Bookstagram can be – and for the most part is – an absolutely wonderful place. It’s full of amazing people sharing a love of books and inspiring others with creativity, photography, themes, reviews and much more.
But there’s a side of it that I’m willing to put money on affecting a good 80% of users and accounts associated with bookstagram. And it’s NOT a secret. But the problem is that no one talks about it. Everyone knows, but no one talks about it. We all pretend it doesn’t happen. Including me. Until recently anyway.
It’s not exactly unknown that the pressures of social media can have devastating effects on its users. There have been countless articles on countless studies that show this, so yeah – old news really.
Except, it still effects people. In all sorts of ways and across all sorts of channels and niches. Bookstagram is no different.
I, like many people, began my bookstagram account purely and simply for the love of it, and for the love of books. I wanted to share my enthusiasm with likeminded people and discover new books and friends along the way.
I didn’t know about themes, trends, shout-outs, read-a-long’s or any real part of the bookstagram world. I didn’t care about follower count, like count, comment count or anything like that. Now don’t get me wrong, when I hit milestone follower numbers, or a post did particularly well in the ‘like’ department, it did make me happy – because of course it did. It’s a kind of validation that people like what I’m doing. So of course that’s going to make me happy.
But there’s an addictive danger in that, and a rabbit hole that many people may not realise they’re falling down until it’s too late. I didn’t.
As time went by, I had noticed that there were a few things that made bookstagram pretty unique, and quite interactive. There were accounts that had one obvious theme and posted surrounding that theme, for example a particular colour pallet. There were others that posted highly stylised shots, others that posted ‘busy’ shots, ‘simple’ shots, flatlays, open books…the list honestly goes on and on. And there are other accounts that rotate through themes for a set amount of time.
I had looked at these accounts (and their follower number) and looked at mine and…there was a massive difference. I had a low follower count and a mess of a timeline. There was no rhyme or reason to my posts – they were just randomly thrown up. I had also looked at engagement rates on other people’s posts and accounts – I work in marketing and social media is part of that, so I knew what these were. I had spotted that my engagement rates were actually pretty good! Better than good actually! They were consistently higher than industry average! Go me!
But that is where it all started to go downhill for me.
I realised that I had the engagement rate I wanted, just not on the scale that I wanted. I wanted to make a change. I wanted to be a little bit like the other accounts out there, the massively successful ones. So I decided that I would become an account that rotated through themes – give followers a consistent theme for a while and then subtly change it. I had loads of themes – I worked through the colours of the rainbow, did food, socks, nails, flowers – I did all the ‘usual’ tricks.
But there was no major increase in followers, my engagement rate dropped and I was unhappy. The thing is, I hadn’t realised that I was unhappy for a very, very long time.
It took my partner sitting me down one day and asking me “are you happy?”. Now – I’m not saying that my whole life went to hell because of Instagram. There were (and still are) a few things that make me unhappy in life, from my day job, to where I live, money worries – the usual. But what I hadn’t noticed was that something that I started for fun – to give me an escape from all the every-day bullshit – was now a chore, it was making me miserable and it felt like a ball and chain.
I was stressed about having to do a bulk photoshoot for my next weeks’ worth (minimum) of Instagram posts in advance. I was worrying if my lighting was good, were my shots unique, would it be what people wanted to see? Would it perform well? Is there enough variation? Do they work together and a million other questions that sometimes kept me up at night. I even found myself buying props specifically for one particular photo I had in mind.
And the truth is, none of that matters. It just took me a while to realise it. After I answered “no” to my partners question, he told me to really look at the things that I could change in my life. Instagram may be a small thing, but I have FULL control of it and it was having a fairly big impact.
So I started there.
I decided to go through ALL of my bookstagram photos and archive every. single. one. that didn’t have a positive feeling connected to it – regardless of the stats on it. This meant breaking themes, continuity and all the hard work that I put into the aesthetic of my account. But I didn’t care.
This felt freeing.
I went from having 580 posts to 209. And it felt amazing.
I didn’t delete, I simply archived so that if I ever wanted to revisit – or even reshoot – a certain shot I still have it. But hiding all of the photos on my feed that had a negative memory or that I did ‘for the sake of it’ has left me so much happier.
I think it’s something that a lot of people struggle with – the balance between wanting to show an aspect of themselves, whilst still trying to ‘keep up with the Jones’s’. And some people end up losing themselves to statistics, and mimicry and algorithm chasing.
After I posted to my story about this I had a lot of people contact me to say that they felt the same, and that at times this wasn’t fun, and that they might archive their posts too.
I wonder why we aren’t talking about this?
I think it’s important to take a step back every now and then and revaluate how you’re feeling about aspects of your life, Instagram included, as it’s an easy thing to regain control of when everything seems to spiral. If the thing that brought you joy is no longer doing that, it’s time to stop and take a close look and figure out what you need. For some people it’s a break, for some people it’s a purge (like me) and for some people it’s a complete shake up.
There’s nothing wrong with being inspired by accounts, but it crosses a line when you feel like you have to always play catch-up or keep-up.
Since I’ve archived negatively associated content from my own feed, I’ve felt so much happier. I’ve cut my posting schedule by nearly 70%, and now I’m only going to post photos that I like, or that mean something. Just like I used to.
My feed will likely not be aesthetically pleasing, it will be chaos. But it’s mine, and it makes me happy now. I plan on reaching out to many more people, making real connections, talking about books, and being kind in all I do. I plan to actually be part of the community again, not a passive poster and watcher of notifications. They do not define me anymore.
Success in what you do doesn’t mean follower count. Success means finding happiness.
I hope you find your success; I’m on the journey to finding mine.
[EDIT 28/12/2020]: I wrote this article when I had a previous bookstagram account, where I did rotating themes, trends, changed things up a lot etc. Since then I started from scratch and my current one, Dark Heart Books, sticks to a theme and an aesthetic and that makes me happy. Very happy. I love how it looks and I don’t feel any pressure from it at all. But I still feel like the points I raised back in February when I had the other account are still relevant, but I wanted to be transparent.
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