periods of time and just stay on bookstagram. Sometimes on my main account, things will pop up that can be overwhelming as I’m mindlessly scrolling, so it’s been very beneficial to my mental well-being,” said Captain. “This account has been such a great and fun creative outlet. It has challenged me to grow and create in the four walls of my home.” 

It doesn’t matter if you’re not a big reader, bookstagram doesn’t judge and has something for everyone. In fact, bookstagram is a great place for newcomers who might be interested in picking up a new hobby. 

Lauren Thorburn in her element at the bookstore.
Photo courtesy of Lauren Thorburn.

Said Thorburn:

“In a world where everything is so politicized or stigmatized, it’s been nice to find a community that just loves to talk about books. There’s never any hate, which has been a breath of fresh air throughout this past year.”

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