The Value of Social Media for Bookish People
Written by Sylvia Hodges
Contributing Editor of Red Cedar Review
When you think of a person who reads, you probably picture them wearing glasses. They seem socially awkward and severely introverted. You suspect they read fanfiction in their spare time. While some of these stereotypes may hold true, there’s a whole new world out there for bookish people. In an era when social media is being used like never before, there is a special, surprisingly large bookish community out there for those who still love to read. I was lucky enough to discover it nearly two years ago, and I’ve never looked back from “bookstagram.”
In my freshman English course, the class had to read lots of literary theory, like the ideas of Michel Foucault and Roland Barthes. While some of their ideas remain valid, there are others, like “the death of the author,” that simply don’t hold up. In essence, this theory states that writing and creator are unrelated, and should be thought of as two separate things. Barthes believed nothing from an author’s identity should be used to attempt to understand their work. Of course, Barthes could not have predicted social media and the effect it would have on society. Whereas previously authors were somewhat of a ghostly presence in their books, there but not really there, a good majority of modern authors have a solid social media presence in order to connect with readers.
I bring this up because in the last two years, as I have become involved in book reviewing on social media, I’ve found a wonderful place to connect with authors whose work I admire, who inspire me and make a difference in my life. Until recently, readers didn’t have many opportunities to connect with authors. Social media has stripped “the death of the author” theory of its longevity, since the most significant barriers between author and reader have been removed with the rise of online connections.
Beyond authors, social media provides a place for fellow book-minded people to come together. On Instagram, this community is known as “bookstagram.” And before you roll your eyes and think it’s just a few sad, lonely people who get together virtually to talk about Harry Potter, I can confirm to you firsthand that it is much bigger than that. There are many bookstagrammers who have upwards of 30K followers. That might not seem like much in a world of influencers and vloggers, but it does show that our community isn’t as small as one may believe.
I recently won a giveaway to attend a small, private Zoom meeting with four authors whose work I greatly admire, plus two other members of bookstagram. We made small talk, heard updates about their writing, and discussed how important it is to remain connected in times like these. But the authors also spent a good bit of time talking about how much they love and appreciate the bookstagram community.
Readers are the lifeblood of an author’s career. That may seem like an obvious statement, but it goes beyond just reading. Tell someone about a book you like. Post a review (it only has to be a few sentences!) on a review site like Goodreads or Amazon. Maybe, if you’re into the bookish aesthetic, start an Instagram account of your own. Bookstagram isn’t just for readers. It’s not just for authors. It’s for anyone who has ever picked up a book and wanted to talk about it with people who also appreciate it.
Although the Red Cedar Review is a literary magazine,
the same social media principles apply: build an online presence to connect with readers, and keep people talking. Word of mouth, whether it’s spoken or written word, keeps things alive in a fast-moving world. That being said, make sure to take a look at RCR’s social media accounts–we’re there, and we want to connect with you.