Three hundred and sixty-five days ago, I was sitting at work mulling over a few possible names for the bookish Instagram I wanted to start. At the time, I was working nearly full-time at an indie press, but also was somehow making less than $3 an hour. (But that’s a blog post for a different time. 😉) In order to live, I was also perfecting my latte art, cultivating a dairy intolerance, and dabbling in social media consultation as a barista at a cute coffee shop. Every day, I would stand on chairs, set up props, and take photos of a morning mocha with a newspaper or a croissant or sometimes whatever book I was reading that day. Through hashtagging, engaging, and exploring at this side hustle, I stumbled upon “#bookstagram.” This was INCREDIBLE. How had I, a lifelong reader and millennial with an iPhone, somehow not discovered this beautiful niche yet?! I needed to join my people.
Some of the names I first considered are unspeakable. I cannot bring myself to utter most of them on the internet, but let’s just say one of the top contenders was “Let’s Get Word.” I think I can speak for all of us when I say I really dodged a bullet by coming up with The Spines. From there, I designed a cute logo and started standing on chairs to take pictures even more often. Now, it has been a full year and I couldn’t be happier to be a full-fledged member of the bookstagram community!
Here’s the thing about Instagram, though. It’s a monster. The kind of monster that looks like a precious baby Frenchie sometimes and a hideous, evil troll at other times. It can’t make up it’s mind. It likes your hashtags, it hates your hashtags. It shows your mom your pictures, then it decides she’s done with you. You can’t predict it! Easily the most wonderful thing I allowed myself to do this year is let go of it. Accept that you can do your best and Instagram will do the rest.
With that in mind, we can get into the best part of Instagram. This year, I have made REAL. LIFE. FRIENDS. on the Internet. Before bookstagram, I didn’t know many (any?) people who read as much as I did. I frequently attended author readings and book sales alone (which, don’t get me wrong, I absolutely loved doing) and never had anyone to dissect plot twists, awful characters, and perfect books with. Now, though? I follow people on Instagram that I may never meet in real life, but whom I consider to be great friends. How great is that?!
At some point, I also decided it was time to bridge the gap between IRL and the internet. My first endeavor in this was an adventure and I think we need to take a walk down memory lane here…
I met Yadi from @abookifullife at one of our favorite coffee shops. I was early, so I had plenty of time to both worry that I wouldn’t recognize her from her TINY avi on Instagram and chart every exit route. Thankfully, both were unnecessary. Yadi walked in with a book tote and I instantly knew we’d be friends. As we said goodbye, we made new plans to go to an author reading and I walked away feeling like the luckiest person in the world to have met someone who loved what I love. On the walk home, I called my mom and greeted her with, “I met up with an Internet friend and she didn’t murder me!!” The next week at that event, Yadi introduced me to my beloved Hailey, aka @hayhails. A month or so later, I found Stephanie from @rooreads at a Roxane Gay event I attended alone that certainly would have been horrible without her. (The place was packed and the seating was banquet-style. An accidental blind date most definitely would have been forced on me if it weren’t for Steph.) If it isn’t obvious yet, the Internet presented me with a bouquet of wonderful humans that have made my life so wonderful this year!
On the brink of my second year in this space, I can say I have been humbled by the Internet. You all already know I put soy sauce in water to make coffee, that I travel long distances to find pink walls, and that I have sustained injuries while taking bookstagram photos. (PLEASE someone teach me to stop standing on chairs with wheels.) But I’ve also stepped outside my reading comfort zone, explored half the coffee shops in Chicago, and learned a lot about the person I am happy to be. I wouldn’t want to be apart of any other community. Thanks to all of you for being around to hate on Fifty Shades of Grey, rank Harry Potter novels, and share all the books with me. I ADORE YOU!