Over a year ago I took the plunge into the world of bookstagram. I had been on Instagram since the beginning of 2011 but only discovered the bookish community last year after following a couple of book bloggers with my personal account. After very little debate with myself, I decided that marrying books and photography would be a great idea. For the most part I’m very glad I became a bookstagrammer.
Bookstagram has been a wondrous place to discover new books and to connect with fellow bibliophiles. It’s so colourful with all the photos and there’s a lot of support for one another and most are very eager to reach out, especially made easy through tags (akin to memes in book blogging).
However, lately bookstagram has also become a growing source of frustration. That’s why I did an informal survey on Twitter, asking others for their opinions. Turns out, I’m not the only one who hasn’t been entirely happy. Others too have identified bookstagram problems. Don’t get me wrong, I love the bookstagram community but there are things I wish I saw less of or ideally, nothing at all.
In an attempt to restore the joy that bookstagram has given me, here’s a list of things that need to improve. These factors are a combination of my views as well as views that I gathered over the past couple of weeks.
1. Lack of Respect for Copyright & Copyright Holders
This is my top source of grief. I explained some time ago that reposting photos without permission is stealing, regardless of whether or not credit is given. I’ve seen a worrying number of stolen photos in the bookstagram sphere — not just of mine but of others too.
Last week I even questioned myself why I still post photos if others will steal them. In the end my wish to share the love of books trumps the occasional theft. Plus, some people who reposted my photos without permission said they didn’t know that crediting isn’t enough, apologised and thanked me for educating them on the matter.
But then I came across this person who lambasted me for commenting on the photo they stole from me, saying I should’ve sent a direct message. Well, I did send a DM then decided to comment as well because the stolen photo had been accompanied with clear information on copyright matters. Ironic, isn’t it?
2. F4F Requests
F4F or follow-for-follow requests aren’t confined to bookstagram; they are everywhere on Instagram. Still, they’re annoying. If you want to connect with others, leave thoughtful if not, at least relevant comments to the photos and captions. At first you might not garner much notice but the more you engage, the more others will reciprocate. F4F leads to ghost followers. If numbers are all you care about, that may be fine for you but for most of us ghost followers are a nuisance and artificially inflate follower counts.
3. Prolific SfS or S4S
An extension of F4F is SfS, otherwise known as shoutout-for-shoutout. Typically this means posting a photo (collage) of content from another account, asking followers to give that featured account a follow. Now, I have nothing against the occasional genuine shoutout especially for newcomers to the community to introduce them. But to post a shoutout simply to gain one for oneself? That doesn’t show genuine support specific to those accounts that are featured. They were bought in exchange for exposure. It’s an indiscriminate way of featuring others and doesn’t guarantee quality.
Weirder still are shoutout giveaways. I’ve not seen any of those with my own eyes but I trust my sources when they tell me that they’re becoming a thing.
Another reason SfS is problematic is that it gets in the way of original content. I follow accounts expecting to see new photos. I feel duped whenever I double tap a photo only to read the caption to learn that that photo actually belongs to someone else. It’s confusing.
For those who want to discover new accounts, the Instagram app has everything covered. There’s a “Discover People” tab as well as the option to see the activities of people one follows. I’ve come to learn of new accounts simply by seeing that more than a handful of people I follow liked a photo from a bookstagrammer I hadn’t previously heard of. Above all, there are hashtags! Check out those for more bookish photos. #bookstagram, #instabooks, #bookshelves, etc are great starting points.
4. Giveaway Reposts
Speaking of original content, giveaway reposts are the bane of my Instagram feed. I have no interest in seeing the same image a hundred times in a row. It’s annoying. If a giveaway is confined to one account and doesn’t require reposting, I’m very appreciative of that. To me this signals that they’re expressing their gratitude to existing followers.
If the point is to spread the news of free books, vouchers, etc why not hold a bookstagram contest? Your name will be out there, people will hear of the giveaway/contest, all while generating original content. See? Win-win! Just please, stop clogging my feed with identical images. I don’t care if they’re overlayed with different filters. They’re still the same.
5. Posting Photos to Delete Later
The “to be deleted” disclaimer drives me nuts. If someone is planning to delete a photo, why post it? And why announce to the world that it’s going to be deleted? Delete those photos quietly, if one must. But if one prizes a clear focus in their feed, then stick to it. Stop apologising when deviating. It’s completely up to the individual what they post. Nobody’s forcing anyone to post a photo that they don’t think fits their Instagram theme.
6. Phantom Deletion of Bookstagram Accounts
This could very well be a problem that one or two account holders might face. Typically this happens when someone doesn’t comply with the terms and conditions of Instagram. Examples would be posting spam or infringing copyright. If an account gets flagged a lot, Instagram will likely shut it down.
Curiously, more and more new accounts have sprung up, claiming that the previous one was deleted and whining about the loss of followers. Out of pity others post shoutouts and the follower count for these accounts spike — y’know, all out of pity.
In case these deletions truly did happen and an account was legitimate, then my tip is to set a good password. It’s more likely that a hacker would delete such an account than the Instagram team would. Setting a good password means combining upper- and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols. The longer a password is, the harder it is for someone else to hack.
7. Cheating Square Photos
Personally, I don’t have a problem with posting different ratios if they’re consistent. I posted in the 5×7 format for the longest time but apparently it annoys some people. I guess I can see why. Consistency of 5×7 in my feed was still disruptive to the square format. Well, I’ve learnt my ways and decided to appease those who hated my non-conformity. Give and take — that’s one way of overcoming bookstagram problems and adding to a happy place for everyone.
8. False Modesty
This somewhat ties in with #6 about posting photos that will be deleted. Once in a while someone posts a photo and pre-empts with an apology that the photos is crappy/lousy/bad. Commenters then jump on it, denying that it’s bad and praising how well taken said photo is.
Think about it. If someone prides themselves as a bookstagrammer and invests so much time and effort in upkeep, why would they post a photo that they didn’t think was at least minimally decent?
9. Influx of Feature Accounts
These accounts that claim to curate photos from bookstagrammers basically build their following and recognition with the efforts and photographic property of others. They pull the nicest photos they can find to put together the “perfect” feed. They claim they do it to raise awareness of bookstagram accounts. Yet most of them time, they don’t seek permission.
Interestingly, when newer accounts are featured, the photos tend to receive a lot more likes on the feature account than the photo owners have followers. This indicates that feature accounts don’t necessarily result in more exposure for featured bookstagrammers.
Bookstagram feature accounts also grab photos from very popular bookstagrammers. These popular accounts have thousands and even tens of thousands of followers. They didn’t get there by accident. It took hard work for them to achieve their status even more work to upkeep because there are all these higher expectations. Feature accounts belittle that effort by taking a second to swipe a photo and another second to post it.
10. Generic Comments
Comments spark conversation in ways that likes can’t. That’s why commenters are more visible than those who simply like photo after photo. I love it when a photo of mine sparks conversation with others because naturally, they tend to be about books and I love books. Duh.
What I don’t like are comments along the lines of:
- “This photo is perfection!”
- “Love your feed!”
- “I’m so happy I found your account!”
Clearly those comments aren’t heartfelt when someone comments the same thing on a billion photos. There’s this person who commented the same thing on three of my photos in the span of a week but never follow me. I saw them post that same comment on other accounts that I followed as well. Obviously they were fishing for followers.
11. Obsessing over Follower Count
This is something that I’ve seen repeated complaints over. I do think that a lot of the better known bookstagrammers deserve their recognition and are genuine in wanting to share their love for books. What’s disheartening is when some people do everything they can to fish for followers:
- Liking several dozens photos of someone, so their name pops up in the notifications but then not following. It makes no sense. If there are so many like-worthy photos, one would want to see more in future, no?
- Commenting for the sake of it rather than because they’re excited about a book or a photo or a bookstagrammer’s life.
- Hosting a giveaway for every hundred followers they gain. There’s only so many milestones one can celebrate before it gets old and one is clearly trying to bribe more people to follow them.
12. Tagging for Views
There are three valid occasions to tag people in photos as a bookstagrammer:
- Someone else is in a photo
- Participating in tags and wanting to pass them on for others to join
- When books by certain authors and publishers are visible in the photo
Tagging people for reasons other than those rarely has valid justification beyond fishing for views.
13. Blank Photo Dividers
Ever seen three blank posts in a row? Those weren’t glitches. Blank posts are supposed to act as photo dividers when bookstagrammers decide to change their “themes” which really means filters. Perhaps they decide that they don’t like a dark look anymore and want things to look more pastel. Instead of just going right ahead and using their snazzy new filter, they waste three seconds of our lives spent on scrolling past blank posts in our feeds.
14. Mistaking Instagram for a Blogging Platform
The primary content to be posted on Instagram is photos. These photos may be accompanied by captions. By definition, a caption is meant to be be brief. Sometimes brevity doesn’t cut it and a caption turns out to be rather long. That’s all well and good when something needs to be said and words have to be spent towards that goal. The problem arises when every single photo is accompanied by an essay. Start a blog if words become more important than the photos.
15. Picking Fights over Differing Opinions
Commenting on someone’s photo that their opinion is wrong is a surefire way to pick a fight. Yet there are people who deign to tell a bookstagrammer exactly that. It’s one thing to express disagreement and talk about why opinions differ. We all have our preferences. But if disagreements cause so much misery, then seek out those who share the same views. There’s more happiness in gushing over the same ships or commiserating over a book that wasn’t as fantastic as expected.
Thank you to those who chipped in with their thoughts on bookstagram problems they feel need to be overcome! Contributions were made by Elaine, Chiara, Cait, Tory, Lillian, Sebastian, Sana, Kaylie and Asti.
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I agree with pretty much everything you said except the long captions part. I understand that putting book reviews on Instagram is kind of weird since there are things such as goodreads and such, but I don’t see anything wrong with people who like to have a little more to say than “Oh this book was good” and having a question of the day or whatever. Nobody has to read the caption, so I just don’t understand why it would be so annoying. It doesn’t even take up extra space in the feed since Instagram hides the extra text unless you want to read it. Idk I’m not saying people should have a whole blog post, but I don’t see anything wrong with a paragraph. I’ve even seen an Instagram (not book tube) that told a continuous story with each photo and caption (which were pretty long), and it was a super cool format that honestly couldn’t have been achieved as effectively with a regular blog. Everyone is of course entitled to their own opinion about this, but I just don’t understand why it’s really a problem.
I definitely agree with the ‘I will delete later’ it makes me so angry! What’s the point in posting it if you’re just going to delete it!! Argh!
Something that has REALLY bothered me lately is all the shoutouts!!!! Every second post on my feed, and I am not exaggerating is either someone asking for a shoutout ‘SFS, S4S’ OR someone giving a shoutout! It drives me insane (as you can probably tell hehe) The ‘F4F’ are just as bad, I’m not interested in following someone just to be a number, I want real people to want to follow me because I put a lot of work into my account.
Seeing people with ghost followers annoys me too :( I came across an account yesterday that had 1 picture and over 3000 followers which is ridiculous because that just isn’t possible.
I’m so glad I found this so I can express the same frustrations with people who understand haha In saying all of that I do enjoy bookstagram a lot! It’s a lovely community that I feel safe and happy in. Considering no one else in my life shares my love of books it definitely helps me :)
Hi Scarlett! Thanks for sharing your views :) Sure, there are a lot of frustrating things going on, especially with the influx of SFS & F4F but at the end of the day, I love that bookstagram is a wonderful platform to connect bibliophiles from around the world. It’d just be nice if we had less of this and greater emphasis on original content and genuine connections over numbers. Oh and the account that had one photo vs. 3000 followers — some bookstgrammers delete all their photos if they feel uninspired and want to start over. It’s not that uncommon. Haha.
Kevin @ Tomebound says
Thank you for this Josephine! I thought I was alone in finding F4F and S4S annoying. I actually felt bad for not entertaining these request but reading your post just validated what I did was right.
I am at fault of #10, 11, & 13! Although I don’t host giveaways, I am now constantly thinking about my stats and stuff! I hate it, but it still bothers me somehow and I’m going to change my mindset.
This post was an awakening and I would like to thank you very much for it!
I absolutely despise f4f and s4s comments or posts on my feed. If I want to follow you or give you a mention, I’ll do it. And photo dividers, no. Please– no. I don’t want to see blank white pictures on my feed either. And giveaway posts are okay as long as you don’t repost them a million times (because it gets irritating).
I did the ‘to-be-deleted-later’ post once and I promoted something really quickly. I felt guilty later. >//<
When I do promote something, it'll just be in the caption. Sometimes people do those kinds of posts for a quick update or some sort.
But the thing I loathe most on not just bookstagram, but the internet, is when others don't respect opinions. It's their opinion. I took a break from bookstagram for a while because I wasn't happy with the content I was creating. And I think that's important that you do things like that. The first thing I'll ever tell someone who wants to join bookstagram is to make sure you're posting for you.
I'm binge-reading your bookstagram posts, and I'm loving every bit of them!!
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Vickie Wilson says
The worst for me is a user (that I’m not going to name) who posts every weekend, sfs. Except instead of it being shoutout for shoutout, she hosts it as some bizarre competition, promising she’ll pick 6 ‘winners’ later. I was curious about this, having never seen the shoutout winners so I lurked on her feed for a little while. Finally on Monday she remembered to post the ‘winners’ which stayed up for a few minutes at most. Yet people continue to give her shoutouts every weekend. I think she’s nearing 7k now.
CJ Raffoul says
I’m new to bookstagram and I’ve noticed these things too. I haven’t come across the blank photo thing yet, but it made me giggle. And I wasn’t even sure what everyone meant by “theme”, so thank you for clearing that one up :’D The giveaway thing blew my mind the other day, when I checked out the winner of some giveaway and they had literally spammed the giveaway photo over 100 times and it made me glad I wasn’t following them. I agree with a lot of your points and it’s nice to know that I’m not the only one who is irked by some of these things. :) That said, how can I follow your blog? I can’t find a follow button thingy :P
I have never seen those blank photo diviners, but that is strange.. I use different filters all the time, so if I would do the same I would have to add those every other photo. The obsession with follower counts and how far people are willing to go to gain new followers is my biggest annoyance. I see this everywhere and it baffles me, because why do you care so much about that number? I simply enjoy sharing my pictures and I don’t care if I get 100 likes or 1000 likes..
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First of all, I’m a fan of your blog! :)
Reading this post made me flinch because almost all of it were true. I’m guilty with the giveaway posts haha maybe I wasn’t creative enough to think of a better way to promote my GAs but I’ll be spending some time to think about that in the future haha thanks for the heads-up!
However, I’d like to focus more on the “long captions”. I, for one, write long captions when needed, specially for my mini book reviews on Insta. I had to do it because it became a good platform for me to share my reviews due to the fact that I wasn’t blogging that much before. And for me, it’s also nice to do that there because not all bookstgrammers have blogs and it’s also a form of communication. :) And I have friends who really write long captions just to say what they feel, because like I mentioned not all have blogs and through that they can exchange conversations, too. :)
Other than those, I agree with everything you said. :) And I love your posts!
Melissa's Eclectic Bookshelf says
I’m not sure that I even know exactly what a Bookstagramer is? An Instagrammer who only posts book shots? Anywho..I’m a book blogger with an instagram account that pretty much features whatever I feel like posting…usually revolving around books, nature and my cat :)
I agree completely that #1 is just wrong wrong wrong…I’ve even had it happen a few times to me…so I started watermarking my photos(which I kind of hate doing b/c it ruins the look and makes me feel pretentious!) Who knew my photos were that great that they look like anonymous memes or something! LOL Yeah right!
#2,3,6,& 9 definitely annoy me at times…but my general philosophy is #15. So if I don’t like something I just unfollow that account and I don’t need to worry about it. Just like blogging , I feel that for the most part people have the right to post how and what they want on their accounts. So I just try to overlook the things that annoy me or unfollow.
I have a questions about #4 though – What is a “Bookstagram Contest”?
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Wow! It’s so interesting to have all this laid out. I have to say, while I love nice bookish photos (like yours) this whole Bookstagram thing doesn’t sound like my scene AT ALL.
I’m very anti “follow me and I’ll follow you!” and stuff like that. At least from your post, the community seems like it’s very “Who can promote the most and get the biggest number??” which isn’t my style.
And all the copyright stuff is SO SAD. And while I get that some people are just ignorant, I’d hope that they’d be horrified and understanding once someone breaks it to them, rather than all bitchy about it. Bleh.
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Dana @ The Unprinted Protagonist says
I haven’t been on Bookstagram in a while because I’ve been busy, but I’ve been wanting to start taking more pics again.
I agree with so many of these, especially long captions and “F4F”! Fortunately, I’ve never had to deal with any copyright infringement issues, but I hate the fact that so many fellow Bookstagrammers have. I didn’t know people posted blank dividers. That’s so ridiculous :(
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I’ve only recently started posting bookish content to my instagram feed and following other bookstagrammers, and I’ve noticed a lot of the issues you’ve pointed out, which is probably one of the reasons I don’t invest too much time in to the platform. The “curated” accounts and the S4Ss are misleading and distracting. Sometimes I think I’m looking at an original image only to find out later its been lifted from another instagram account.
The “delete later” posts also drive me insane. I don’t understand the point of them. Wouldn’t it be weird if bloggers did that? Spend so much time writing up a post to delete later?
I follow so few bookstagrammers because of the issues you listed, and I find that I enjoy scrolling through the #bookstagram or #currentlyreading tags more than following accounts. That way my feed isn’t bombarded with giveaways and blank pages and S4Ss.
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Jaden at Potterhead Daydreams says
I love this post , i have Instagram , I take photos of books and life. I really don’t mind giveaway post because it actual makes it easy in a way. You can do a raffle with the same photos.
But really do hate when people say ‘wil be deleted soon’ when they just took the photo i’m just LIKE STOP PLEASE WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT!!!!!!!!! , it serourisly makes no sense . I also hate ghost follow apps , i don’t knew why they are real.
Jeann @ Happy Indulgence says
I joined the bookstagram community this year and many of these things you mentioned have started to great. I really hate it when someone reposts my photo without permission, even with credit given. Seeing you reinforce that here makes me feel better than I’m not being upset for no reason.
Giveaway posts are annoying. I also never like reposted photos because I’m there for original content. As are massive captions taking up 3 photos worth on my feed – I just don’t read them.
Thankfully there’s many of these things I haven’t had the chance to come across. Have shared this post, thanks for making it Josephine!
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I will always be sad that people disrespect you to post a photo where you state what copyright is. *pats* My only experience with it was someone had tagged me and nicely put my photo down, and I can’t imagine the horror of finding one without credit.
I once someone do a shoutout contest of sorts, where people had to give her a shoutout, and then she’ll pick only a few to do a shoutout for. It’s even lower than sfs. As for giveaway images, I tend to just gloss over them. If I ever did a giveaway for Instagram, I’m sorry Josephine, but it’s in the interest of promoting my Instagram. Of course, it would be concerning that thing I told you on Tumblr, and I hope you understand why I would want to promote that.
And I’m guilty of posting “I will delete later” photos. *hides* Everyone else was doing it. I didn’t know better! As for the phantom deletion, was the first one truly deleted by a hacker? And all the hate for feature accounts. It’s so lazy. As for comments, I spent some time trying to get followers by leaving a lot of comments. Coming up with non-generic ones was time-consuming, but it does get people to notice you.
Death to photo dividers. And no offense, but I hate IG reviews. I understand if they want to talk, but if it’s more than a screen on my phone, then please, take it somewhere else.
And I’m at the end, and I’ve commented on nearly all of your points. I had a lot to say!
Leigh @ Little Book Star says
Wow I didn’t know people did blank photo dividers. I would hate to see just blank photos on my feed. I was going to create an Instagram for my book blog (I have a personal one) but I’m just like ehhhh not really my thing to often upload book related pictures. I think if I have joined the bookstagram community, what would really bother me is taking my picture without crediting me. I don’t mind if people took my photo as long as they credit me.
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I have an instagram account where I post a lot of bookish content, but I wouldn’t consider myself a bookstagrammer. But I DO follow a lot of book-only accounts and I see so much of every point you’ve made here. The ones that grate on my in particular are the constant reposting of giveaway images and the essays in the captions.
I’ve seen people write full-on REVIEWS in the caption space which is insane to me. First, all of that written on a phone is just too much for me to even think of doing myself. But also, I don’t know anyone interested in a reading a book review on instagram! I go on IG to see photos. That’s it. Usually I’ll read the caption too but if it’s more than two sentences I’m outta there. I hate the way these huge reviews clog up my feed. If I want to read all that, I’ll go to Goodreads or to your blog!
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