The Pressures of Social Reading

And how they worsened my perfectionism.

Photo by Kev Costello on Unsplash

I’ve been a part of the social reading and writing scene for a little while now. I’m pretty new to Medium and Twitter, but I’ve been on Instagram for a few years.

Sometime in 2017, I decided to give my personal Instagram account a makeover and start posting about the books that I was reading. That was when I joined the lovely Bookstagram community.

The people in this growing community on Instagram are amazing, and it’s honestly refreshing to log on to Instagram and, instead of seeing old friends from college non-so-subtly bragging about how their life is better than yours, you’re seeing pictures of books.

Pretty cool, right?

Then I began to realize that it’s impossible to escape the pressures and feelings of inadequacy, even in the Bookstagram world. Some accounts are just so beautiful — how can I ever compete?

Slowly but surely, I started to feel anxiety about the books that I’d been reading and the content that I’d been posting. While this might sound silly and superficial, it’s a real thing, and I want to discuss it to sort out my thoughts on the topic.

As readers, we have ever-growing to-be-read lists, which can quickly become overwhelming. This is especially true for social readers — those of us who post about our reading lives online via book blogs, BookTube, or Bookstagram. While this can greatly enrich our reading experiences, it can also cause undue pressure and stress.

The Pressure to Read Enough Books

For some reason, there is a bit of an unspoken stigma that says that our clout as readers is determined by the number of books we read per month/year.

This just simply isn’t true. And if you’re a mood reader like me, this is next to impossible to keep up with. Some months, I’ll read 4 books and some months, I won’t read a single one.

While I can be a fast reader when I’m in the mood, I’m often distracted by other things, such as Netflix binges or crochet marathons. Such is life. But as a social reader, there is pressure to keep reading and to get those numbers up.

Moving forward, I’m going to make an effort to be more purposeful about the quality of books that I read, rather than the quantity.

The Pressure to Read the “Right” Books

As social readers, we are constantly bombarded with the latest and the greatest in the literary world. Sometimes, we see fellow readers get their hands on books before they even come out in stores.

And just like anywhere else, there are trends in the bookish community. There are books and genres that are popular, and there are those that are less talked about.

I’ve noticed that there is a large group of people who read fantasy and YA. While there’s absolutely nothing wrong with either of those genres, they just aren’t my cup of tea.

This makes me wonder, though: am I reading the “wrong” books? I enjoy thrillers, true crime, memoirs, and middle-grade — none of which get much coverage in the social reading internet presence.

But that’s okay. We should be able to read whatever we want to read and feel confident doing it.

The Pressure to Post Regular, Quality Content

With so many beautiful accounts with large follower counts filling the Bookstagram space, it can become really discouraging for someone new.

As a (recovering) perfectionist, I’ve spent countless hours taking photos of books I was only reading because of their Instagram appeal, only to delete them because they just weren’t good enough.

These types of thought patterns are frustrating, exhausting, and counterproductive, but they’re hard to break free from. Trust me, I know.

Therefore, in order to save myself undue stress, I made the decision to step away from the Bookstagram community, only post things that make me happy, and work on creative endeavors that are good for my mental health. I truly hope that this hiatus will allow me to overcome this personal roadblock and allow myself to become more imperfect.